Many of the electrical components we use on a daily basis in our homes and businesses are a mystery to us. Not many people are concerned with their electrical systems or those electrical systems that supply heat, electricity and such until they have failed. Once they stop functioning and our lives are put on hold or business is delayed we finally become concerned with all the inner workings of the equipment. In a previous installment we reviewed electricity its flow along with three main electrical components: disconnect switches, main breakers and fuse panels. In this installment on the mysteries of electrical equipment we will examine branch circuits, switches, outlets and wiring.
Wiring: In every home you will find various wires and cables. The three main options in wiring within a home consist of Romex, bx cable or wiring encased within conduit. Romex is the name of a type of plastic insulated wiring that is comprised of non-metallic sheath. This is normally the wiring that is used in dry, protected areas such as stud walls and side joists. It is the wiring used when there is no risk of mechanical damage or subjected to excessive heat. Bx cable is also known as armored cable. This cable encases wires using aluminum or flexible steel sheaths that are semi resistant to damage. The safest method of wiring when it comes to durability is single strands of conductor wiring pulled through a conduit. These three types or wiring are used to carry the electrical current from the main panel to the device needing it. It is crucial that the wiring that is installed is properly sized for the load requirements that are anticipated.
Outlets: Electrical outlets are used to plug in portable electrical devices. An outlet consists of a hot feed, a neutral and aground. Special outlets should be installed in areas with moisture present as normal grade home outlets are not equipped to handle getting wet. Outlets are found throughout homes are usually places strategically in consideration of a rooms layout and where there appears to be a need to electricity.
Switches: A switch is similar to an electrical outlet in that they are placed in areas throughout the home. They provide electricity to devices that are stationary such as lights and fans. The switch will turn the devices on and off. Switches come in single-pole, three-way, four-way and dimmer. The purpose of the different switches is to offer a variant to the flow of current that goes to the lights and fans within the home.
Branch Circuit: In a home there is a main circuit breaker that has several smaller branch circuits that is feeds electrical current into. A branch circuit feeds electricity into breakers to power switches and outlets. Most circuits can be either 120 volts or 240 volts. A 120 volt circuit requires a single pole breaker and only uses one phase of electricity. This is a light circuit meant to power between 15 and 20 amps. It is good for outlets and switches. A 240 volt circuit uses a two pole breaker and uses both phases of the circuit. A 240 volt circuit will power larger appliances such as electric ranges, electric stoves, central air units or hot tubs. The appliance will not get electricity unless both phases are working. This circuit also requires a two-pole 30 amp breaker.
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