Basic knowledge about your electrical system can come in handy if a malfunction occurs. It can help you diagnose or fix simple issues. Basic knowledge of the electrical system can also help you explain malfunctions to electrical contractors. Below are some of the things you should know about your electrical system.
Location of Panels
The main electrical panel (load center) provides the entry point for all the electricity that you use in your house. Electricity from the utility company flows into the main panel before it gets distributed to different parts of the house. Each circuit in the electrical panel is protected by an electrical breaker, which can trip to prevent catastrophes in case there is a malfunction in the circuit.
Some houses also have a subpanel that provides additional breaker slots for additional circuits that don't originate from the main panel. The subpanel is connected to and gets its power from the main subpanel.
You should know where the electrical panel is located so that you can switch off the power, either to the whole house or to a specific circuit, in case of electrical danger. Knowing where the main panel is located also helps you to reset a breaker after a trip.
Capacity of Panels
The capacity of an electrical panel is the total amount of electricity it can safely handle. For the main panel, the capacity is also the same as the total electrical supply to your house. For example, if an electrical panel is rated 100-amps, then the panel can only handle a maximum current of 100 amperes. If this is the main panel, then it means your whole house cannot use more than 100 amperes in your house.
Knowing the capacities of your electrical panels will prevent you from overloading the panels. Electrical overloads can lead to malfunctions or even electrical fires. For example, if you have an old home with the main panel rated 60-amps, you should be careful with your electrical usage because you can easily surpass this limit if you are a heavy user of electricity. In fact, you should not stretch the load to the maximum; for safety purposes, you should stop just before you hit the limit.
Capacity of Outlets
Just like the panels, each electrical receptacle also has a maximum current it can handle. Most modern receptacles are rated either 15-amps or 20-amps, so you shouldn't exceed those limits. 15 or 20 amperes might seem high, but it is not if you use an electrical extension or high-powered tools. Don't forget that the extension does not increase the capacity of the receptacle into which it is plugged; the extension only gives you more options for plugging in your items.
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