A lot of people won’t plug in their new TV or toaster without reading the instruction book at least once. But many will move into a new home without understanding the electrical system that makes everything work. Would you know how to trip the main circuit if someone was being shocked at an outlet somewhere?
“Understanding how your home’s electrical system functions is important not only to keep it properly maintained, but for your safety if a problem arises,” said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “We ask all of our consumers to familiarize themselves with this equipment that keeps their homes running smoothly.”
The electric cooperative handles the line portion of a consumer’s service, which includes everything up to and including the meter on the side of the house. Everything beyond that point is called the “load side.” Everything on the load side is the consumer’s responsibility.
The meter measures the amount of electricity your home uses and determines your bill each month. Tampering with it is both extremely dangerous and illegal.
You’ll find your electrical service panel inside your home. It keeps everything inside running. The service panel sends electricity to the light switches, outlets and appliances. If your electricity short circuits or an overload shuts down power, your service panel is where you will go to restore the flow.
Circuit breakers help your home’s electrical system from overloading, thus preventing an electrical fire. (Homes built before 1965 may still use fuses.) The main breaker will cut all power to the home, and the individual circuit breakers administer power to individual parts of the home. If you look in your service panel, all of the circuits and what they power should be labeled. A couple times a year, try turning each breaker on and off. This helps familiarize you with each component of the box and will keep them from getting stuck.
Homeowners should make sure no circuits are overloaded. A general rule when setting up your breakers is to have only one big ticket item on a circuit. That means you would not put your refrigerator and washing machine on the same circuit. If your circuits frequently overload, it may be time to contact an electrician to add more circuits to your service panel.