Electricians Glossary of Terms
60 amp electrical service: Most standard sized homes built prior to the 1960’s were built with a 60 amp electrical service. This size was reasonable for the needs of living at the time. Homes today with this capacity usually have gas stoves, gas clothes dryers, and few electrical outlets in each room. Sixty amps would not be enough to service a home with the standard electrical amenities like: an electric stove, an electric oven, an electric air conditioner, an electric clothes dryer and so on. The problem with 60 amp electrical service lies with renewing your insurance policy. Insurance companies may terminate the policy or demand that there be an upgrade if you are on a current plan. 60 amp electrical services can become dangerous when people do things like run too many extension cords or install oversized fuses. It is important to have a certified electrician take a look at the distribution of wiring when upgrading amps or your home may not be any safer than before.
100 amp electrical service: The main circuit breaker identifies the amperage capacity of the electrical panel. There will be a number on the electrical panel telling you what the amp capacity is. For example, 100 or 150 could be listed beside the panel. 100 amp is the minimum allowed by today’s code. 150 amps, 200 amps, and 400 amps are among other standard available sizes.
Amps or Amperes: A unit that measures the rate of electrical flow (electrical current).
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter: AFCIs are a newly-developed electrical device. They are designed to protect your home from fires that can be caused by arcing faults in your electrical wiring. Arcing faults usually occur when corroded, damaged or deteriorated wires and cords are present. Traditional circuit breakers respond to overloads in circuits while AFCIs respond specifically to unwanted arcing conditions. The AFCI will shut off the electricity if an arc fault occurs, will trip or short circuit when an overload occurs and reduce the chance of a fire. It is important to note that AFCIs diminish the effects of arcing faults but cannot prevent them entirely.
Circuit Breakers / Fuses: Devices installed in the service panel of a home to limit the flow of electricity through a circuit. The breaker rating determines the maximum flow.
Circuit Extensions: To extend or add-on to an existing circuit to provide an additional power source.
Code Corrections: Procedure designed to eliminate wiring conditions that do not meet National Electrical Code requirements and safety conditions.
Distribution Equipment: A device designed to provide electricity to multiple connections.
Energy Saving Devices: Devices utilized within a dwelling designed to more efficiently make use of energy sources while providing heating, cooling, and light.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter: GFCIs are designed to protect people from electrical shock. GFCIs do this by interrupting household circuits when there is a difference between the currents in the hot and neutral wires. When a difference is detected it usually means that an abnormal amount of current from the hot wire is occurring. That current could be flowing through a ground wire via a leak from a motor or capacitor. It could even mean that someone has come in contact with the hot wire and is experiencing a shock. When a circuit is functioning normally, all the return current from the appliance goes back through the neutral wire. If the neutral wire and the hot wire have unevenly distributed current this could produce a very hazardous shock. A typical circuit breaker is designed to cut off at 20 amperes. However, someone can be electrocuted with 100 milliamperes. A circuit breaker with a GFCI will detect a few milliamperes and trip the breaker to remove the shock hazard.
High-Tech Troubleshooting: A procedure performed by a trained technician for the purpose of locating and identifying electrical problems within an electrical system.
Load Center: Source for all power to the home. All circuits originate from the "Load Center" or "Service Panel." Circuit breakers are located within this panel.
Low Voltage: A wiring system that provides power to some electronic devices operating on a voltage level much lower than the standard 110 volts. Such devices might be doorbells and thermostats.
Motors: Electronic device used to move, switch, or adjust one or more of the systems within a dwelling.
Receptacles: Power sources located throughout a building to provide electricity where needed.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Wall and ceiling mounted sensors located throughout the home used to alert occupants of deadly gasses and smoke inside the home.
Switches: Circuit interruption devices used to control the flow of electricity to lights, appliances, and outlets.
Surge arrester: A surge arrester is a protective device that connects the conductor of an electrical system with the ground to prevent over voltages on equipment. A lightning arrester is also known as a voltage-surge arrester. A valve arrester limits the magnitude of current that can surge through the circuit.
Surge Protector: A surge protector is an appliance that protects electrical devices from spikes in voltage. The surge protector regulates the voltage by blocking or shorting ground voltages above a safe level. Many power strips have a built-in surge protector. The power strip has loosely been given the nickname “surge protector”. However, not all power strips have surge protection. In addition to power strip/surge protectors, there are now surge protectors that can protect your entire house. These surge protectors should be installed by a qualified electrician.
Tamper Resistant Outlets: Tamper Resistant Outlets are standard wall outlets that feature a shutter mechanism that protects children from placing foreign objects into the vessel. The outlet has a shutter system that is spring-loaded. Electricity only flows when equal pressure is placed on both shutters, like when a plug is inserted. When the outlet is not being used both shutters and openings will be closed. Children tend to put keys, pens, paper clips, bobby pins and other small objects into the outlet this can cause an electrical shock that can lead to burning or scarring.
Thermostat: A low voltage electronic switching device that monitors temperatures inside the home and turns on and off the heating or cooling system in the home.
Track And Accent Lighting: Condition specific lighting that meets special lighting requirements, providing variable lighting degrees of light and may distribute light in multiple directions.
Transfer Switch: An electronic device that under certain conditions will disconnect from one power source and connect to another power source.
Volts or Voltage: The rate or force of electricity and its potential capacity to do work - expressed or measured in volts.
Watts: Watts are used to measure power. Watts is the rate at which electricity or energy is used.
Wiring: A distribution network of wire that conducts electricity to receptacles, switches and appliances throughout a building/home to provide electricity where needed.