Electrical service is the supply of electric power that brings light and heat to our homes, lights up our work and play spaces, powers our appliances and keeps us connected to our world. In most homes, the electric power is delivered from the utility company via the main service panel, also called a breaker box or fuse panel.
The electrical utility provides the supply component of your electrical service; a delivery component which includes the transportation and metering of electricity and billing. If you have an existing home, or are planning installations for a new establishment, the size of your electrical service is an important consideration. Underestimating the capacity of your electrical system can lead to inconveniences, equipment damage and safety hazards. Overestimating can result in expensive re-wiring costs and wasted energy.
A home’s electrical service is provided through two 120 volt wires that offer a combined 240 volts of electricity (voltage being the measurement of the force or rate of flow of electrons). These wires are connected to your house at the point known as the service entrance. It is often a metal pipe that runs down the wall from an overhead cable, or they may be directly connected to a service drop which carries the wires to the meter base.
Once at the service panel, the two hot wires are connected to a circuit breaker box or fuse box which has a maximum amperage rating displayed on the main breaker label. The wires are also attached to a transformer which reduces the 240 volts of electricity to the lower, safer 120 volts for household use. This is an essential safety feature to prevent the high levels of electricity from reaching dangerously low voltages that can cause fires or electrocutions.
After the electrical wires are connected to your service panel, they are branched into several circuits that run throughout your home or business. The circuit breakers are specially designed safety switches that protect the individual circuits by preventing them from drawing more current than the circuit wires can safely handle. All homes built since 1960 have a circuit breaker system; older houses may have an old fuse panel that can be retrofitted with a modern breaker system.
We are often awed by the skill and dedication of the electricians who work in rain, snow, freezing temperatures and all kinds of weather to bring back our light, heat and the power to keep everything running smoothly. These brave men and women of the invisible workforce are some of our best citizens, doing their jobs in order to keep you and your loved ones safe. Always be careful when working around the service panel and its contents, especially if you are using tools like pliers, screwdrivers or wire cutters. Even the slightest touch of these tools to an exposed wire or terminal can transmit a deadly shock.