What’s the Difference Between Grounding and Bonding?

There can be a bit of confusion when it comes to using the terms “grounding” and “bonding.”  In fact, the terms are often misused, even in the codes that electrical contractors use today.  This is because grounding can mean different things to different people, making the two terms fairly ambiguous.

Knowing the difference between the two terms is important for contractors, and can help contractors provide their customers with a system that is safe and reliable, and which meets the necessary code requirements.

Grounding versus Bonding

Both grounding and bonding are important for protection because they create a low impedance path back to the source.  While the two terms are related, they are different in their applications.  Improper grounding and bonding techniques can lead to electrical accidents and system failures, making it essential for contractors to understand their nuances.


Bonding is the act of joining two electrical conductors together by another conductor such as a wire.  It ensures that the common electrical potential is maintained between these two objects, and ensures that no current flow can take place between the two bonded objects because they have equal potential.

It should be noted that bonding by itself does not protect anything.  However, two properly bonded conductors will be at the same electrical potential, so that if one of the conductors is grounded and has zero electrical potential, so will the other conductor.  Thus, bonding plays a critical part in keeping people and equipment safe by ensuring that no electrical discharge can occur.


Grounding is a particular type of bonding in which one or more conductors are connected to the ground by another conductor, such as a rod or wire.  It is sometimes used interchangeably with “earthing,” but there are small differences between the two.  While both have to do with making an intentional connection to the earth, grounding is performed primarily to balance an unbalanced load and protect equipment, while earthing is used to avoid electrical shock, and it primarily protects people.

The purpose of grounding is to provide an alternate path for an electrical current to return to a service panel or safely into the ground.  Grounding can help prevent electrical fires and can help protect people from other dangers associated with electricity.

Why the Difference Is Important

Being able to differentiate between grounding and bonding is critical for many reasons.  For one, it allows contractors to more easily understand complicated standards and codes.  Another is that it can help them deliver better services to their customers.

Helps You Make Sense of Relevant Codes

Understanding the difference between bonding and grounding allows electrical contractors to make sense of relevant codes and standards.  For example, many contractors find themselves overwhelmed and confused over the information provided in the National Electric Code (NEC) Article 250.  Having knowledge of both grounding and bonding can help contractors navigate this section and remove some of the confusion out of the various Articles.

While the NEC did revise their information to clear up some of the confusion, it is still easier to understand when contractors have a solid grasp on grounding and bonding.

Better Serve Your Customers

Electrical contractors that understand bonding and grounding will be able to better serve their customers and potentially gain more business by doing so.  Grounding and bonding are applicable in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and allow businesses to increase their process uptime while maximizing their safety.

Understanding the difference between the two terms helps clear up any confusion and ensures that the best grounding practices are used for machine operations.

Keep People and Equipment Safe

Effective grounding and bonding techniques will keep both people and equipment safe.  Knowledge of both grounding and bonding allows contractors to apply them to NEC codes.  This makes it easier for electrical contractors to suggest the best grounding practices that work best for a specific application while still adhering to grounding codes and standards.

Expanding Your Knowledge of Grounding and Bonding

Continually learning about the best electrical practices is key to better serving your customers and growing your business.  Those who are interested in learning more about grounding and bonding should consider reading electrical industry expert Mike Holt’s Grounding vs. Bonding Textbook, which helps clear up misconceptions over NEC Articles related to grounding and bonding.  By expanding your knowledge and growing your skillset, you can create additional opportunities that help your business succeed.