An Electrical Guide

Electrical terms can sometimes be intimidating, and it can make purchasing equipment seem daunting. When you know the breakdown of all the confusing lingo, it becomes much easier to understand what your certified electrician might be saying to you. Here are a few terms to get you started.

  1. AFCI – AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and it is an advanced circuit breaker that breaks the circuit when it detects a dangerous electric arc in the circuit it protects to prevent electrical fires.
  1. Arc – The flow of electrical current through a poor or loose device connection. It usually produces a visible light flash when occurring or even a glowing, red hot spot because of high heat at the connection. An arc in a wall switch is usually contained within the switch, but will make a characteristic popping sound because of the bad connection.
  1. Breaker – A component of an electricity supply system that divides an electrical power feed into separate circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit in a common enclosure.
  1. Trip – A circuit breaker “trips” or shuts off the electrical flow to protect the circuit from overheating and causing damage – even possibly an electrical fire. So, before you go and flip the switch on again, take a moment to determine what the root cause is of the tripping. The three typical causes are: overloaded circuit, short circuit and ground fault.
  1. GFCI Outlets – GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and it means an outlet that can prevent electrical shock in wet locations such as bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor areas.
  1. Short Circuit – A short circuit happens when a “hot” wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a “neutral” wire (white) in one of your outlets. You can often tell if there was a short circuit by checking your outlets and plugs for the smell of burning, or brown/black discoloration.
  1. Ground Fault – Similar to a short circuit. A ground fault happens when a hot wire (black) touches the ground wire (bare copper) on the side of a metal outlet box, which is connected to the ground wire. Just like a short circuit, you need to see if anything looks out of the ordinary with your outlets.
  1. LED – LED stands for light-emitting diode. LED light bulbs are “directional” light sources, which means they emit light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, which emit light and heat in all directions. For this reason, LED lighting is able to use light and energy more efficiently in many applications.
  1. Photocell – A device that controls and electrical circuit with the absence of daylight.
  1. Surge Suppressors – A surge protector, or surge suppressor, is a device designed to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes. A surge protector attempts to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.