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A Guide to Electrical Terms

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Have you ever asked your electrician a question and then found yourself pretending you knew what they were talking about when they replied? Electrical terms can sound like a foreign language but once you understand the basics, it's much easier to have a productive conversation with your technician!

You might know your circuit breakers and cables, but here are some of the other most common electrical terms you'll hear.

Amp

Short for ampere or amperage, an amp is the measurement of the number of electrons flowing through an electrical circuit. A device or cable's amp rating determines the amount of current it can safely handle. Most home circuits begin at 15 amps, which can support up to 10 outlets, and go up to 50 or 60 amps, which offer overload and short-circuit protection.

Box

Also called electrical or outlet boxes, a "box" is made of plastic or metal and is used to centralize wire connections for devices like receptacles and switches. Junction boxes protect wire splices. Boxes come in a variety of shapes including square, rectangular, round, and octagonal. Electricians use the largest box possible to provide NEC-required space for wires and other electrical conductors.

Conduit

Available in metal and PVC plastic, a conduit is a protective pipe through which an electrical cable is run. Electricians use them in places where electrical wiring is often exposed and vulnerable to damage such as in unfinished basements, garages, storerooms, and attics.

Fixture

Many people confuse this term with outlet or switch, but a light fixture is the actual electrically-produced light assembly. All light fixtures are made up of a fixture body and one or more lamps.

Ground

A connection between an electrical device and the earth, ground can also mean zero voltage. Ground fault interrupt (GFI) or ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets have their own internal breaker to prevent electrical shock, electrocution, or fire.

Pigtail

Pigtail wires are short lengths of wire connected at one end to a screw terminal (a wire held by the tightening of a screw) on an electrical device and on the other end to circuit wires. Common in outlet and switch wiring, pigtails allow a circuit to keep running whether or not a device is attached.

Receptacle

Receptacles provide a place in your home's wiring system where currents can be delivered to run electrical devices. The connection is made by inserting the plug on the end of the device into the outlet.

Voltage

Described as the force or push that drives electrical energy through a wire or conductor, voltage can be compared to water pressure in piping. Numbered volts describe the force of the current. In the U.S., a 20-volt current is typical for lights and small appliances. Standard voltage for large appliances like refrigerators is 240-volt. Other countries use different voltage ratings which is why you cannot safely plug a foreign appliance such as a hairdryer into a U.S. outlet.

Learn More

We hope this short lesson in common electrical terms helps make you feel more confident the next time you talk to your electrician about the electrical system in your Jacksonville, FL home.  If you'd like to learn more or schedule a home electrical inspection, talk to one of our skilled electricians today by contacting David Gray Electrical Services online or calling us at 904.724.7211.

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