Electricity enters your home through a power line, either overhead or underground. It passes through a meter, which gives your utility company a reading that shows up on your bill. The meter cable then feeds into your service panel, the breaker box. Two large “hot” wires connect to big screw terminals, called lugs, inside the service panel.
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Throughout the house, wiring carries electricity to switches, receptacles, and other junction points. These are where you plug in or switch on appliances and fixtures to bring them to life. Light switches and wall outlets are usually the first places a homeowner will touch, mainly if they’re doing room additions or remodeling. Wiring is based on alternating current, the kind that powers household appliances and flows back and forth 60 times each second. Unlike the direct current in batteries and car engines, where electrons move in one direction, this flow of energy in your home’s wires is organized by circuits that have two conductors: the hot wire that delivers electricity to fixtures and outlets and the neutral wire that returns it to the service panel. Each circuit contains a breaker that disconnects the energy supply if too much power is drawn. A grounding wire also diverts energy to the earth if the circuit is overloaded, keeping you safe from shocks.
Consider a professional electrical outlet upgrade if your outlets show signs of wear or become very warm. It can help prevent dangerous situations such as electric shock, electrocution, or fire. The standard outlets in your home are two-prong outlets. They have vertical slots that fit plugs with two long prongs, providing an ungrounded connection. Three-prong outlets feature a third wire that looks like a sideways “T” and adds a grounding pin to the outlet. The grounded connection protects people against deadly electric shock and helps prevent fires by allowing excess electricity to return to your circuit breaker panel through the ground.
Consider replacing your outlets with GFCI outlets (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters). These have a little circuit breaker that constantly monitors the current flow through the outlet. It will immediately cut off power if it detects water or any other type of leakage. In Texas, the electric market is unregulated. Therefore electricity is sold in a competitive market by power-producing corporations. Many promos and programs exist, and homes and businesses can select their retail power provider. Like any monthly service provider, your energy supplier should be carefully picked. One way to lower your energy cost is to choose the lowest power provider from EnergyPricing.com; understanding your rights and how providers operate will help you select the best one.
Power lines bring current into your house and connect to a central service panel (sometimes called a breaker or fuse box). A large switch inside the panel, known as a main circuit breaker, shuts off power to the entire home if its use gets too high. Within the breaker box are more miniature switches called breakers that control electricity for specific house areas. A typical panel contains breakers rated at 15 or 20 amps for lighting and devices like refrigerators. The panel may also have larger “double-pole” breakers with higher ampere ratings for significant appliances like clothes dryers and electric stoves.
The electricity traveling through your house’s wiring arrives at various junction points, called switches or receptacles, where it will either continue to a light or stop. Switches respond to your external action to mechanically change the state of an electric circuit’s connection. Single-pole switches are the workhorses of your electrical system. They display on/off markings and feature two brass-colored screw terminals — the common terminal for incoming hot wires and travelers, which connect to one or more support lights and receptacles.
The breaker panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system. Its main breaker is a switch that shuts off current to the whole house when you overload it, and it also contains more miniature breakers that control each circuit in your home. Electricity enters your house through service wires that come up from the street, either overhead or through conduit buried underground. The lines enter a box called a meter base or a service panel (also known as a breaker panel), where the power company’s meter is installed, and the meter reads your electrical use. From the breaker panel, electricity travels through branching circuits that connect to outlets and appliances. If you have a breaker that constantly trips, it may be time to call an electrician for a closer look. Avoid tinkering with your breaker panel unless you are a licensed electrician. It can lead to dangerous situations like electric shock or fire.
Circuit breakers and fuses protect your home’s electrical system from overloading and shock. A circuit breaker can be reset; a fuse must be replaced. Both devices stop current before passing through a wire that overheats and causes a fire or shock. A fuse contains a thin metal strip designed to melt at a low temperature. When the current passing through the wire reaches or exceeds the fuse’s melting point, it heats and breaks the connection, stopping the flow of electricity. Screw-in fuses are small and round, with glass bodies that protect the fusing element. A cylindrical cartridge fuse that fits into a fuse block handles higher loads, such as for dryers and ovens.