You depend upon electricity in your home. But how much do you know about how electricity works in your home? Do you understand how electricity enters your home, how it’s distributed, and the devices that control it and provide you access? In this beginner’s guide to electrical work, we’ll get you up to speed on the basics of your home’s electrical system.
Your power company takes care of getting power to your home, but once it enters your home, everything related to your home’s electrical system — wiring, switches, outlets, fixtures — is your responsibility. As a homeowner, it’s important to know enough about the basic components of your system to make smart decisions about safety, maintenance, and upgrades.
Unless you’re partly or wholly off the grid, your electricity comes to you via your electric company’s mains. The mains can be above-ground or buried underground. But before you can use the electricity in your home, the power company needs to know how much power you’re using. That’s the job of the electric meter, which is located between the mains and your home and measures the amount of power that your home consumes. There are three types of electrical meters.
It’s important to know that you don’t own the electric meter. It’s the responsibility of the utility to install and maintain the meter. If you ever have questions or concerns about your meter, contact your electricity provider.
Your home may have a disconnect switch located near the electric meter. Throwing this switch will cut off all power to your home. That’s useful in the event of an emergency or if major work is being done on the electrical system. If your home doesn’t have this switch, don’t worry. You can still cut off all the power at the main service panel.
Once past the electric meter, electricity must be distributed throughout your home to the switches, outlets, appliances, and other devices that need power. Your breaker panel is where the process begins. The service panel is known by many names: breaker panel, breaker box, service panel, and distribution panel are some of the common ones. If you have an older home you may have a fuse box that performs the same function.
Main circuit breaker
The power line entering your home first passes through the main circuit breaker. This switch controls the flow of power to the branch circuit breakers also located in the service panel. By flipping this switch to OFF, you can cut all power to your home.
Branch circuit breakers
Power is routed from the main circuit breaker to branch circuit breakers. Each of these switches controls the flow of power to a portion of your home, and if they detect too much current flowing through them they’ll shut off, or “trip.” For example, one branch circuit breaker may control power flowing to your kitchen outlets and lighting, while another controls power to an electric range. Branch circuit breakers are “single-pole” or “double-pole.” Single-pole breakers control the flow of 125-volt current used by wall outlets, lights, and so on, while double-pole breakers control the flow of 250-volt current used by dryers, electric ranges, electric-vehicle chargers, and other appliances. Circuit breakers are rated by amperage. A higher number means that the circuit can handle a higher electric load. Most household 125-volt circuits are rated at around 30 amps.
Some homes will have sub-panels connected to the main breaker panel. These are smaller service panels containing fewer breakers. They’re often used when an addition or outbuilding has been added to the home, or when a backup generator is wired into the home’s electrical system.
Interested in learning more about your home’s circuit breaker panel? Check out this guide.
Wiring is the unseen component of your home’s electrical system. Depending upon where the wiring is located and what the applicable building codes are, the wiring in your home may be composed of non-metallic cables, metallic cables, or wiring in metal or plastic conduits. The exact types that should be used will be specified in local building codes and industry standards. It’s important to make sure that the cable you’re using is up to the task, so if you’re taking on a home improvement or expansion that involves electrical wiring, consult with a qualified electrician before beginning the job.
If your home was built between 1956 and 1972, you should be aware that it may contain aluminum wiring. This wiring is much more likely to present a fire hazard than copper wire, and it should be replaced or repaired. Team Enoch is fully qualified to handle this safety concern, so contact us for an assessment of your risk.
At Team Enoch, we’re ready to handle any wiring job, from big to small. Contact us if you have any questions about the wiring needs for your home.
Electrical devices include all of the items in your home that use electricity. Some are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system, like overhead light fixtures and electric outlets in the walls. Some devices, like your toaster, use power provided by an electric outlet. Power travels through your home’s wiring via one of two different types of circuits.
You’ve got switches all over your home. They’re used to control the flow of power throughout your home, so you can turn on light fixtures or control the flow of power to outlets, ceiling fans, and other devices. Depending on the electrical circuit they’re installed in, you’ll find different types of switches.
Outlets are all the same, right? Not so fast — there are different types of outlets that are best suited for different applications throughout your home. Let’s take a look at the most common electrical outlets you’ll find in your home.
While the vast majority of Americans get their power from power company mains, self-generation of power for emergency backup, money-saving, and environmental responsibility is becoming more common.
Maintaining or working on your electrical system is serious business. Follow these four guidelines:
At Team Enoch, we’ve got the knowledge and skills to repair or upgrade your electrical systems. Whether it’s as simple as a new wall switch, or a bigger job like a standby generator, EV charger, or new breaker panel, we’re ready to help you evaluate what you need and get the job done right.
If you're in the Dallas Fort Worth area Contact us today and we’ll be happy to talk with you about your electrical needs. Remember, estimates are always free!