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Home Improvement

Here’s What These 10 Basic Electrical Terms Mean

You won't have to be confused anymore the next time you have to talk to an electrician or electrical engineer

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Original Article: Amillah Rodil Photography: Kurt Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions (Main Photo)

Talking to construction pros can sometimes be confusing, especially when they use terms you’re not familiar with. But with the help of these easy-to-understand definitions, next time you have to talk to an electrician or electrical engineer about your home’s systems, you’ll never feel lost again!


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Circuit

The route around which an electrical current can flow.

Circuit breaker

A device that can automatically stop the flow of electricity in a circuit if there is too much current running, so the device can operate safely.

Fuse

A safety device containing a piece of a metal that melts if the current running through it exceeds a certain level, thereby breaking the current.


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Grounding

A conductive connection between electrical circuits or equipment and the ground.

Load

Any device to which electrical power is delivered, such as lighting fixtures or appliances.

Panel board

A box, often fitted to a wall, containing circuit breakers that protect all the electrical circuits in a building.

Safety switch

A box, often fitted to a wall, containing fuses that protect all the electrical circuits in a building. This is commonly used in old homes in lieu of a panel board.


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Service entrance

An electrical facility that includes the main feeder wires, conduits, and fittings usually located outside the building and joined to the overhead service wires coming from the local utility company.

Short circuit

A failure in an electrical circuit caused by an accidental connection of two live wires, such as when there is a break in the insulation across which an excessive current can flow.

Surge

A sudden and temporary increase in electrical current or voltage, such as that caused by lighting.

This article originally appeared as “Are you wired well?” in the March 2006 issue of Real Living Magazine.

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