Basic Electrical Terms

Basic Electrical Terms

It is easy to get a little confused when you are talking to an electrician that has been called out to your home or office. This post explains some of the common terminology used and will help you understand what your electrician is talking about.

Alternating Current (AC): AC is the standard type of electricity found in your home or office. This is not the same as DC current which you will find in batteries.

Amp: Amp is short for Amperage. This is a measurement for the number of electrons flowing through the circuit, versus the force of which they are flowing. Your electrician may ask you what appliances or tools you plan on using in different areas of your home in order to calculate the estimated number of Amps that circuit will need to work safely and efficiently. Circuit: An electrical circuit is one loop of electrical flow. For example, your lighting is on one electrical circuit, and you air conditioning is on another. Electricity only powers when it is flowing and requires a completed
circuit. When you get an electrical shock, the electricity uses your body to complete the circuit. A short circuit is when electricity is not completing the normal full circuit that was created. This can be due to things such as two bare wires touching together somewhere they are not supposed to be, or water between two wires.

Circuit Breaker: This is the modern equivalent of a fuse. This device will automatically cut the flow of electricity through a circuit when there is an excess amount of electricity flowing. The difference being that when the flow of electricity is cut, fuses need to be replaced, whereas a circuit breaker just needs to be switched back on.

Conduit: This is a name given to the casing that electrical wires are concealed in. These are used when electrical wires need to be on exterior surfaces of your home or office or where power is run underground. They provide additional protection against damage to the wires or shock to people near them.

Fluorescent Light: Fluorescent lamps work by ionizing mercury vapour in a glass tube. Fluorescent lighting is becoming outdated and is being replaced with similar looking LED fittings that are not only more energy efficient but also have a significantly longer lifespan.

Fuse: Like circuit breakers. Fuses protect against short circuits and current overloads. They do not protect people from electric shock. If a fuse blows due to a short circuit it will need to be replaced. General Purpose Outlet (GPO): A GPO is most commonly known as a Powerpoint is an electrical socket mounted or recessed into a wall. When you plug an appliance into a GPO, the power circuit is completed and allows the appliance to work.

Halogen Light: A Halogen light bulb uses halogen gas in order to increase light output. Halogen globes are often found in older style downlights, security and floodlights. Halogen lights are known to produce a lot of heat and are now considered a mostly outdated technology.

Incandescent: Incandescent globes look like the traditional ‘Edison’ shaped light bulb, with a filament strung across two metal bars in the centre of the globe.

Light Emitting Diode (LED): LED lights are the latest technology in energy efficient lighting, using approximately 85% less energy than halogen or incandescent lighting which means significant savings on your power bills. LED lights also have a much longer lifespan than other types of lighting.

Meter: The meter is something that measures electricity, it is what your electrical provider uses to determine how much electricity you have used and can assist your electrician when looking for
certain types of power faults.

Safety Switch/ Residual Current Device (RCD): A safety switch is a device that quickly switches off the electricity supply if an electrical fault is detected, to minimise the risk of electricity-related fires, electric shock, injury and death. A safety switch can detect the change in the electrical circuit and switches the power off in as little as 0.3 seconds.

Service Box/Meter Box: This is the main electrical panel which holds your electricity meter, all the fuses or circuit breakers, and safety switches. From the service box the electricity is distributed evenly through your home. Every circuit in your home should start and end here.

Subboard: Common in units or multistorey buildings, Subboards are fed from a main communal service box and will contain the fuses, circuit breakers and safety switches for each individual premises.

Volts/Voltage: Volts are used to describe the force or pressure of the current. The higher the number of volts, the more current flows through a circuit. Electrical circuits in different countries flow at different voltages, and this is why, for example, you need to use items to convert this force when you are charging your mobile phone while travelling abroad.

Watt/Wattage: The Watt is a measure of power or how much energy is released per second. Watts are most commonly seen on light bulbs to express how much power will be used and the amount of light the bulb will omit. Generally speaking, the higher the light bulb’s wattage, the brighter the light that is produced will be. It is important to remember however that different technology will use different amounts of power to achieve the same result, for example, a 60W Halogen globe and an 8W LED globe will produce similar levels of light even though the LED globe uses significantly less power.

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