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Electrical Wire and Cable

What To Do With The Ground Wire

Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches: What to do When there is Nothing to Attach the Ground Wire to, Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches, Ground Wires and Ungrounded Fixtures and Boxes, Bonding the Ground Wire.

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Where and How to Attach a Ground Wire
Electrical Question: What should I do with the ground wire for a porcelain ceiling lamp holder when there is no place to attach the ground wire?

Thanks for the help just not sure what to do with ground could use nut just to put on it, heck I don’t know.

This electrical wiring question came from: Bob, a Homeowner from Gibson, Tennessee.

Additional Comments: I love this site because it is a big help to us who are unsure and it helps us with safety issues. Thank you for your help.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Bob, This is a very good question.

How to Ground Wall Outlets Light Switches and Fixtures

Application: Wiring Outlets and Light Fixtures.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced. This electrical project is best performed by a Certified Electrician or Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience and ability to work with tools.
Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.

Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches

What to do When there is Nothing to Attach the Ground Wire

See More about about Wiring and Grounding

Electrical Grounding
Electrical Grounding Methods and Requirements
Electrical Grounding Methods and Requirements

The Following will assist you with Grounding:

Electrical wire
Electrical Wire for the Home
Complete listing of electrical wire types and parts used for home projects with electrical code information serves as selection guidelines.

Junction boxes

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Do-It-Yourself Electrical

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Dave's Guide to Home Electrical Wiring:

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Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book
Great for any Home Wiring Project.
  electrical wiring  

Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handy Women, and Electricians
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
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Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

More articles about Electrical Wiring, Grounding Light Fixtures and Home Electrical Wiring:
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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

26 Responses to “What To Do With The Ground Wire”
  1. Lori says:

    Will the rest of the run be grounded still?
    Say I ran wire from the breaker to 3 strings outlets and then to a switch ending at the porcelain lamp holder.
    Are all my outlets still grounded if I don’t connect the ground wire at the end of the run?.

  2. Dave Rongey says:

    Great question Lori
    Yes, as long as the ground is bonded at the panel, and spliced through at every junction along the way, but the ground did not have a termination screw at the fixture box for the lamp holder, and the ground wire at that point was just tucked into the junction box then the continuity of the ground will still be bonded all the way through.

  3. derek says:

    I am an electrical apprentice and recently ran temp power for an outlet and light I have installed in basement just to test the circuit. I rang every thing out and had no shorts. I spliced an extension cord onto the homerun end of the 12/2 Romex w/ ground and noticed the ground pin on plug part was broken off. I plugged the spliced cord into a grounding GFCI and when I went to outlet I had put in (no miss wiring) I had voltage on my ground and it was hot. I swapped out the two prong cord cap with a three prong cord cap and retested the circuit and everything was fine 120v hot to neutral and 120v hot to ground – 0v ground to neutral. Did this only happen because of the two prong plug, and if so please explain. I’m just curious is it because there was no ground path back to panel?

  4. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Derek,
    After wiring the temp power was the light ON?
    Keep in mind that depending on the light fixture, you can read 120 v on the neutral depending on the tester configuration, and depending on the type of light fixture. In this case, if the fixture was grounded and the ground and neutral were bonded but the ground path back to the panel was not complete then this could have caused the 120 volt reading at the ground.

    A similar reading can be seen when testing an OPEN light switch for an incandescent light. You will get a 120 volt reading even if the light switch is OFF because one of the leads is reading the neutral through the filament of the light bulb.

    Keep in mind that electricity takes the least path resistance to ground, no matter what that may be.

    Enjoy the electrical trade – it’s a Great One.

    PS – Watch out for those Hot Neutrals – Those Hurt!

  5. William says:

    Do both the light switch and the ceiling light fixture have to be grounded, or is it OK for just one to be grounded? Thanks.

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi William,
    If a ground wire is available with the circuit wiring then it is definitely best to have both locations grounded.
    Be Safe,

  7. Keith Bodine says:

    I am putting in a GFCI and when I pulled on the Romex cable ground wire to install it, it broke off making it too short to use. How do I attach a pigtail to the broken ground wire. I have a long piece of ground wire. How do I attach it?

  8. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Keith,
    Broken or short wires can be a challenge to work with, however if there is enough wire left you may be able to use a butt-splice crimp connector. This type of connector is an inline splice connector which is available in various sizes and are generally insulated with a plastic covering. Select one of these inline splice connectors to match the wire gauge you are working with. Be sure to use a good crimp tool to make the splice. The crimping of the splice is vitally important. This type of splice will allow you to add the additional section of wire needed to make the connection to the GFCI outlet.

  9. Vicki says:

    I have an old trailer and the boxes are not stable so I’m putting in regular boxes. The boxes that are there just have the wire pushed into them breaking the coating but a solid wire in and out. I have one new box in and cut the wire so I could attach the outlet. So, now I have an extra ground wire. Which ground do I use, the top or the bottom wire?

  10. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Vicki,
    Bonding the Ground Wires of Circuit Wiring
    All of the ground wires of the circuit cables should be spliced together to ensure that the ground is carried through and available for the entire circuit. When receptacles or switches are installed, an additional ground wire is connected with the spliced ground wires, and this additional ground wire is attached to the green ground screw of the outlet or switch.
    I hope this helps,

  11. Norm says:

    I am replacing a 3 prong 220volt outlet and using a plastic box. Where do I connect the bare copper grounding wire? I know you connect it to the box if it is metal but mine is plastic.

  12. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Norm,
    For this type of installation the ground wire is connected directly to the ground terminal of the 220volt outlet. If this is a shared 220volt circuit then all of the ground wires are bonded together as well.
    I hope this helps,

  13. Norm says:

    Would that be the terminal in the middle (called the return) where the white wire goes?

  14. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Norm,
    The neutral wire is often referred to as the return.

  15. Terri says:

    I bought a house built in 1900 and have several electrical issues. I am replacing a florescent fixture and saw that the old light was wired with an extension cord to a switch and then plugged into outlet. I used Romex from the light to the switch but the extension cord runs from the switch to the outlet behind a brick wall. Can I pigtail these? Please advise.

  16. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Terry,
    Replacing old wiring methods and upgrading to current code standards is always the best thing to do. Extension cords in garages that are used for permanent lighting should be replaced with approved wiring methods as well. The approved type of wiring will depend on how the garage is finished off. For example: Romex or Type-NM cable is not allowed in open framed structures such as garages where the cable is exposed and may be damaged. However installing an approved conduit type, such as metal flex or EMT conduit, will provide protection as required for wiring in exposed areas.
    I hope this helps,

  17. Diana says:

    I was removing a ceiling fan and cut the green ground wire by mistake. Can I repair this?

  18. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Diana,
    Yes, you can repair the ground wire by spicing the two pieces of wire together using a small twist on wire connector. Make sure the two ends of wire have the insulation removed about a half inch or more so the two pieces of wire may be joined together to complete the splice.
    Thank you for sharing your electrical question with us,

  19. Tammy says:

    We purchased a old home. Almost all of the outlets are 2 prong. I am replacing them with 3 prong. There is only 2 wires the black and white no grounding wire. So, I bought pigtails. I know how to use them on a metal box but not on a plastic box. Please advise, thank you.

  20. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Tammy,
    A 2 prong outlet should never be replaced with a 3 prong outlet when a system connected ground wire is not present or a part of the circuit because it is a false ground that is not connected to anything. Therefore, plugging a device with a ground prong into such an outlet will not have the ground connection, and most importantly, the protection the ground wire provides. The best option is to have the circuits upgraded and bring the home up to current electrical codes.
    Be Safe,

  21. Rosemary MacKenzie says:

    I’m replacing an English bayonet lamp holder in a standard lamp with a Canadian screw in type bulb holder. There are three wires, one is the ground. What shall I do with it? Should I just put a wire connector on it and stuff it somewhere, or should I be replacing the wire?

  22. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Rosemary,
    Typically the ground wire is attached to the metal housing of the light fixture. The ground wire connection should provide a continuous bond throughout the metal components of the light fixture. In some cases, the ground wire extends through out the light fixture to junction box locations where the light socket wiring is spliced together. When properly installed, the bonded ground system is provided to any area of the light fixture where electrical wiring and electrical components are located. The methods that may be used to accomplish this will depend on the design and construction of each light fixture. Many light fixtures will have a green grounding screw or a bare ground wire which is provided to make the connection with the ground wire from the cord or the ground wire of the circuit wiring.
    I hope this helps you,

  23. Wilf Brown says:

    I am upgrading to 3 prong and I have ground wires that go far as the grounding screw at the back of the box. Can I splice a piece of ground wire to connect to the grounding screw on the plug-in.

    Thank you

  24. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Wilf,
    Yes, the ground wire in an outlet box may be spliced to provide a connection to the receptacle outlet as well as the outlet box. Make sure the wire gauge is the same as the circuit ground and the splice is an approved method.
    I hope this helps,

  25. Marc says:

    I am replacing fluorescent lights with LED light strips and will be direct wiring them to my electrical. The class 2 power supply I bought does not have a spot to attach the ground wire. Will a class 2 power supply work for this type of setup? What steps can I take to insure I have a proper ground?

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

  26. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Marc,
    The LED Light power requirements should be identified and compared to the power supply that you have to make sure it is fully compatible.

    In an application such as this, the power supply may be installed into a metal junction box where the ground wire may be attached and bonded to the metal box. A cover plate is then installed once the wiring and connections are completed.

    Be Safe,