Electricity is one of the essential components of modern homes. Every home today needs electrical energy for lights, water heater, air-cons, television, computers, and other gadgets. But how does the home electrical system work? Most people only know how to turn off and on lights, sockets but can’t explain how their electrical system works.
Your home’s electrical system may appear quite mysterious, especially if you don’t have electrical knowledge, but it’s not. You will be surprised to learn that this system works the same way as water flows through your plumbing pipes. In this guide, we are going to demystify the home electrical system by expounding on how it works.
Electrical Power Supply (Transformers)
Most homes in Australia have electrical power supply from the grid. Electricity supply in Australia is operated by a utility company. These companies have power plants that generated electrical energy in high voltage. That’s why they have transformers along the supply line to drop voltage when connecting to your home.
The main supply line from the plant may be carrying 11, 000 Volts (11kv). This is too much power for homes that equipment and appliances that use 120 or 240v. That’s why the utility company install transformers in your neighbourhoods that drop this voltage from 11kv to 120/240 (single-phase) or 415v (for 3-phase) supply.
Depending on your electrical needs, you can have a three-phase or single-phase power supply into your home. In addition to that, the supply cable to your home may be underground using trenches or overhead using poles.
The Electrical Meter
To monitor your energy consumption, the utility company will install an electrical meter for your home. The use of the meter is to monitor the number of watts you are consuming. This is the device that the company will come to check when preparing your electricity bills. The choice of the meter depends on the type of electrical system you are using. If you have a 3-phase system, the meter will be different from a single-phase one. However, most homes in Australia have a single-phase system.
Although today most of the homes have a smart meter, a while back, we had analogue devices. You could see the dial turning as your appliances consume electricity. By then, utility companies would send their staff to homes for the meter reading. Today, we have smart meters managed using the software. You just need to buy tokens to get more kilowatts for your use.
Main Control Panel
This probably the first thing that most people know about their home electrical system, especially if they have an underground power supply cable. After the supply line enters the meter, the outlet from the meter goes to the panel. One of the major roles of the panel is to control electrical power by installing gadgets that regulate the flow of electrical current. That’s why it is mostly referred to as the central breaker panel because it houses the main circuit breaker.
The panel is mainly distributing power to your home through various circuits. The panel separates various circuits with each line flowing from the circuit breaker. The rating of the circuit breaker is determined by the load being powered. For light, the circuit breaker is usually 10 amperes, while fridge circuit breakers may be 32 amperes.
All circuit breakers in the panel work as a fuse that disconnects electricity flow when the current approaches dangerous levels. So, they protect your appliance and other electronic gadgets from damages. That’s why every circuit has a different break rating depending on the load.
Electrical circuits are the lines in which the electric current flows from the panel to the appliance. This what most people refer to as the wiring system in the house. The wires run from the panels’ circuit breaker to the appliances. Every circuit power a specific appliance. For example, a water heater and air conditioner should have a dedicated circuit each. This helps to minimise damages in case of an electrical problem.
Most homes work with single-phase electric supply, which has three wires- Active, neutral, and earth. In Australia, the colour coding is different from other countries. The active wire is brown in colour, neutral blue, and earth wire striped green and yellow. Learning colour coding is important, especially for those who would like to use DIY tips to fix electrical issues in their homes.
For the circuit system to be complete, you need to have switches. These are the accessories that help you to control your appliances and other devices. They are designed to break the flow of electrical current in the live wire. A good example is the light switches that control lighting in the house. They are usually put in strategic positions where they are more effective in use. For example, there is a reason why all light switches are near the door.
There are various kinds of switches, but the choice depends on your needs. If you just have one bulb to control, then you need a one-way single-pole switch. However, most homes are now moving from mechanical switches to smart switches.
Sockets are the most used electrical accessories in our homes. Whether you want to charge your phone, computer to connect the TV, you need a socket outlet. Sockets are simply the accessories at the very end of our home electrical system. They are the main outlet accessories that feed most of the appliances in the house. There are all kinds of sockets, but the choice depends on your needs. If you have two appliances that you want to put in one corner of the house, you might need a double socket.
That’s simply how the home electrical system works. From the transformer, electric current flows just like water in the house up to the sockets and then appliances. However, the most important thing is to maintain safety because electricity can be hazardous if not handled by a professional.