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At left we show a common analogy using water flowing in pipes to help understand electrical circuits. Electrical Switches - controls to turn on or off electrical energy being supplied to an electrical load or device. The real source electrical power at most buildings is an electric utility company which operates an electrical generator (a power station). For efficiency, electrical power is usually delivered into a neighborhood at very high voltage levels.
From the overhead (or in some communities buried) power transmission lines and transformer, a local power distribution wire (also overhead or buried) brings electrical power close to the building being served with power. A service entry cable (SEC) (which is the responsibility of the building owner) connects the local power distribution wire to an electric meter mounted on or close to the building, and from the electrical meter, the service entry cable continues in to one or more main electrical panels on or inside the building. The electrical panel provides a place for mounting of fuses or circuit breakers which protect the building wiring from overheating and short circuits as a way to reduce fire risk. However, for practical purposes, the source of electricity at an individual home or other building may be thought of as the circuit breaker panel or fuse box from which electrical power is distributed throughout a home or other building.
Electrical Conductors are the wires that carry the electric energy to the point at which it will be used. The electrical load is the amount of electrical energy that any device (a light bulb, your toaster or your washing machine, for example) uses to perform some work. This resistance makes it possible for the device to convert electric energy to another form (heat, light, mechanical movement, etc.).
If the voltage applied to a circuit is multiplied by the current in amperes, the result is in units called watts. A basic principle of electrical wiring is that switches should always be wired into the hot (black or red) line leading directly to a device or outlet.
An electrical short circuit is a fault that occurs when a low resistance path exists between the hot lead and some grounded points. When an electrical short circuit occurs, heavy current will flow in the circuit for as long as it takes for the circuit breaker to trip to OFF or for the fuse to blow. Because a properly-working circuit breaker or fuse cuts off the current flow quickly, the circuit wiring will not have time to overheat to the point where fire may occur. Even when a hot line switch is off, one terminal on the switch is still connected to the power source.

The electrical energy that flows in circuits and operates loads can be generated in either of two different forms. Alternating current is almost universally used for home electric power and is, therefore, the kind this article is primarily concerned with. Direct current is most commonly found in homes in the form of electrical energy stored in batteries. DEFINITIONS of ELECTRICAL TERMS defines alternating current and direct current in more detail.
Continue reading at ELECTRICAL DEFINITIONS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below. Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
Elizabeth Sluder, Montross, VA, the original author of this article [before extensive editing], is a public school teacher who writes basic educational articles about a variety of building, construction, and other topics. John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. Our recommended books about building & mechanical systems design, inspection, problem diagnosis, and repair, and about indoor environment and IAQ testing, diagnosis, and cleanup are at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Recommended books on electrical inspection, electrical wiring, electrical problem diagnosis, and electrical repair can be found in the Electrical Books section of the InspectAPedia Bookstore. The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. When checked, Shutterstock's safe search screens restricted content and excludes it from your search results. Electrical energy (here very roughly defined as a flow of electrons) moves through a circuit to perform work such as lighting a light or heating a room. Some people explain volts as similar to water pressure in a pipe, and amps as water current or total quantity flow. The electric utility brings power from its power generators into a neighborhood where power is to be used by means of electrical transmission lines or power lines (big heavy wires). Inside of a building electrical power is distributed to various rooms through individual circuits, each of which is fed from the electrical panel(s). Junction boxes and wall outlets may be thought of as secondary sources of electrical power since they convenient points at which a building occupant can connect electrical devices anywhere in a building. Conductors offer little (but not zero) resistance to current flow because atoms in the metals they are made of have lots of free electrons and therefore can transport it efficiently.

Increase the resistance in the load and you automatically decrease the current flowing in the circuit. The break that causes the open circuit may be in the hot line, the neutral line, or the load. Electrical components in a building can easily cause an electrical shock, burn, or even death. Before doing any work on the switch, the power source must be turned off by setA­ting a circuit breaker to OFF or removing a fuse. One form is called alternating current (AC); the other form is called direct current (DC). In an AC circuit, the amount of voltage applied to the circuit is constantly changing from zero to a maximum and back to zero in one direction and then from zero to maximum and back to zero in the other direction.
Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Getty Images se reserve le droit d'engager des poursuites en cas d’utilisation non autorisee de cette image ou de ce plan-sequence et de demander reparation pour violation de droits d'auteur.
Her articles appearing at the InspectAPedia TM Website have been edited, illustrated, and on occasion content has been added by the website author. The direction of current flow is also constant and, as in AC circuits, the amount of current flow is determined by the load resistance. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order.

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