A grounding rod is a safety component of an electrical system which carries current away from a surging electrical circuit and routes it safely into the ground. Grounding rods are required for many electrical systems all over the world for safety reasons, and in regions where they are not required by law, they are in common use because they are excellent safety devices which are affordable to install. Older structures and older systems may lack grounding rods, in which case they need to be retrofitted for safety.
The design of a grounding rod consists of a long rod made of conductive material such as copper which is driven into the ground. A length of eight feet (approximately two and a half meters) is standard, with the rod being fully driven into the ground so that it does not present a tripping hazard. Once the grounding rod is placed, it can be connected to the electrical system with the use of a ground connector and a wire. Often, grounding rods are placed near an electrical box for convenience.
When a problem with the electrical system which results in too much current occurs, the excess current travels down the path of least resistance, which happens to be the grounding rod. Without a grounding rod, the casings for the electrical system might become energized, which could present a serious safety hazard. Users of the system could also be endangered. The system also has other fail safes in place, such as circuit breakers or fuses which activate when dangerous conditions are present.
Construction of new electrical systems usually includes the insertion of a grounding rod. For retrofitting of older systems, it is important to be careful about placement. The long rod could potentially sever buried cable, telephone, and electrical lines. It could also hit gas, water, and sewer lines. All of these situations could generate dangerous situations and potentially costly repairs. Before digging, it is advisable to call local utilities to confirm that a proposed location is safe.
Some people may prefer to hire an electrician to handle ground rod installation. Electricians have the right tools and the experience to make sure that everything is connected safely and properly. However, it is also possible to install a grounding rod independently. There are several different techniques which can be utilized in the installation of a ground rod, ranging from using an air hammer to drive the rod to patiently working the rod through the soil with the assistance of water as a lubricant.