Understanding Your Home’s Electrical System
Whether you’re remodeling or upgrading your current home or in the middle of purchasing a new home, you’ll want to know how your home’s electrical system works. After all, a little knowledge can go a long way when you’re installing new ceiling fans, replacing your HVAC system or renovating your kitchen or bathroom.
Here’s a basic component-by-component rundown of your home’s electrical system:
- Meter – Typically installed on a home’s exterior wall, the meter measures the amount of electricity your home uses, tallying the amount in kilowatt hours (kWh). Digital “smart meters” can wirelessly send usage data to your utility company and count electricity generated through renewable means.
- Main breaker panel – The main breaker panel contains a number of breakers, each one controlling a particular circuit with a set amperage. If an overload or short circuit occurs, the breaker automatically stops the flow of electricity through the circuit.
- Circuits and wiring – From each circuit breaker, electricity flows through bundles of wiring run through the ceilings, walls and floors of your home. Each wiring bundle contains three wires: a black and/or red insulated “hot” wire carrying current from the breaker, a white insulated “neutral” that sends current back to the breaker and a bare copper ground wire that directs excess electricity safely to the ground.
- Outlets – This is where the current eventually ends up, powering your various electronics and appliances. In addition to the ordinary power outlets you’ll see throughout your home, you may also see Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets in your bathroom, kitchen or any other area where water may be present.
It’s not unusual for an older home to have outdated electrical components. If this is the case for your home, a qualified contractor may be able to give your home’s electrical system the upgrade it needs