It takes a lot of wires to run your home’s electricity. The electrical system is very complex. It includes a line running from the electric pole, the meter that is read to measure electric use, and a main circuit breaker panel. Not to mention, there are separate circuits wired to all the rooms and outlets to plug into. Your home’s power depends on the correct and very precise wiring done by an electrician.
As a homeowner, you can empower yourself and learn more about your home’s electrical system. Get comfortable and much more familiar with your electrical system by reading about each component.
Find the meter on the exterior of your home. Have you seen your utility company reading your meter and recording your monthly usage of electricity? Go out there and check your usage like the meter-readers. The measurements will be in kilowatt hours (kWh).
Meter-readers come up with your electricity bill by finding the difference in the kilowatt hours from one month to the next.
Did you know that some homeowners are getting money back from their utility company? Some homeowners are adding wind and solar power to their homes. If you have electricity flowing out of your home because you are generating renewable energy through wind or solar energy, you can sell the excess renewable electricity back to the utility company. How cool is that!
Next, check out your main circuit breaker panel. The main breaker is most likely indoors, out of the weather conditions. Coming from the meter, the electricity runs to the main circuit breaker. Did you know that the size of your main breaker determines how much electricity your home can use simultaneously? You may not be able to run all the big appliances you need electricity for if your main breaker is too small. If you are running too much electricity and the main breaker cannot take the capacity, the breaker will automatically switch off. When the breaker does not turn off when meter levels are too high, a fire could start or plugging into an outlet could cause electrocution.
The amount of amperage will depend on how old or big your home is. If it was built before the 90s, it may have 100-amp service. A more modern home may have 200-amp service. Homes with more square footage may have about 400-amp service. You can find the total amperage on the largest breaker switch at the top.
There are individual circuit breakers designated to different rooms and hard-wired appliances of a house. Bigger appliances like water heaters, kitchen appliances, and air conditioners will need their own circuit breakers. Like the main breaker, these smaller circuits will switch off if there is an overload. Putting multiple appliances on a single circuit could be dangerous and lead to a fire. Make sure your labels are easy to read. Make note if you see a potential overload.
Behind your walls, above the ceilings, and under the floors, there are wires providing electricity to each room and hard-wired appliance. Wires run in sets of three. There is one bare copper wire and two plastic insulated wires that are usually black and red. These are “hot wires” that run straight from the circuit breakers. The white wire is neutral. It sends the current back to the panel.
Also, get familiar with GFCIs. These are the normal looking electrical outlets that have a set and reset button. They are usually located in kitchens and bathrooms where there’s water. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt provides you safety from electrocution. If you are receiving a shock, the GFCI will detect it through the built-in sensors and trip the outlet or breaker. You can test to make sure your GFCIs are working properly. The GFCI should trip when you hit the button. Simply hit the reset button to restore power. If the power doesn’t come back on, replace that GFCI.
Install Arc Fault Circuit Interrupts (AFCIs) to prevent dead shorts. Those occur when there’s direct metal to metal or water to metal electrical shorts. This is very important because if there is an accidental arcing in one of your electric circuits, a fire will erupt in wood framing and insulation. To avoid arcing, make sure connections are not loose and keep furniture from encroaching on electrical cord space. National Electrical Code now requires AFCIs, whether outlets or breakers, in most rooms.
If you have any questions regarding the electrical wiring of your home, reach out to Pitt Electric. One of our trained professionals can give you the peace of mind you deserve.