How can I detect an open ground in my house's wiring?

One of my outlets shocks me every time I try to use it. It’s more than just a zap of static electricity; it actually shocks me. A friend of mine suggested that it might be because the outlet has an open ground. How can I check for that?

Patrick Price · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Ouch! Getting shocked is never fun! If you’re consistently receiving significant shocks from the same outlet, the cause could indeed be an open ground.
You can detect whether you have an open ground by using an outlet tester or by removing the outlet to see if the ground wire is properly attached.
Fortunately, an open ground is pretty easy to test for. Outlet testers are user-friendly and can be purchased at most hardware stores. All you need to do is plug the outlet tester into the outlet you suspect has an open ground, and it will alert you if there is an open ground.
If you want to skip a trip to the hardware store, you can always remove the outlet from the wall and physically check to see if the ground wire (that’s the bottom wire) is properly attached. This is probably only a good idea if you have some experience with electrical work.
Once you know if you have an open ground, you can decide what to do about it. Outlets are not required to have grounding, so you could just leave it be. If you do this, your appliances might be at risk if there is a surge, and you’ll keep getting shocked.
If you decide to resolve the open ground, you should have a trained electrician properly connect the outlet to your house’s grounding system.
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