15 Common Electrical Terms Explained

How well do you know your electrical terms?

Understanding industry-specific terms is crucial to effectively communicate and carry out electrical work in Ottawa. To help you understand common electrical operations that will be performed, and to learn the different common electrician terms, let’s explore important terminology that electricians use while ensuring safe and efficient electrical installations and repairs.

An electrical circuit refers to a closed loop through which electricity flows. It typically consists of a power source, conductive wiring, and electrical devices or appliances. Understanding how circuits work is fundamental for electricians to assess and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Voltage is the electrical potential difference between two points in a circuit, typically measured in volts (V). It determines the force at which electric current flows through a conductor. Electricians must be aware of the voltage requirements for different equipment and ensure proper wiring and connections to prevent electrical hazards.

Amperage, measured in amperes (A), represents the rate of flow of electric charge through a circuit. It measures the quantity of electrons passing through a specific point in the circuit per unit of time. The amperage determines the strength or intensity of the current. Higher amperage means more electrons are flowing, resulting in a larger current and potentially more power being delivered. High amperage can be dangerous, as it can cause overheating, electrical shocks, or damage to electrical components. Electrical devices and circuits have specific amperage ratings to ensure safe operation.

A watt (W) is a unit of power that measures the rate at which energy is consumed, produced, or transferred in an electrical circuit. It quantifies the amount of work done per unit of time. It is a crucial parameter for understanding energy consumption, efficiency, and electrical system design.

A fuse serves as a protective device in electronics and electrical engineering, safeguarding electric circuits against excessive current. It comprises a wire or strip of fusible metal that melts when the current surpasses a predetermined amperage. Fuses may burn out or blow under extreme circumstances. In the realm of home fuses, there exist two primary types: screw-in fuses and cartridge fuses. Screw-in fuses are compact and circular, featuring a conductive metal base that can be screwed into the fuse box, much like a light bulb. On the other hand, cylindrical cartridge fuses are designed to fit into a metal fuse box and are capable of handling high-powered appliances such as dryers and ovens.

Circuit breakers play a vital role in safeguarding circuits against damage caused by excessive voltage by regulating the amount of current flowing through them. They are commonly installed by electricians in a range of settings, including commercial and residential buildings. Additionally, circuit breakers have the capability to measure and determine the maximum current capacity that a particular device can handle.

If an individual tries to use more electricity than a circuit can handle, an overload occurs. This triggers overload protection. Circuit overloads cause the circuit breakers to trip, cutting power to the circuit and cutting off electricity.

Electricity meters enable electricians to gauge the amount of electricity consumed by a building. They provide information regarding the electrical load within a building. Similar to a clock, the electricity meter’s indicators move in a clockwise direction as the building utilizes more power.

Electrical conduits serve as tubes designed to house electric wires, fulfilling diverse building and structural needs. Their primary function is to safeguard both the wires and individuals in close proximity to them. Furthermore, conduits offer protection against natural wear and tear as well as the potentially damaging effects of weather conditions. Various conduit materials are available, including metal, plastic, fiber, and fired clay, catering to different preferences and requirements.

Surge protectors play a crucial role in safeguarding electrical devices against sudden voltage surges in AC circuits. These voltage spikes, which can last from 1 to 30 microseconds and potentially exceed 1,000 volts, pose a significant risk. By utilizing a surge protector, high-end electronic equipment like entertainment centers can be effectively shielded from such detrimental voltage fluctuations.

Wire gauge pertains to the thickness of a wire. Each gauge is assigned a numerical value, where lower numbers indicate thicker wire gauges, and higher numbers indicate thinner wire gauges. The gauge of a wire plays a crucial role in determining its capacity to handle electric current safely. Various factors come into play when selecting the appropriate gauge for a wire. For instance, circuits with higher amp ratings necessitate thicker wires to handle the load efficiently and prevent excessive heat accumulation.

Switches serve as regulators of power distribution to appliances and outlets. Skilled electrical technicians are responsible for installing switches that enable the control of electrical flow. By turning a switch on, power is supplied to an appliance, while turning it off interrupts the energy flow. For instance, when a light switch is turned off, it effectively halts the electricity from reaching the light bulb, causing it to cease illumination.

Switchgear refers to devices that have the common function of controlling, protecting, and isolating the power supply. Switchgear includes switching and protection devices, like switches, fuses, and circuit breakers. Most applications require either low voltage or medium voltage switchgear. A variety of industries use low voltage switchgear, such as health care, industrial systems, and water distribution. Both indoor and outdoor systems use medium voltage switchgear. Among the three types of medium voltage equipment, there are gas-insulated, air-insulated, and shielded solid switchgear.

Generators are devices that transform mechanical energy into electrical energy, utilizing an external energy source as their input. When supplied with mechanical energy from an external source, a generator employs mechanical force to induce the flow of current through its windings. It is this movement of electric charges that constitutes the generated output of electric current from the generator.

Outlets, also referred to as sockets and plugs, serve as the connection point between appliances and the electrical grid, enabling the supply of electricity. The electrical grid supplies alternating current (AC) to the outlets. Acting as an intermediary, an outlet establishes a connection between the appliance and the power source, facilitating the transmission of electricity from the source to the appliance, which requires electrical energy to operate. Outlets are categorized into two main types: domestic outlets, utilized in residential settings, and industrial outlets, employed in industrial environments.