We spend a lot of time talking to our builders, trade partners, customers, family, friends and each other and there are always a lot of questions about our trade and all its various nuances. So, we came up with the crazy idea to start a blog about the electrical trade to provide insight, explanations, updates and ideas to anyone interested (or at least willing to read it). So here I am to rave, rant, explain and possibly teach, about the electrical trade and everything involved in it.
For the first blog, I was planning on doing an explanation about your home’s power demand and after writing the blog and having a few people proof-read it… I was made aware that it was a bit long and drawn out and probably not the best topic to kick things off with. After teasing you with that knowledge, don’t fret because it will be next week’s topic. I decided for the first post to be a little easier to digest and basic, which is why I’ll chat a bit about the Basics of Electrical to put everyone on a bit more of an even footing when it comes to understanding how your home works.
Electricity, at its heart, is the movement of electrons which creates charge. Current is the rate at which that charge moves from one place to another, while Voltage is the difference in charge between two points.
Electricity in your home starts with the power service (either underground or overhead) and your electrical meter, which measures the amount of electricity your home uses (which is how the utility provider knows what to charge you on those pesky bills.) Residential homes (in North America) are built with 240v utility service (bit different in Mexico, but we’ll skip over that fact.) From there, the electricity travels down to your electrical panel and into the main breaker (of whichever amperage it is). This main breaker controls the flow of power down to all of your branch circuits, stopping it when off and allowing it when on. Power is always present at your panel (unless the meter has an attached disconnect switch turned off) and at your meter and service lines unless shut off by your utility company. When your breakers are 2-pole (the big breakers, like the main breaker, Air Conditioners, Dryers, Ranges, etc.), they use both phases of your service using the full 240v. The regular breakers for your plugs, lights, etc. use just a single phase of your service and thus, use 120v.
A branch circuit contains an amount of items (usually no more than 12 and sometimes only 1 by itself) on it. These circuits are created arbitrarily by the electricians with homeowner convenience, panel proximity, ease of installation and common sense in mind. When we talk about a circuit, we are talking about a wire carrying charge from the circuit breaker at the panel, to a device (plug, switch, etc.), and possibly out of that device to another device and so on, until the end. The neutral wires are pulled in the same manner, so the charge is able to escape from the end, back through the devices until it arrives back at the panel where it connects to the neutral bar.
When a circuit breaker trips, there is a whole list of possible problems that could cause it. If the breaker trips with absolutely nothing plugged-in (receptacles) or on (switches), then it is likely a wiring problem and an electrician should be called. If the breaker trips when you plug something in or turn on a specific light, then it is likely a problem with the device (receptacle or switch) or the fixture or item being plugged in. If the breaker trips only when you use an item that’s plugged in, then the culprit is usually that item itself. This changes slightly in the cases of Ground-Fault protection and Arc-Fault protection, but we’ll touch on that in later posts.
This seems like a good place to stop before I go off into too many tangents. In the next blog, I’ll be starting off a discussion about the actual power demands of your home and how we calculate it and why it’s important to think about before you build a new home, renovate a home or buy that hot tub.
If you have any questions, comments, feedback or suggestions for future topics, then definitely send me an email at Blog@rkayelectrical.com! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, have yourselves a great weekend!