A lot of people won’t plug in their new TV or toaster without reading the instruction booklet at least once. But many will move into a new home without understanding the electrical system that makes all the electronics work. Would you know how to trip the main circuit if someone was being shocked in the bathroom?
Your electric cooperative handles the line portion of a consumer’s service, which includes everything up to the attachment point on the house. Everything beyond that point is called the “load side,” and everything on the load side is the consumer’s responsibility.
Your electric cooperative connects the outdoor wires to the meter mounted outside your home. 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.
Depending on the age of your home, either fuses or circuit breakers help your home’s electrical system from overloading, thus preventing an electrical fire. 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.
You are responsible for making 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.
Once you understand the basic workings of your home’s electrical system, you’ll be able to jump into action if a problem arises.