Whether it’s replacing light switches or increasing the number of wall outlets in a room, residential electrical work requires careful planning and execution. It’s also subject to local and national codes, which govern safe installation practices. For professional help, contact Ampi Electric Inc..
Electricity flows along circuits with a hot wire that delivers power to fixtures or appliances and a neutral wire that returns to the service panel. The amount of electricity flowing through the system is measured in amperes.
The electrical wiring in a house is a complex network of connected loops of electricity-conducting wires. This system allows you to power appliances, run lights, and keep your house at a comfortable temperature.
Residential electrical wiring is designed, tested, and certified for safe use and performance. This is why it’s important for all homeowners to understand the basics of their home’s wiring, as this can help them avoid dangerous electrical problems and make sure any work done by an electrician is up to code.
In a typical home, there are two hot (or live) and one neutral wire that provide 240 volts of electricity for every outlet, fixture, and appliance in the house. These wires are supplied by the service panel, which is often located near where the power lines enter a building. The panel contains circuit breakers (or fuses in older homes) that allow you to control the amount of current flowing to each circuit, and the main breaker is used to shut off power to the entire house in an emergency.
Most modern electrical wire is made of non-metallic sheathing, or NM cable, which has a flexible plastic outer layer that covers several copper wires. The outer sheath is usually printed with information about the wires inside, including their gauge and use. The wires inside may also be color-coded to assist with identification.
Another type of residential wiring is metal-armored cable, or BX cable. This style of wiring was popular in the 1920s and 1940s, and it provided a metal pathway for grounding, but it was not always properly installed and could result in fire hazards.
A recent innovation in residential electrical wiring is GFCI and AFCI outlets, which prevent fires and shocks by sensing changes in current flow and cutting off power to the device before it can cause damage or a hazardous situation. These outlets are required in most newer homes, and they can be found in outlets throughout the home, especially those that supply lighting or appliances.
Whether you’re doing an upgrade, moving into a new home, or trying to keep your current wiring safe and functional, it’s important to understand these basic terms so that you can talk with your electrician and be confident in the work that they do. A good electrician will always follow the strict guidelines set by the National Electrical Code and local ordinances, and they’ll be able to answer any questions you may have.
Located in a garage, basement, or laundry room, your electrical service panel is the power distribution center for your home. It’s filled with circuit breakers (or fuses in older homes) that control different electrical loads, such as lighting and receptacles. The breaker’s rating determines how much current can flow to each circuit. When the current is too high, the breaker trips and shuts off power to that circuit.
You’ll also find a main breaker that controls the entire house. Every capable person in the home should know where this switch is, how to turn it off, and what it does. This is especially important if you’re experiencing an electrical emergency, like a lightning strike or flooding.
The service panel has a metal cover that’s usually secured to the wall with screws. It’s crucial to remove this cover carefully and not touch any exposed wires or switches, as these could cause an electric shock.
To open the panel, you’ll need to disconnect any appliances connected to the breaker box. This will help you gain a better view of the interior components. If you’re concerned about damaging your equipment, call an electrician for a professional inspection.
Once you have the cover off, the panel will look similar to a large light fixture. There are a number of spaces with breakers, a main breaker, and a master power switch. The neutral and hot wires for each circuit connect to a bus bar within the panel.
The main breaker is responsible for connecting the wires from the street to the house. It supplies 120 volts and 30 amps of power to the residential electrical system. This is not enough to support today’s electronics and electrical loads, so most panels are now 100 or 200 amps.
If your panel is old and underpowered, it’s likely time to upgrade. Contact a qualified electrician to get detailed quotes for upgrading your service panel.
Electrical circuits are basically connected loops of electricity-conducting wires. When you turn on a light or plug in a toaster, the electric current travels through the wires and powers the device. But the electricity must also return to its source—the electrical service panel. This is done through a continuous circuit that starts and ends at the panel. If one of these circuits is interrupted, it will shut off the power to the device or cause a fire in the wiring.
The power coming into your home runs through a meter mounted outdoors (where you’ll find it on the curb) and then passes through the breaker panel. Also known as the electrical panel, breaker box, or panelboard, it’s an out-of-the-way metal box with a door. It contains all of your home’s branch circuits, which are the loops of electricity-conducting wires that run throughout the house.
Each of these circuits is controlled by a breaker switch, which you can toggle on and off. The switches can be matched to specific areas of the house by the label glued to the inside of the panel door or by referring to the number on the face of each switch. The breaker will trip (shut off) if too much power is used in a certain area, such as if you have too many appliances plugged into a kitchen outlet.
A single circuit can have two or three wires, with the hot wire carrying electricity to appliances and fixtures in your home and the neutral wire returning it to the breaker panel. Each wire is identified by a color on its sheath, which tells you its gauge and purpose in the circuit. For example, black means 14-gauge wire and 15 amps; red is 12-gauge wire for hot and neutral in a fixture circuit.
A faulty connection between an electrified wire and a non-electrified one, such as the metal contacts on the breaker, can cause the breaker to trip or even short out. When this happens, the breaker should be reset, and a professional electrician should inspect the affected circuits to make sure they are safe.
Your home’s outlets are the final link between your home’s wiring system and the devices you plug in to power up. Every house comes equipped with a variety of different electrical outlet types, each designed for specific purposes and locations.
For example, tamper-resistant outlets have shutters that prevent foreign objects from being inserted into the electrical slots. These are typically required in homes with young children and may even be mandated in new construction as a safety measure. They prevent the accidental insertion of items into an outlet, which can lead to dangerous electrical shocks.
Standard outlets are often called “regular” or “two-prong” electrical outlets and are found in most residential homes. These 15-amp and 125-volt outlets are typically used for light home usage with appliances that have low voltage and amperage requirements. For anything that requires more power, such as larger kitchen appliances and computers, it is necessary to upgrade to a 3-prong outlet. These are usually identified by a longer slot and the inclusion of a third prong.
Many homeowners are choosing to upgrade their residential outlets with smart outlets. These are not only aesthetically appealing but also allow you to turn off or control your devices plugged into them remotely. In fact, some smart outlets can even track your electricity usage, which can be helpful if you want to reduce the amount of energy you consume.
Another type of electrical outlet that’s becoming more commonplace in the modern household is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These outlets are typically found in areas that are exposed to water at all times, such as bathrooms and kitchens. They monitor the current flow and will trip (or cut off) the electrical power if they detect a surge that could potentially cause an electric shock.
In addition to these more traditional outlets, newer homes are also being built with a variety of alternative options. For instance, many are adopting “smart” outlets that can be controlled through an app on their smartphones. This way, you can power on or off your tower fans from bed in the middle of the night without having to get up and do it manually.