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Basic Electrical Terms

When you engage an electrician in Sydney, it can be a little confusing when you are talking to them. This article will help you with the definitions and explanations of terminology used and will help you understand exactly what your electrician is talking about.

basic electrical terms

Volts. Volts are used to describe the force of an electric current. They are described in a numeric value. Different countries do have different voltage levels, and this is why you need to use items to convert this force when you are charging your mobile phone when travelling for example. In Australia we run off 240 volts. In the United States they run off 120 volts. Hence why you need a converter for any appliances.

Amps. Amps is short for Amperage. This is a measure of the number of electrons flowing throughout the circuit versus the force of which they are flowing. As an example the average single phase residential connection would generally be no larger than 100 amps. A commercial electrical connection could be up to as much as 400 amps.

Ohms. This is a unit of measure for the level of resistance in a circuit. Resistance in the circuit is not always a bad thing, as it is used to create heat and light.

Service Box. The service box or fuse box is the main electrical panel which holds all the fuses and more modern circuit breakers for your home or business. It distributes electricity evenly throughout your home. Every circuit in your building and property generally begins and ends here. Modern service boxes don’t actually contain fuses any more but they do have safety switches where the current runs through. This is a lot safer than the traditional fuse box.

Circuit. An electrical circuit is one loop of electrical flow. For example air conditioning generally has it’s own circuit, and your lighting will be on another circuit. Your powerpoints will be on another circuit. Electricity only works when it is flowing and it needs a completed or closed circuit. When you get an electrical shock, it is due to the fact you have actually completed the circuit. This is why Level 2 Electricians can actually work on the live power lines, as they are not completing the electrical circuit. Electricity will always try and head towards the earth if it has nowhere to go – and that could be you! A short circuit or trip is when electricity is not completing the normal full circuit that was created, for example by two electrical wires bare and touching together. Water between two wires can also cause a circuit to be shorted out. This is why electrical maintenance is so important.

Circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is basically the modern equivalent of a fuse. It automatically cuts the flow of electricity through the electrical circuil when there is an excess amount of electricity flowing through the circuit. Also known as a safety switch. If a fuse goes out it needs to be replaced as the wire will have burnt out. When a circuit breaker is tripped it breaks the flow of the circuit, and just needs to be switched back on if safe.

Conduit. Conduit is a length of pvc pipe which is used to conceal electrical wires. They are required when electrical wires are used outside of your home or office. They need to be of a special rating and they provide additional protection against damage to the wires or shock to people nearby. Your conduit will need to be buried to a specific depth by your electrician.

Gauge. The gauge refers to the thickness or diameter of electrical wires. The larger the number or ‘gauge’ the thinner the wire. It does sound a little back to front, but this is how it’s done. The thinner the wire the less current it can handle. This is why sometimes you will need to upgrade your electrical circuits.

Meter. Your electrical meter is used to measure your electricity. It gets installed by a level 2 electrician. This is what your energy retailer uses to measure how much electricity you use and how much to charge on your next bill.

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