You are on page 1of 2

Earthing / Grounding

Earthing and grounding are different words for the same thing. It is a method of saving people
from electric shocks through electrical appliances. Apart from this, earthing also saves circuits
and electrical systems from leakage of current and its consequences.
Earthing is based on the concept that current follows the path of least resistance.
In an electrical appliance like iron, there is the internal wiring and circuitry which is made up of
conductors and then there is the metal which serves as heating element. This metal is also a
conductor of electricity but it is not included in the circuitry. Thus, in electrical appliances there
are two conductors of electricity, those which are required to conduct it and those which can
conduct but should not do so.
If the insulation between these two parts is damaged then the heating element will also begin
to conduct electricity. The problem is that heating element is exposed and can be touched by a
person using the iron therefore there is a danger of electric shock. If a person touches the
heating element current will pass through the persons body to earth. The path here is human
body which has to be protected by earthing.
In earthing, the heating element is connected to a wire called the earth wire and this earth wire
is buried in ground. Now, if there is going to be a damage in insulation causing the heating
element to bear a static charge which needs to be released, earthing wire provides an easier
path to the current than the human body. This is how the earthing saves the user of appliance
from electrical shock.
There are three basic parts of an earthing system:
1. Earth Continuity Conductor
2. Earth Lead
3. Earth Electrode (Metal electrode or plate buried in the ground)
Appliances have earth connections which when plugged in with the earth connection port
available in socket completes the earth connection. If there are multiple appliances (which is
generally the case in houses) then there is a wire which connects all the earth ports of all the
sockets. This is called the earth continuity conductor.
Cross sectional area of Earth continuity conductor must not be less than half of the thickest
wires cross sectional area used to carry current in the first place.
Once Earth continuity conductor has connected all the earth ports in all the sockets of the
house, there is a final wire which connects the earth continuity conductor to the buried
electrode. This wire is called the earth lead.

All materials including conductors have a certain amount of resistance in ohms. The earth
continuity conductor also has resistance. Similarly the soil in which the electrode is buried also
has resistance which changes with seasons. In summers the resistance increases because of
increase in temperature and the opposite happens during winters. Similarly, moisture content
of soil changes with seasons which also has an effect on resistance of soil. The important thing
here is that earthing works because current has an easier path where easier means the path of
less resistance. If somehow earthings own resistance has increased, it will no longer serve its
purpose because it will no longer remain the easier path for current. Therefore, the earthings
resistance must remain very low at all times and conditions. This resistance is termed as earth
resistance and it must not be greater than 5ohms at any condition. It can have different limits
for different cases. The earth electrode is surrounded by powdered charcoal and lime mixture
to keep moisture around the soil in order to keep its resistivity low.
Earthing is not something required only for houses and buildings. Ground potential rise (GPR) is
a phenomenon in which a large surge of electricity hits the earth. It can be lightening/thunder
or a large fault in a power station. Just like when a pebble hits the surface of water it produces
ripples in all directions, when GPR hits earth it spreads and can cause problem in nearby areas.
GPR is taken care of by grounding as well. Large structures like rings of metal can be placed
beneath earth to act as an earthing for GPR.
Earthing is categorized on the basis of the type of earth electrode. Following are a few basic
types:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Plate earthing
Pipe earthing (most common and reliable)
Rod earthing (Cheapest and easiest, just hammer it down!)
Strip or wire earthing

These types are primarily different in what is being buried in the ground. In plate earthing, a
copper or galvanized iron plate is buried vertically at least 10ft into the ground.
In pipe earthing, galvanized steel pipe, sometimes perforated is buried in the ground. It is the
most common type of earthing. Its length is greater than 9.2ft and should be buried more than
15.5 ft deep in the ground.
Rod earthing is the cheapest and easiest method of earthing. It requires no excavation. In this
method a copper or galvanized steel rod is hammered down into the ground. But this is not so
efficient and is thus used for temporary earthing or where the soil is very sandy. Rod length
must be above 2.5m.
In strip or wire earthing, copper, galvanized steel or iron strip is buried horizontally
underground.