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Understanding Your Home’s Electrical System

Many people won’t plug in their new TV or toaster without reading the instruction book. But many will move into a new home without understanding the electrical system that makes everything work. Would you know how to trip the main circuit if someone was being shocked at an outlet somewhere?

Understanding how your home’s electrical system functions is important to keep it properly maintained and for your safety if a problem arises. Familiarizing you and your family with this equipment offers many benefits to running your home smoothly.

Tipmont REMC handles the line portion of a consumer’s service, including everything up to and including the meter on the side of the house. Everything beyond that point is called the “load side.” Everything on the load side is the consumer’s responsibility.

The meter measures the amount of electricity your home uses and determines your bill each month. Tampering with it is both extremely dangerous and illegal.

You’ll find your electrical service panel inside your home. It keeps everything inside running. The service panel sends electricity to the light switches, outlets and appliances. If your electricity short circuits or an overload shuts down power, your service panel is where you will go to restore the flow.

Circuit breakers help your home’s electrical system from overloading, thus preventing an electrical fire. (Homes built before 1965 may still use fuses.) The main breaker will cut all power to the home, and the individual circuit breakers administer power to individual parts of the home. If you look in your service panel, all of the circuits and what they power should be labeled. A couple times a year, try turning each breaker on and off. This helps familiarize you with each component of the box and will keep them from getting stuck.

Homeowners should make sure no circuits are overloaded. When setting up your breakers, a general rule is to have only one big-ticket item on a circuit. That means you would not put your refrigerator and washing machine on the same circuit. If your circuits frequently overload, it may be time to contact an electrician to add more circuits to your service panel.

Electrical terms to know

When you call an electrician, it’s helpful to know the lingo.

  • Electrical Service Panel: Distributes electricity to switches, outlets and appliances. This is where you can restore the flow to an overloaded circuit or shut down the power to the circuit.
  • Fuse: Safety devices used to protect individual circuits installed in homes before 1965. Each time a fuse is blown it must be replaced.
  • Circuit Breakers: Standard safety devices used to protect individual circuits. When a circuit is “tripped,” it just has to be manually reset to resume operating.
  • Arc Fault: A dangerous electrical problem caused by damaged, overheated or stressed electrical wiring or devices.
  • Arc Fault Circuit Interruptors (AFCIs): AFCIs are protective devices that replace standard circuit breakers in the electric service panel. AFCIs provide enhanced protection against additional fire hazards known as arc faults.
  • Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRRs): A wall outlet that features an internal shutter mechanism.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International, Boston Building Resources

Rob Ford

Rob Ford

Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015. Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.

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April 2, 2024
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