Basic electrical terms everyone should know

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Basic electrical terms everyone should know

11/07/20

When you need electrical services in your home, you want an easy and hassle-free solution...

When you need electrical services in your home, you want an easy and hassle-free solution.


That requires quick and clear communication on both sides. But when you can’t communicate your issue to the electrician clearly, or they use words or phrases that are unfamiliar, the process takes longer and can be more frustrating then it needs to.


This article contains definitions and explanations of electrical terms used that will help you understand what they’re talking about.



You’ll find this handy if you are planning a service call from an electrician:


  • Alternating Current (AC) – Not air conditioning! An electric current that reverses its direction many times a second at regular intervals, typically used in power supplies. If you plug in a piece of equipment into a wall socket, or it does not run solely on a battery (lighting, appliances, etc.) then you are using AC.

  • Circuit – A path in which electrons from a voltage or electrical current source flow is an electrical circuit. Circuits use two forms of electrical power, Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC)

  • Circuit Breaker – An electic circuit is shut off by the Circuit Breaker when too much current is flowing. When too many devices are plugged in or if there is a short circuit, this can occur. It’s usually installed in the electrical panel.

  • Current – Current is the amount of electric charge that flows.

  • Direct Current (DC) – An electric current flowing in one direction only. Commonly used in electronic devices with a battery for a power source, like a cell phone or a laptop.

  • Electric Power – The rate at which electric energy is being used, stored, or transferred.

  • Electrical Outlet – An electrical outlet or receptacle is a socket that connects an electrical device to an electricity supply. (Also known as an electrical receptacle, wall socket)

  • Electrical Panel – The electrical panel is a metal box which takes in the main power from your electric provider into your home and distributes the electrical current to the circuits throughout your home. The panel also operates as a safety mechanism, helping to cut off the flow of electricity in cases of circuit overload. AKA: Service Panel, a Fuse Box, Breaker Box, or a Circuit Breaker panel.

  • Fuse – When too many appliances are plugged in or when there is a short circuit, the fuse is what shuts off the power to an electrical circuit when too much electric flows through it. Modern homes with updated wiring have circuit breakers, not fuses.

  • GFCI Outlet – A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), or Residual Current Device (RCD) is a type of circuit breaker which shuts off electric power when it senses an imbalance between the outgoing and incoming current. The main function of a GCFI is to protect people from electric shock and protect the house wires and receptacles from overheating and possible fire. Most commonly found in kitchens, bathrooms and other high moisture environments.

  • Ground – The grounding pathway is an alternative “safe” path for the excess electrical current to be dispersed in case of a short circuit in an electrical system. Older homes may not have grounding systems, which leaves them prone to fires and electrical shocks.

  • Jacket – A term used in wiring, the jacket is the rubberized, protective outer covering over the wires.

  • Kilowatt-Hour (kWh) – A unit of measurement for larger amounts of electricity usage. 1kWh=1,000 Watts. Commonly seen on your home electric bill to track your monthly energy consumption.

  • Power Surge – A power surge happens when there is a very brief spike in your home’s electrical current. If a home has faulty wiring these power surges can damage your electrical system and any attached appliances or products using electrical outlets for power.

  • Switches – A piece of equipment that controls the flow of electricity to an electrical circuit.

  • Voltage (V) – Voltage is the “push” behind the electrical current. Average outlets run on 120V of electricity.

  • Watt/Wattage – The unit of measurement that determines how much electrical energy is consumed in a second. A high wattage product, like incandescent light bulbs, expend more electrical energy and are therefore more expensive to use than lower wattage products like LED lighting.

If you need electrical assistance in your property, contact us on 0808 164 2892.


Keep your sun shining

PlusHeat offer extensive home emergency cover so you can protect your home (and your wallet!) when things go wrong. We offer 24/7 advice and support with boiler and central heating, plumbing, electrical and drainage cover from just 15p a day. Contact our friendly team on 0808 164 2892. We’re here to help!