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All Charged Up

February 2, 2012

This week I want to teach you about how your system works – electrical system that is. I will explain some basic DIY electrical terms and share some basic knowledge so you can be more informed when it comes to working around electricity. I don’t want your hair to stand on end when you hear someone else mentioning these words.

First, electricity (current) is the flow of electrons through a conductor, usually copper or aluminum wire. The current travels in a loop called a circuit, through a “hot” wire (usually black or red) to a fixture and returns through a neutral wire (usually white), completing the circuit. If the circuit gets broken – you have no electricity because the current stops looping.

Your electrical system is grounded to the earth to prevent you from being shocked if a wire is damaged or defective. (We DIYer’s like to stay grounded).

To get power to your house electricity flows from whatever utility provider you use through the high-voltage wires to the transformers where the amount of power is reduced to 120 volts per wire. The wires then enter your home through a service head, which is attached to your meter (I used to think that was a mini train going around a track). The wires then enter your electrical panel, which divides into circuits and those distribute the power throughout your house.

Most home service is three-wire, 2-“hot” wires carrying the power inside and one neutral completing the circuit either a 120 or 240 volt circuit. Older homes may still have the one “hot” and one neutral wire service meaning they can only run 120-volt service.

Voltage/ Amps & Watts. Voltage is the electrical pressure exerted by the power source. Most household fixtures use 120 or 240 volts. The thicker the wire, the less resistance an appliance or fixture has. Amps or watts are the amount of electrical current used by the device in the system.

With this knowledge you can move on to the next step of learning how to do simple DIY basic repairs. I will be following up with you in the coming weeks with ideas for simple electrical fixes you can do yourself.

Do you need to fix an outlet, a lamp, or a light switch? Let me know, I can explain it all here for you. Give me a shout out at

To women holding hammers (and getting smart about electricity),

Jo Ellen Soesbee, The ToolBox TomGirl

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