Electricity in todays life can be taken for granted. In this article we talk about how this modern convenience gets to your home to power everyday life.
Flip on the light switch. Did you know, you are tapping into a large and complex system called a power grid that constantly brings electricity to your home? This power grid sends high voltage electricity through power lines all over the country from power plants. The electricity flowing through the power lines then moves to transformers, which reduce high voltage current to the 110-220-volt lines used residential homes. The electricity continues from the transformer to your electric meter. Your electric meter is usually mounted on a outside wall of your home and records the amount of power drawn into the home.
Image Courtesy of National Energy Education Development Project
It seems simple enough, just imagine that times 500 to 700 million. Wow, that is a bit more impressive. Here is a breakdown of what we explained.
The Grid, power grid that is.
- Electricity is generated in a power plant. These power plants make electricity by way of steam turbines, hydro turbines, or nuclear generation.
- The electricity moves around the country on high voltage transmission lines called pylons. The Department of Energy reports there are more than 175,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines in the U.S. This system of power lines is sometimes referred to as “The Grid.”
- FYI, There is no “national” power grid. There are actually three power grids operating in the 48 contiguous states: (1) the Eastern Interconnected System (for states east of the Rocky Mountains), (2) the Western Interconnected System (from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountain states), and (3) the Texas Interconnected System. These systems generally operate independently of each other, although there are limited links between them. Major areas in Canada are totally interconnected with our Western and Eastern power grids, while parts of Mexico have limited connection to the Texas and the Western power grids.
- The electricity is then transmitted to sub-stations located all over the country. There, it is transformed down to a lower voltage before it’s distributed to various points around a city.
- The sub-station transports the electricity on wooden distribution poles, which are the traditional power line poles that run through neighborhoods and towns. However, before the electricity can enter a home, its voltage must be lowered once again by a second transformer because it is still at a dangerous level.
- From the transformer, service lines carry the electricity into the home.
Electricity in your home:
- The electrical system in your home can be extensive. It usually includes: the electricity that comes in from the power lines, the circuit breaker, electric meter, lights, outlets, and appliances in your home.
- Electricity enters the home first via the utility lines of your local utility.
- You should notice three wires coming to your home, older lines are separated, newer lines are twisted together. Two of the wires are “hot,” meaning they are bringing voltage into the home. The third wire is the grounding wire. This configuration brings two 120-volt lines to your meter and main breaker panel.
- Think of it as voltage part 1 and part 2. Each conductor has 120 volts, but when used together in a circuit, they deliver 240 volts for use in larger appliances such as electric dryers. Voltages may vary from 110 to 120 on a single line conductor and from 220 to 240 volts on a conductor pair. Single breakers in your electrical box are 110/120 volts; double breakers are for the 220/240-volt pairs.
- House wiring is installed using cables. 120-volt cables will have three wires: one black, one white and one bare conductor. The black is the hot wire, the white is called the neutral and the bare wire is the ground. A 220-volt cable will have an additional hot wire, red in color.
- Each wire serves an important function. The hot wire sends voltage to the receptacle and appliance. The white wire brings the voltage back to the circuit box. Unlike water or gas, electricity must have a complete path from and back to the box.
- The grounding wire is attached to the cabinet of the appliance and is not part of the circuit. However, if there is an electrical short to ground, this wire trips the breaker, shutting off the power. That’s why you should never break off the round grounding connector on a plug.
The Electric Meter
- Your electric meter measures the amount of electricity used by your home or business and is the tool used by the electric company for billing your electricity use.
- Typically found on the outside of a home, the meter measures the amount of electricity consumed in units called kilowatt hours. Each month, the electric company sends out a meter reader who records the reading on your electric meter.
- You can check how much electricity you are using by looking at the five dials on your electricity meter. Each dial has an arrow that corresponds to a number. Newer models may have a digital readout. If you write down the number on each dial from left to right, you will get a 5-digit number that equals you electrical usage in kilowatt hours.
- To measure how much electricity you use in a month, you need to record the five-digit reading from your meter on the first of the month. After waiting 30 days, again record the reading on your meter. If you subtract the first month’s reading from the second, you will get an accurate reading in kilowatt hours.
If you have any electrical issues in your home and need repair, call Bizzy B Plumbing & Home Improvement, and our electricians can “B” there for you. We service Knoxville, Maryville, and surrounding areas.