Electric service (also called a main electrical service) is the system of wires that brings power from the utility line into the home. It includes the electricity meter, the electrical panel, and circuit breakers.
The meter connects to the service mast or overhead service drop via two ungrounded conductors, and one bonded neutral wire. The electrical panel then splits the incoming electrical service into individual branch circuits for the home.
Electrical wiring consists of a series of wires that distribute electricity from your home’s electric service panel to switches, receptacles, and lights throughout the house. The wiring system is designed to provide a safe path for electricity, preventing it from flowing to areas where it shouldn’t be.
The white wires in your home’s electrical wiring are called neutral wires and carry the current that powers your appliances, lights and other electrical equipment. Black or red wires are hot and carry live electrical loads.
The neutral and hot wires in your electrical circuit are connected to each other through a grounding wire, which provides a third path for electricity to travel if one of the first two paths becomes interrupted. The grounding wire also connects to other metal systems in your home, such as plumbing pipes, gas piping and cable TV or telephone lines. This ensures that all of these systems are at the same voltage, eliminating the potential for shock if the grounding wire fails for some reason.
The electrical panel is the point where current is separated and fed to individual circuits. It’s also known as the electrical distribution panel, load center, breaker box or fuse box in older applications.
Electrical panels are found in homes, apartments and commercial properties. They are typically a metal box on the wall with switches. They can contain a main breaker that feeds all circuits in the house or a subpanel that serves one area of the home.
You should be careful when handling any part of an electric panel or electrical system. The wires inside an electrical panel are live and can cause serious injury if touched. It’s important to be especially cautious around areas where you have tools in your hands, such as screwdrivers or pliers.
Each breaker in an electrical panel is labeled. This is important because a missing or incorrectly labeled circuit directory could cause you to accidentally shut off the power to an entire room or even the whole building.
The circuit breakers (or breaker box) are the control switches for your entire electrical service. They are a metal cabinet that looks like a big grey door in your wall, with rows of switch-like devices. Each of these devices controls a single appliance or device in a specific room in your home, such as a kitchen appliance or a light fixture.
Each circuit breaker has metal contacts that are designed to interrupt the current as quickly as possible, and to withstand the heat of an arc when the contact material opens. They also have a frame made of precision-machined, metal pieces that are bolted together and covered with a molded insulating material.
If your breaker trips often, it’s likely that you are overloading the circuit by plugging too many devices into it. This will cause the wires to heat up excessively, which can lead to a short circuit that could be dangerous. To fix this, you’ll need to redistribute the load to other circuits or upgrade your service if it can’t handle more amps.
Electrical outlets (also known as receptacles, plugs, wall sockets or plugs) allow electrical equipment to connect to the alternating current coming from the electrical grid. There are different types of outlets for various purposes, ranging from standard outlets that fit two or three-prong plugs to USB outlets.
GFCI outlets are required in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, unfinished basements, garages, many outdoor locations and swimming pools to reduce the risk of shocks and fires. These outlets have a built-in circuit breaker that trips if it detects an issue, cutting off the flow of electricity in as little as 1/40 of a second.
Other types of outlets include tamper-resistant, arc fault circuit interrupter and surge suppression outlets. These outlets provide more safety features and may have additional color-coded buttons like test and reset. The type of outlet you choose depends on what you intend to use the outlet for and the voltage amount of your circuit breaker panel.Electrician