What Makes Up Your Home's Electrical System?

Most of us only recognize electricity as that utility that costs so much each month or is pulled from an outlet when we charge our devices. But there’s more to your home’s electrical system than just charging a phone or your bank account. At Mainstream Electric, we know how it works, but we’d like you to know as well, that way you can identify where a problem might be so that you know when you need to call for a service or fix it yourself.

From Power Lines to Devices

Electric Meter – The electrical meter measures how much electricity is flowing into a home. This measurement is used by utility companies to record how much energy is used by a home. These meters use mechanical components with a spinning wheel and mechanical numbers to display how much energy is used each month. Unfortunately, these meters are designed to work in a single direction only. With home solar panels and other energy sources, electrical energy doesn’t just flow
into a home. That’s why newer digital meters are capable of tracking energy flow both into and out of a home.

The electric meter is the first point of contact between a home and the main power line outside. It
is the initial entry point for the home.

Breaker Panel – The main breaker (older homes use a fuse box) separates your home into separate
electrical circuits. The main breaker panel functions as a safety failsafe for your home. Each breaker in the panel box can support a certain amount of load on the circuit (an average home supports 200 Amps at the main breaker). Every circuit on your home is tied to the main breaker, but each circuit also has an individual breaker with a current rating.

You can check these individual ratings by looking at the inside panel of your breaker box.

When a single circuit uses more power than the circuit can handle, the breaker trips. The circuit,
and everything on it, is immediately shut down to prevent any damage to your home or powered devices. When a breaker trips, it could be due to an energy spike, or it may be that you have too many high-current devices on that circuit. If the breaker keeps tripping, try moving some of your appliances to a different circuit. Otherwise, you should consider getting a new circuit installed or having your internal wiring upgraded to account for higher loads.

Older houses used replaceable fuse boxes. Fuses are weak-link connection points that are designed to burn out before anything else on a circuit. When a fuse burns out, you should make sure the problem is fixed before installing a new fuse. Always replace the fuse with the same amperage rating.

Home Circuits – Internal wiring leads from your breaker box to every single appliance, fixture, and
outlet in your home. These wires and their branches are the circuits described on the inside of your breaker box. Standard home wiring consists of a hot, neutral, and ground wire. The hot
wire is usually black, though it can also be red, and runs from the high potential voltage side of your break box (the side with active current) to your switches and outlets. Whenever you plug in a device or flip a light switch, you connect this hot connection to the neutral connection, completing the circuit and establishing current flow.

Since a circuit is completed whenever the hot lead connects to a neutral or ground side, any short can become dangerous. A third wire, the uninsulated copper ground wire, connects every part of the metal frame back to the breaker box. With this ground wire, any short becomes an immediate trip, shutting off the circuit for the sake of safety.

From your side of the meter to the outlet and anything in between, Mainstream Electric has you covered for any and all electrical repairs and installations. Whether you need a new circuit installed to account for hire loads, or simply need a few outlets replaced, call Mainstream Electric at(866) 978-9297 for professional electrical inspections and repairs!