Understanding your Home Electrical System

Home Electrical System

The home electrical system provides power when and where we need it. We need electricity for doing almost everything – watching TVs, washing dishes, charging phones, powering up the heater and AC, and more. By understanding its distribution cycle around a living place, you can properly maintain the electrical system and keep it in a safe working condition.

How Is Electricity Distributed?

Home Electrical SystemYour home electrical system works by supplying power to the electronics, light fixtures, and outlets from the power company through the service panel and the circuit breakers.

The local utility company provides the electricity via a series of power lines or an underground connection. It enters the building through a service panel that works as the central distribution point. It delivers power to the outlets, switches, and electric devices through three wires, two hot and one neutral. It also has fuse or breaker that shuts off the circuit during a system failure.

Understanding the Home Electrical System

It consists of several components. A brief discussion on each of them will help you have an idea about how the entire home electrical system works.

Service Panel

It’s the point from where all the current passes through different areas of a building. It is a metal box that carries circuits, each takes electricity to specific receiving ends such as lights, power outlets, or other things. If something goes wrong in the system, the breaker or a fuse cuts all power to a circuit.

A distribution board in a modern home must have 30 or more circuits. Otherwise, the amount of the electricity required will overload it.


Home Electrical SystemCables running underground or through the walls carry the power from the electrical panel to various points. These have plastic coatings, metal casings, or rubber coverings as insulation. Wires can be copper and aluminum but the second one is now considered as a fire hazard. The wiring installed after the mid-60s are compatible with today’s home electrical system.

The ground wiring is the latest technique that significantly reduces the chance shock or electrocution during a short circuit. A typical circuit has two types of conductors. The hot one takes the electricity to the receiving ends while the neutral one returns that current to the main panel again. The newer systems have a third option – a grounding wire – that establishes a connection to all the metal boxes, outlets, and the ground. It will take the extra electricity to the earth should an overload occur.

Switches and Outlets

Both of these components are encased in plastic or metal boxes that are mounted on the wall. The switches control the current flow to the receiving ends while the outlets offer a plug-in access for various devices. The new home electrical system has Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets to give additional protection in proximity to water such as kitchens and bathrooms.  

Light Fixtures and Appliances

These are the last points on the receiving end. Except for lamps, all the lights are connected directly to wires. The electronics are mostly plugged into outlets. Large devices such as the furnace or the heating and cooling machine have their own circuit to avoid overloading.  


Knowing the basics of the electrical system and its components will help you to monitor and control it appropriately. There are many ways for a system to fail, and even a little learning may come handy in avoiding major accidents.