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Understanding your home’s electrical system

JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, few people knew about JPGs or FaceTime conversations, but now they have become basic knowledge most of us need to communicate and share with friends and family electronically. 

Likewise, there is basic knowledge everyone needs to know about their home’s electrical system. Understanding the basics keeps you safe, so it’s worth the effort. 

The first concept to understand is who is responsible for each part of an electrical service. There are two parts. The first part is the pole and the line from the pole to what is called the attachment point on your house. The second is the line from the attachment point through your house. 

Your electric cooperative takes care of the first part. They maintain and repair the poles and the lines. That is true regardless of the weather or time of day. Lineworkers are on call 24/7. 

What’s the homeowner’s responsibility 

Everything past the attachment point is your responsibility. This is called the load side. If something goes wrong from the attachment point inside, it is your responsibility. So, it’s a good idea to properly maintain that line so you aren’t left without power at any time. The thought of candles and a roaring fire in the fireplace may sound romantic, but most of us are not prepared for the rigors of living without electricity. 

Electric cooperatives connect the outdoor wires to meters on the outside of most homes. The meter measures the amount of electricity a home uses and determines the monthly bill. 

The electrical service panel is often inside the home, although it can be outside. This panel sends electricity to light switches, outlets and appliances. If the electricity short-circuits or an overload shuts down power, go to the service panel to restore the flow of electricity. Careful is the main word here. 

Why is the circuit breaker tripping? 

Depending on the age of a home, it uses either fuses (older homes) or circuit breakers (newer homes or those that have been converted) to help protect from overloading the electrical system and prevent an electrical fire. The main breaker cuts all power to the home; individual circuit breakers administer power to individual parts of the home. 

All the circuits and what they power should be labeled on the service panel. You should be familiar with each component. 

It is the consumer’s responsibility to make sure no circuits are overloaded. Generally, each breaker should have only one big-ticket item (refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, etc.) on it. 

A circuit is doing what it is supposed to do to protect you and your home when it shuts off. If this happens frequently, contact an electrician who will analyze the problem and determine if you need more circuits. 

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