– Your home is one large electriccircuit that is wired in parallel (multiple electron paths)
– Today we’re going to look at how electricity is delivered to your homes.
HOW ELECTRICITY FLOWS TO YOU
– Electricity flows to every home through high-voltage wires. The wires are either above ground and span over cities in hydrotowers, or are wired underground (which is why you need to notify the electric company if you are digging on your property).
– The high–voltage wires travel through a device called a transformer, which only allows 120V per wire to enter all households in North America.
– Three wires enter each home from a hydro pole. Two of these wires are “hot” or “live” (black) wires and one “neutral” (white) wire. Having two wires entering the house and one leaving the house completes the circuit in your home.
– The three wires that connect to each home are connected to the home by an electric meter. The electric meter measures how much electrical energy is used in the home.
– The three wires then travel from the electricmeter to the mainbreakerswitch.
MAIN BREAKER SWITCH
– Every home has a main breakerswitch that can turn off all the electrical energy traveling to the home.
– When electricians work in a home, they turn the main breaker switch off so that they don’t electrocute themselves.
– The mainbreaker switch is controlled by a device known as a circuitbreaker.
– The three wires now pass from the mainbreakerswitch into the distributionpanel.
– The distribution panel is a metalbox inside of each home that contains the circuitbreakers or fuses for each circuit in the home.
– There is one more wire in the distribution panel called the “groundwire.” All electrical outlets in your home attach to the ground wire. The ground wire is then dug deep into the ground so that it discharges any extra electricity into the Earth where it is harmless.
– Instead of a fuse, newer distributionpanels have circuitbreakers to regulate the amount of electricity that goes through each circuit.
– If too much current flows through the circuitbreaker, pieces of metalheat up and separate. When these metal pieces separate, the circuit is broken.
– Fuses are an older alternative to circuitbreakers in a distributionpanel.
– Fuses are a piece of metal that allows for a complete circuit to exist.
– If the amount of current flowing through the circuit is higher than is allowed by the fuse, the metalheats up and melts therefore breaking the circuit.
– Fuses have a disadvantage over circuit breakers; once the fusemelts it needs to be replaced. A circuit breaker can be reused.
WALL OUTLETS, POLARIZED PLUGS, AND GROUNDING PINS
– Once electricity enters the home, it is safely divided into each room using walloutlets.
– Walloutlets have the following safety features:
- Wall outlets are made out of plastic, which does not conduct electricity.
- Most wall outlets have room for a thirdprong. This space is called the “groundterminal.” The ground terminal is used in case of a shortcircuit; electricity will leave the home and travel to the ground outside.
- Most wall outlets now have space for polarized plugs. Polarizedplugs have one prong that is larger than the other. Using a polarized plug prevents the neutral wire from staying connected to the electrical device switch. A polarized plug will only fit into the wall outletone way.
– The third prong of a plug is called the “groundingpin.” This prevents a short circuit and makes sure the electricity passes to the ground rather through you.
GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER (GFCI)
– This is a special type of walloutlet that contains a circuitbreaker. The GFCI outlet detects small changes in electricalcurrent and breaks the circuit when too muchcurrent enters the circuit.
– The GFCI is important to have in areas close to running water (kitchens and bathrooms) to make sure electricity stops when the current changes slightly.
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