How does electricity work? Most people probably don’t think about the electricity that powers their home. With the flip of a switch or the insertion of a plug into the outlet, it’s just there. For the most part, people may have a general idea of how electricity works or where it may come from. However, many don’t understand the process on a deeper level.
At C & G Electric we’re committed to helping our customers understand the basics about electricity. We answer the question “How does electricity work?” in an easy way. We apply this same concept to much of what we do. Understanding electricity is the first step in preventing electricity related injuries. Our professional staff can also help with installation and repairs for all your electrical needs.
Life would be very different in the absence of electricity. Electricity is everywhere. We all know it’s running through the wires inside the walls of our homes, but it’s also in the clouds and even in our bodies.
Electricity is a type of energy. Negatively charged particles called electrons can flow from place to place or build up in one area. Static electricity is electricity that builds up in one area. Most of us are familiar with this type of electricity. It’s what causes a small jolt when we touch something after walking across freshly vacuumed carpet in socks. It also causes balloons to cling to the wall or even our own heads.
When electricity moves from place to place it’s referred to as an electric current. This type of electricity powers our homes and mobile devices. To create an electric current the electrons flow along a circuit. Most circuits are closed paths made of electrical components and wires. Often times these components and wires are copper or aluminum. These metals are great at conducting electricity. They have what are called “free electrons” which allow the electricity to pass through them with little resistance. Materials such as rubber do not contain free electrons. This is why rubber insulates against electricity. Materials such as rubber are referred to as insulators.
There are two types of electrical current. The first is direct current. This occurs when the electrons move around the circuit in the same direction all the time. The other type of electrical current is called alternating current. With an alternating current the electrons can reverse direction as they move around the circuit. A battery is an example of a direct current while electricity which travels to our homes is an example of alternating current.
The electricity from power plants flows to our homes as alternating current. Unlike low voltage batteries, this form of electrical current is a very high voltage. The high voltage electricity travels large distances to transformers before entering your home. These transformers look like large cans or barrels located on power poles. The transformer lowers the voltage in order to allow the electricity to be safely used in your home.
A typical home has two hot wires and one neutral wire. The three wires together create a 240-volt circuit. This can power large appliances such as furnaces or air conditioners. They enter your home at an electric meter which gauges the amount of electricity you use. The meter is on the outside of your home.
Close to the meter but on the inside of your home is the main electrical panel. This panel acts as the central distribution point. It controls the circuits which control lights, outlets, and appliances in your home. The electrical current flows into your home, along the circuits to the devices, lights, and outlets, then returns to the power source.
Of course we don’t always need a constant flow of electricity through each of these areas. This is why we have switches. Switches can interrupt the circuit and stop the flow of electricity in a designated area. When you use a light switch to turn off a light, you’re disrupting that electrical circuit. The electricity stops flowing to the lightbulb and the light turns off. Some electrical outlets are also on a circuit attached to a light switch.
While there are safeties in place to prevent electrical shock, improper use can still lead to severe injury or death. This is why it’s so very important to hire a professional if your home requires any electrical work. Electricity is very powerful and quite dangerous. It should be handled with care. Several thousands of accidents occur each year when untrained individuals take it upon themselves to attempt to fix their electrical problems.
Rather than risk injury or death, call C & G Electric. Our staff is expertly trained and can help you with all of your electrical needs.