In terms of running a present day home, the Electrical System is probably second only to indoor plumbing in importance. Without electricity we would still be using blocks of ice to power our refrigerators, and candles to light our rooms at night. And then there are the various gadgets that are virtually dead without access to electricity.

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electrical service panel

In most homes, electricity enters the house via an Electrical Service Panel that is hooked up to an electrical grid. However, there are also a number of homes that are effectively off the grid via solar panels as well. Either way, there is a central point at which electricity enters the rest of the home. From there, it is transported throughout the house via insulated wires. As a safety measure, the wiring is broken up into several sections known as circuits. In addition, these circuits will all run through a central panel capable of interrupting the circuit in the event that the power load exceeds the capacity of the circuit to handle. In older systems, the central panel uses fuses that burnout in the event of a circuit overload, and is often referred to as the fuse box. Newer systems use switches that can be tripped back and forth (circuit breaker).

The wiring then conducts the electricity to a variety of sockets that can then be used by the homeowner to plug or screw things into, as well as switches that are used to control the flow of electricity to light fixtures.

Light SocketsEdit

While there are actually several kinds of socket styles depending on the kind of light fixture in use, the most common variety is the screw in type originally designed with Incandescent Light Bulbs in mind. Because most consumers tend to resist using anything that can't just be plugged into an already existing socket, a variety of non-incandescent light bulbs have been deliberately designed to work in these sockets as well. Usually these sockets are put on a sub-circuit that is controlled by a light switch.
Light Switch

Light SwitchesEdit

As pictured to the right, Light Switches act as circuit breakers that control whether electricity is available for the light bulbs to be lit. In addition to controlling lights, these switches are also used to control fans and other electrical devices that operate on an on/off basis.

Two Prong SocketsEdit

Still more common than three-prong sockets, they reflect a design philosophy that existed prior to the 60's. The most obvious problem with them, is that they will not allow use of three-prong appliances in needed of grounding. And more often than not, they also reflect that lack of a ground wire.

Three Prong SocketsEdit

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Grounded Socket

Around since the 60's, these are more common in newer homes where the electrical system includes a ground wire. Before these can be installed in older homes, grounding must be provided for, which often entails the opening of walls to replace pre-existing circuits. Failure to provide proper grounding can result in safety issues up to and including the ignition of fire.




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