Electricity has long been an essential part of life. It powers lights, appliances, heating and cooling systems, televisions, computers, and more. We now live in a digital world that depends on electricity like never before. With more people than ever working at least part of the time from home, the need for reliable power throughout the house is a necessity.
We all know the local utility company provides the electricity flowing into our homes, but few of us know precisely how electrical wiring works. Since the utility company’s “jurisdiction” pretty much stops at the meter, homeowners should have at least a basic understanding of their home’s wiring.
Residential Wiring Basics
Whether electricity’s delivered to your home through power lines or underground conduits, the equipment that brings power into our home is known as a “service entrance.” Most residential service entrances have three wires:
- Two cables that carry 120 volts each
- One grounded neutral wire
Main Service Panel
Commonly known as the circuit breaker panel or breaker box, the main service panel distributes power to all the circuits in your home. Each circuit has a breaker that shuts itself off in the event of an overload or short circuit. Some older homes may still have fuse boxes.
Electrical boxes can be plastic or metal and come in many different sizes and several shapes. They’re used to connect wires and install switches, outlets, and fixtures. Metal electrical boxes must be grounded, while plastic boxes, which are non-conductive, do not need grounding.
Hot and Neutral Wires
Every electrical circuit has at least one “hot” wire which carries electricity from the service panel to the circuit devices and one “neutral” wire that transports the current back to the service panel.
Electrical grounds provide safe paths for electricity to follow in the event of an electrical surge, short circuit, or other safety hazards. In modern home wiring systems, each circuit has its own ground wire leading back to the service panel. Older homes may have ground systems that use metal electrical boxes, conduits, and water pipes.
Residential Wiring in Newer Homes
Homes built in the last 20 years generally have a 200-amp service, which is usually sufficient for most people’s needs. Because of how newer homes are wired, it’s easier to adapt them to modern electricity needs. Newer homes that need upgraded wiring generally have enough amperage or overall current running into the house; they just need simple modifications like more outlets or better lighting.
While you might be capable of doing this work, it’s imperative that the work be done according to code, so it’s best to hire a professional electrician. Improper electrical modifications can cause serious damage, including extensive fire damage. If you’re not familiar with working with electricity, you could injure yourself or others, so leave it to experienced technicians.
Residential Wiring in Older Homes
Older homes are not usually good candidates for DIY work as too many things can go wrong. Some older homes still have knob-and-tube systems or modifications that weren’t done according to modern codes. They also often have wiring that’s not properly grounded and panels that aren’t capable of supporting modern appliances, computer equipment, and smart home devices.
If you own an older home, it’s often best to replace the old wiring with new. This is the best way to protect electronics and other expensive equipment from being damaged by power surges and voltage drops.
Trust the Pros at Wenbrooke to Handle Your Home’s Wiring
Working with electrical wiring carries a lot of risks. Wenbrooke Services offers a full range of reliable electrical services, including rewiring services. To learn more about residential wiring or to schedule an appointment, contact us online today or call us at 240-394-1500.