Any reason not to ground every light switch

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by atuel, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    I've noticed a trend in my house that none of the light switches are grounded. The ground wires are connected together and for the most part, the fixture the switch controls is grounded, but the switch itself has no connection to the ground. Is there any reason for this or do I chalk up another one for the idiots that wired my house?
  2. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    I've seen that before. There is no reason not to ground them.

    That said I believe its legal not to connect the ground wire to the switch as long as the screws that hold the faceplate on are plastic and not the usual metal ones.

    -rick
  3. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Switches should be grounded.

    If they're on a metal box, and firmly attached (metal of the switch ends actually up against the metal box), then they don't need a separate ground wire, because the metal box is (should be) grounded.

    If it's a plastic box, then they need to have the separate ground wire.



    ...

    I've never heard of anything regarding the faceplate screws, and never seen or heard of plastic faceplate screws before.


    .
  4. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code

    They're all metal... and plastic boxes too so no grounding that way either.
  5. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    The grounding of switches is a relatively new addition to the code.
  6. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    It's best that the switches be grounded *if* there is a separate ground screw on the switches. (Like new switches have.)

    Perhaps you have an older home and someone replaced all the old switches with new, but did not connect the ground wires? Maybe they just reconnected them like the old switches? (Homeowner DIY?)
  7. Jeff1

    Jeff1 New Member

    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    So Cal
    My old house (built in 1965) did not ground anything except the kitchen, bathrooms, garage and 1 outside outlet. The romex had 2 wires and no ground. If there's no ground wire in the box its pretty hard to ground the switches.
  8. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    I don't know how much addt'l safety you get from the time and labor to ground these switches. I've never gotten a shock from a switch, in my whole long life.
  9. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    That's a good question!

    It would be interesting to see statistics on how many people have been shocked per year for specific things like from switches or from metal wall plates attached to the switches.

    Also what the specific situation was. Perhaps you need a certain set of circumstances before the problem has happened, like a metal wall plate rather than plastic AND metal electrical box AND hot wire in electrical box touching metal electrical box.

    Or perhaps in rare situations an electrical switch can malfunction / break and an internal spring can connect the metal part of the switch with hot?

    Or perhaps a kid sticking an ice pick type object into the switch?

    I suppose someone might have had a plastic wall plate and touched the metal screws and been shocked?

    Then I once was watching a "decorate your home" type show and they showed how you can "fix up" your electrical wall plates by removing them, then covering them with a thin copper sheet. They cut the copper sheet with scissors, then folded it back around to the inside of the wall plate. And the ends of the copper sheet folded back inside wanted to spring in towards the wires in the electrical box! (I could not believe they were telling people to do this???)

    Anyway I know they come up with these grounding rules because people have been shocked in the past. Maybe it is just in case some future homeowner decides to watch that TV show and cover their switch plates with copper? :)
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,262
    Location:
    New England
    Unless the switch breaks, with the faceplate on, there's nothing 'hot' able to come in contact with a person. Think about all of the electrical applicances you have that do not use a 3-prong cord, including probably all of your table lamps...If you have a ground available and the switch has a ground screw, go ahead and connect it (on newer stuff, it should be there), but otherwise, don't lose any sleep...my unprofessional opinion.
  11. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code

    Aren't all the appliances and power tools that only have a two prong cord built to double insulated standards to prevent shock? I dont think switches would meet such standards if for nothing else that the metal screws are exposed.

    BTW, I had gotten a shock when I was a kid from a failed switch in my parents home. It was fairly minor cause I swept across the screws and the switch in a quick motion that wasnt in prolonged contact with the screw. That was in a much older house though (1920 give or take). My place was built in the mid 1980s, but then again, when we bought the place, it took 2 days of work for a professional electrician to fix all the grounding problems we found in the outlets.
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,262
    Location:
    New England
    If you got shocked by the screws on the cover plate, it was because of the wiring inside shorted to say the box that was not grounded. A metal box should be grounded. If it was, that couldn't happen as it would have tripped the breaker. Not all devices with a two-pronged plug are double insulated. This was particularly evident with older lamps that didn't have a polarized plug (and even if they did).

    This is a problem only if the equipment is defective, and it's not a good idea to leave say a broken switch in operation.
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