Basic Electrical Terms

Posted in: Electrical Tips for Business

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It is easy to get a little confused when you are talking to an electrician that has been called out to your home or office. This article contains definitions and explanations of terminology used and will help you understand what he or she is talking about.

Volts. Volts are used with numbers to describe the force of the current. Different countries for example have different voltage, and this is why you need to use items to convert this force when you are charging your mobile phone when travelling for example.

Amp. Amp is short for Amperage. This is a measurement for the number of electrons flowing through the circuit, versus the force of which they are flowing.

Ohms. This is a measurement for the amount of resistance in a circuit. Resistance in the circuit is also used to create heat and light, and so it not always a bad thing.

Circuit. An electrical circuit is one loop of electrical flow. For example your lighting is on one electrical circuit, and you air conditioning is on another. Electricity only powers when it is flowing and requires a completed circuit. When you get an electrical shock, you actually complete the circuit, and this is why those men who work on those high power lines to do not get a shock. Electricity will try and head towards the earth if it has nowhere to go, and that could be you. A short circuit is when electricity is not completing the normal full circuit that was created, say by two bare wires touching together somewhere they are not supposed to be. Water between two wires could cause a circuit to short out.

Service Box. This is the main electrical panel which holds all the fuses, and more modern circuit breakers and distributes electricity evenly through your home. Every circuit in your home should start and end here. This is also called the service panel or fuse box, although modern ones don’t actually contain fuses any more.

Circuit Breaker. This is the modern equivalent of a fuse. This device will automatically cut the flow of electricity through a circuit when there is an excess amount of electricity flowing through the circuit. Fuses need to be replaced, where the circuit breaker just needs to be switched back on.

Ground Fault Interrupt. This is an electrical outlet which has its own internal breaker, which opens the circuit when there is a connection made between the power wire and return wire to prevent electrical shock. You will see these at work in many modern homes. Perhaps steam from your kettle near a power socket will trigger this to go off and cut your power.

Conduit. This is a term to describe the casing that electrical wires are concealed in. These are used when electrical wires need to be on exterior surfaces of your home or office. They provide additional protection against damage to the wires or shock to people near them.

Gauge. This is not the term for meter. In the business of electrical services, meters are only called meters. Gauge refers to the term use to describe the diameter of the electrical wire. The larger the number the thinner the wire. This contradiction can be a little confusing, but that is the way it is.

Meter. The only term used to describe something that measures electricity, and don’t confuse this with gauge.

AC. No you electrician is not talking about your air conditioner. Alternating Current, the standard type of electricity found in your home or office. This is not the same as DC current which you will find in batteries for example.