Do Electrical Switches Need to be Grounded?

jerickson100May 31, 2010

We just moved into a new house two weeks ago. On our second day at the new house, an electrician who was installing light fixtures for us told us that the light switches were not grounded. He said that it was against code and he was amazed that they weren't grounded given the electrocution/fire risk. He offered to fix them for us for $15 apiece, and we probably have 40 switches in the house, so it was definitely going to be costly.

I didn't know this electrician well, so I decided to get a second opinion. The second electrician (recommended by my realtor) told me that the code now requires switches to be grounded, but this is a new requirement put in place after my house was built. He said that the code requirement is a safety precaution, but he did not recommend retrofitting the switches. On the other hand, he also works with my realtor, who has an incentive not to have any issues with the house crop up after the closing.

Given the two different opinions, I am at a bit of a loss. I don't have an electrician in this area who I trust. I checked with the inspector, but he said that the norm is not to take off the switch plates and check for grounding and he didn't have any additional advice for me. Does anyone have any advice on how I should proceed and whether this is in fact a safety risk that I should spend a bunch of money to fix?



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All new circuits are expected to have proper grounding. Pre-existing circuits can be left as is.

It is more prudent to leave the existing circuits as is for now. There may be other issues (eg- fraying/ crumbling insulation, inadequate circuits, aluminium wiring, improper outlet grounding, etc).

At some later point in time, when you decide to upgrade the service panel / change the wiring (if it is aluminium or it is really old)/ add additional wiring, fix the circuits.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 2:10PM
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Did the electrician say how each switch would be fixed for $15 per switch?

I would expect additional costs to be tacked on for unexpected issues that were uncovered.

It would be better to plan on re-wiring the entire house from the service panel than to allow spot fixes if you must have everything conform to the latest electrical code.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 6:14PM
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Just to clarify, this is not an old home - it was built in 2003, so the rest of the wiring should be fine. The electrician says he just needs to attach a small piece of the ground wire to the existing grounds and
attach that to the green screw on the switch, so it should be pretty easy. There are just so many switches that it will add up so I hate to spend the money if there is not a real risk of leaving it as is. The outlets are all grounded -- it is just the switches that are not grounded.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:00PM
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I can't believe a house built in 2003, the same year as my house, passed inspection without having the switches properly grounded. Makes you wonder at the value of the local building inspector. It almost sounds like someone cut the ground wire instead of connecting it to the ground screw. it only takes a minute. Sloppy. That being said, if the house does have 12/2 romex the ground wire is there, you can probably just attach them yourself. if its been cut off you may have to attach a pigtail to reach the switch.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 12:37AM
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