If you are like the average person, you probably take electricity for granted. All you have to do is flip a switch and it appears just like magic within only a few seconds. You can’t explain how it got to your home, but you know that it is always there whenever you need it if you continue to pay the bill. Electric current is needed to power many things in your home such as the refrigerator, washer, dryer, microwave, television, computer, telephone and even your portable heater.
Electricity is a very important commodity that the average household needs to survive in today’s modern world. However, have you ever taken the time to find out where electricity really comes from? Do you understand how the process really works? How does it get from the electric company to your home in just a few seconds?
The Power Grid
Electricity travels through a power grid. It is generated at your local power plant and is transmitted to your home via pylons. These lines are high voltage, but transformers decrease the voltage to a level that can be safely used in your home. It is said that the United States has about 157,000 miles of these lines.
The amount of used electricity is recorded via the power company’s electric meter. Whenever someone chooses to use energy that is not provided by the local power plant, it is said that that person is living off the grid.
When electricity leaves the power plant it travels along high voltage lines to various sub stations that are located all over the United States. At this point, the voltage level is too high to be used in the average home. This is why it is decreased before it leaves each sub-station and transferred to different places throughout a localized region.
Electricity is then transmitted along power lines to the various electric poles that line the streets of many cities. Depending on your neighborhood, these lines can be above or underground. Before the electric current flows from the pole into your home, the voltage is reduced one additional time. It then enters your home via transformers.
Electricity comes into your home via three wires. One of the wires is the ground wire. The other wires carry the voltage into the home. They are called hot wires. The two hot wires have anywhere from 110 to 120 volts of current running through them. That is a combined amount of 220 to 240 volts of current that flows into your home. This is why homes have single and double breakers. Note that these wires usually have red, black and white colors. Each wire either sends electrical current to or from your home.
The Electric Meter
The electric company has to have a way to keep track of the amount of electricity used in each home, and this is done via an electric meter. This meter is usually attached to the exterior of your home in a location that the electric company can easily access. The power company uses the electric meter to calculate the amount of energy used and then sends you a bill for this amount.
Some power companies like to send meter readers out into local neighborhoods to read each home’s meter. But others are able to read the meters from the actual power plant. There is no need to use meter readers every month. However, the power company still needs to have access to the meter just in case of emergencies.
If you would like to keep track of the amount of electricity that your family or business uses, then look at the meter’s five dials. When the numbers on the dials are put together, they result in a five-digit number that specifies the amount of energy that has been used. Look at this number on the first day of the month and the last day of the month. The change between the two numbers represents the amount of energy that has been used for the month.
The Ground Wire
As stated earlier, there are three electrical wires for your home. Two of these wires are active or hot wires. The third wire is a ground wire, and it helps in the event that there is a short somewhere in the wiring. The ground wire secures the electrical wiring system for your home. For instance, assume that your microwave shorts. The electricity will flow along the exterior of the microwave’s metal. If someone in your member touches it at this point, it could shock or even kill them.
However, the ground wire is there to make sure that this does not happen. A three-prong wire prevents electricity from being able to flow to the outside metal. The electricity will flow through the wiring system and go back into the ground. Thus, no one in your family is harmed.
Monitoring Your Home’s Electrical System
This is why it is very important that your home has outlets that are fitted for three prongs and not two. If not, you will have serious problems that may result in blown fuses, malfunctioning switches, flickering lights and frequent circuit breaker trips. This is something that you should check, especially if your home was built before 1970. This also includes changing out a fuse panel for a circuit breaker panel.
In order to make sure that your home’s wiring is up to date and working properly, it should be checked on a regular basis. The age of the home is not the only thing that you should be concerned about. Also make sure that the home has the proper wiring to run the amount of electrical appliances that your household needs.
In conclusion, your home’s electrical system should not be taken for granted. It is amazing that you can flip a switch and electricity appears in a flash. However, it is important that you understand how the electrical system in your home works and how to keep it updated and in optimal condition.