Are Ungrounded Outlets Really Dangerous?

As local Indianapolis electricians, safety is a thing we talk about on our blog pretty often. Why? Well, for starters, electricity is, by nature, volatile. Sure, it’s been harnessed, but any amount of misuse can result in fires, property loss, and even fatalities. And secondly, misuse of electricity isn’t that uncommon. In fact, there is one very common problem we’re going to discuss today that you might just have lurking around your property: ungrounded electrical outlets.

What is an ungrounded outlet?

ungrounded outletsFor the most part, there are two types of electrical outlets: those with two slots, and those with two slots and a hole. In a standard home setup with safe ungrounded outlets, you’ll see these “three-prong configuration.” It’s that small hole on the bottom that is most important, because that’s what makes an outlet a “grounded” one.

The two vertical slots represent a “hot” wire and a “neutral” wire. The ground wire (the hole at the bottom) ties into the neutral vertical slot. When an outlet is grounded, it means that if something goes wrong with that outlet (say, an overload or current runs through the wrong channel), the grounding wire on the appliance would send that charge “to ground” or into the grounding wire. Without the ground wire, electricity would be allowed to travel wherever it could find a conductor (say, nearby drapes or even an unlucky person). However, thanks to the grounded outlet, this transient charge is sent harmlessly away with no troubles at all.

What are the dangers of an ungrounded outlet?

So how dangerous are we talking here? Should you stay awake at night worrying about stray electricity coming out from under your bed to get you? No. But should you be concerned enough to upgrade the outlets immediately? You bet. Not only are ungrounded electrical outlets not up to code, but they pose a few other major hazards.

Health hazards

Ungrounded outlets present a very real risk of shock to people who are using electronics and appliances plugged into the ungrounded outlet. This is especially important if the outlets are in rooms with running water, such as bathrooms and kitchens. (In this case, the outlets should be GFCI as well.)

Electrical fires

Without the ground present, any error that occurs with the outlet can allow electricity to travel outside the proper channel (called arcing), sparks, and electrical charges that can travel onto and ignite nearby material, such as carpet, furniture, or curtains. Typically, something homeowners want to avoid.

Property loss 

Ungrounded outlets can cause appliances and electrical equipment plugged into them to short out. Enough of this, and your favorite appliance or tool is now virtually useless.

Indication of other issues

In homes built before the 1960s, ungrounded outlets are very common. Also common during those decades were some other outdated electrical practices, such as knob-and-tube wiring. So, when you find ungrounded outlets, it is possible there are other electrical issues lurking behind the drywall as well.

Upgrading ungrounded electrical outlets in Indianapolis? Call White’s Electrical.

From an electrician’s perspective, upgrading ungrounded outlets is a very simple process, provided the wiring in your home is in good shape. It can often be done in a short amount of time and typically doesn’t rank high on a cost scale. Making electrical upgrades like this one can not only help get your home up to code and prevent electrical fire hazards, but it can increase your home’s resale value as well. Win-win-win!

For help identifying potential electrical issues, upgrading ungrounded outlets, or for a full electrical inspection, call the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical. We’ll get the job done quickly, efficiently, and most of all, safely. Send us a message or give us a call today to schedule an appointment!

Avoid Electrical Fire Hazards this Winter

avoid electrical fire hazards

Although residential fires can occur at any time of year, they tend to peak in the months of December and January. This could be due to the increased indoor activity, excessive holiday lighting, increased use of indoor fireplaces, and other factors.

Thankfully, the number of house fires has decreased more than 6% in the last ten years, but the number of residential fires in the US reached over 1.3 million in 2017. Because we know that no one’s holiday plans include evacuating their home due to a fire, we want to share a few ways to avoid electrical fire hazards this winter.

Play it cool with the space heater.

Space heaters can be a low-cost way to heat a room, but they can be dangerous if used incorrectly. In fact, space heaters account for  25,000 residential fires every year and one-third of all winter house fires. When using a space heater for additional heat, follow these guidelines.

• Don’t use an extension cord with your space heater.
• Keep the space heater on a flat, solid surface.
• Keep the space heater at least three feet away from flammable material, such as furniture, curtains, and rugs.
• Do not use a space heater around water
• Clean and remove dust from the space heater frequently.
• Shut off the space heater if not in use.

Be smart about holiday lighting.

Of course, we would encourage you to be smart with how you use anything with electricity, but holiday lighting in particular seems to be an area where people can throw their common sense out the window (I’m looking at you, Clark Griswold.). The U.S. Fire Administration reported between 2009 and 2013 that holiday decorations alone caused an average of $13.4 million in property damage each year. So, what can you do to avoid electrical fire hazards from Christmas lights?

• Don’t connect too many strands of lights to the same outlet.
• Only use cords rated for outdoor use for your outside lighting.
• Don’t use any light strands with broken, cracked, or frayed wiring.
• Use only products that are marked with a symbol fromUnderwriter’s Laboratories (UL) or Interlink  (ETL).

Upgrade old electrical outlets and wiring.

Outdated electrical outlets and faulty wiring can pose a hazard at any time of year, and especially during winter. Faulty electrical distribution systems are the third-leading cause of residential fires. Upgrading old, damaged outlets or wiring is one of the best things you can do to avoid electrical fire hazards this winter. Always be sure to have these upgrades performed by a licensed electrician.

• Upgrade old third-leading cause.
• Install Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs).
• Have an electrician inspect all of your lights, switches, and outlets to be sure they are grounded.
• Upgrade old knob-and-tube wiring or aluminum wiring.

Contact White’s Electrical for help.

The team of licensed electricians at White’s Electrical have the tools, experience, and knowledge to perform electrical work at your home quickly, efficiently, and most importantly – safely. Stay safe this winter!

Why Do My Lightbulbs Keep Blowing?

lightbulbs keep blowing

Of course, we all use lightbulbs every single day, all day. Lightbulbs that are repeatedly blown can not only be frustrating, but a hazard as well. If your lightbulbs keep blowing, it’s worthwhile to consider the reasons for the problem. Then, do a little investigating and perhaps even call a licensed electrician if there are signs of deeper electrical issues.

Common Reasons Lightbulbs Keep Blowing

Cheap Lightbulbs

The most common reason lightbulbs keep blowing is that they are just cheaply made. As with just about everything, the saying “you get what you pay for” applies to lightbulbs, too. Low-quality bulbs not only tend to burn out faster, but they are often more susceptible to failure under conditions that are less than ideal. When a filament bulb blows, the filament breaks at its weakest point. Cheaper bulbs typically have thinner filaments, which leaves them more vulnerable to breakage. Using higher quality bulbs, ideally LEDs, will generally prevent these problems.

Electric Arc

lightbulbs keep blowingA loose connection in the lamp holder (the socket where the bulb screws in) can also cause bulbs to repeatedly blow. When there are loose connections in the lamp holder, the circuit is not completed as tightly as it should be. This means that the electricity has to “arc” or jump across the contact points, rather than simply flowing through it. When electricity arcs, it produces more heat in the fitting than the bulb can handle, causing the bulb to blow.

If you suspect this is why your lightbulbs keep blowing, remove the bulb and check the bottom for dark spots or tiny indentations, called pits. These dark spots and pits are the telltale signs of arcing electricity.

If arcing electricity is what is causing your lightbulbs to blow, you may want to call an electrician for safety’s sake. However, there is one common, simple problem that you can fix on your own. Look into the light bulb socket and you should see a small brass tab that is slightly raised (you’ve probably seen this in a flashlight). If a lightbulb has been screwed in too tightly, this tab can become flattened, which can lead to arcing. If this is the case, you can bend this tab upwards again with your finger or a pair of pliers, BUT ONLY if the fixture is completely disconnected from electricity and its corresponding circuit breaker is shut off. This type of arcing is really the only circumstance that would be safe for you to repair on your own. Otherwise, just call a licensed electrician.

High Voltage

Even a small amount of excessive voltage can dramatically reduce the lifespan of light bulb. Like arcing, if a lightbulb blows due to high voltage, it is primarily due to the excess heat generated. Voltage that is too high or sustained over a long period of time can cause bulbs to blow. Many cases of high voltage originate from either your local electrical grid or in your own home electrical system. A licensed electrician can diagnose and correct the problem.

Using Bulbs with the Wrong Wattage

lightbulbs keep blowingAnother reason your bulbs keep blowing could be what is known as “overlamping.” Overlamping occurs when you use a lightbulb with a wattage that is too high for your electrical fixture to handle. This causes intense heat, which can not only cause the bulb to blow, but can melt the light socket as well as the insulation on the wires. Once that happens, you put yourself at risk of arc faults and even fires.

Avoid overlamping simply by using the correct wattage bulb. Most modern lamp fixtures have the recommended wattage listed somewhere in their assembly. If no wattage is listed, the general rule of thumb is to use a bulb with 60 watts or lower. As long as you don’t exceed the recommended wattage for the fixture, you should be in good shape.

Still Have Questions?

Most of the time, simply switching to a higher quality LED lightbulb can fix the problem. However, there are some cases where repeatedly blown lightbulbs is an indication of a deeper issue within your electrical system. For cases like these, calling White’s Electrical for help is the only way to go. We’ve got the training, experience, and skills to safely put an end to the inconvenience, waste, and hazard of bulbs are repeated burning out.

Whole House Surge Protectors to Guard Against Power Surges

whole home surge protectors

Many homeowners believe that adequate surge protection begins and ends with a power strip. Sure, power strips help protect vulnerable electronics, but unfortunately, they’re seldom enough on their own.

First of all, not all surge protectors live up to their name. Some are little more than fancy extension cords. Secondly, a surge will follow any wire into the house and leave appliances, televisions, satellite systems, and more just as vulnerable as computers to the effects of surges.

Two Types of Electrical Surges

When most people imagine a power surge, they think of a dramatic lightning strike and lots of sparks. This type of power surge may only last for a few millionths of a second, but it can carry tens of thousands of volts and is enough to fry circuit boards, crash hard drives, and ruin entertainment systems. These lightning-induced power surges are the most powerful, but they’re not the most common. In fact, most surge-related damage is not caused by lightning at all.

A more common, albeit lesser-known type of power surge can be caused by downed power lines, sudden changes in electricity use by a nearby factory, or even the cycling on and off of energy-sucking devices in the home. The damage inflicted by this type of power surge can be instantaneous but may not show up for some time. In fact, you may not notice the power surge at all, until one day the affected appliances stop working.

Two-Pronged Approach to Surge Protection

So what can you do to guard against power surges when a power strip is not enough? The best defense against power surges is a two-pronged approach, which includes a whole house surge protector along with a “plug-in” surge protector for vulnerable electronics. Both types of surge protectors essentially act as a pressure-release valve, diverting excess voltage from a surge to the ground wire. As soon as voltage levels return to normal, the flow of electricity is restored.

A whole house surge protector is hard-wired into the home’s service panel. The entire installation typically takes a licensed electrician as little as two hours to complete. You probably want a whole house surge protector that is rated to stop a 40,000 amp surge, at minimum. Look for surge protector with lights or alarms that indicate when a device has taken a hit. Separate, smaller whole-house units are also available for the phone and cable lines.

On their own, a whole house surge protector may not be able to stop all excess energy from making its way into the home. This is where plug-in surge protectors or power strips come in. Plug-in surge protectors act in the same manner as whole house protectors, but on a much smaller scale. They are a buffer between individual appliances and wall outlets, diverting excess voltage during a surge to protect vulnerable electronics.

Grounded Wiring is Invaluable for True Surge Protection

Even the most expensive surge protectors can’t do their job if the house wiring isn’t properly grounded. There has to be somewhere for the electricity go to, and without a good ground, the current may follow another path. This means that the surge could easily end up inside your modem or television.

Protection against power surges is important to protecting your home’s appliances, technology, and electrical system. Whether you need an assessment of the electrical health of your home, or need a whole home surge protector installed, the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical can help you.

What Happens During an Electrical Inspection?

electrical home inspectionWhen most people think of an electrical inspection, they tend to think only of a home that is on the market or a home that has existing electrical issues. The truth is, though, that even a healthy electrical system should be periodically inspected.

Just as a mechanic would inspect your car for functionality and safety measures, an electrician can do the same for your home’s electrical system. Having a good idea of the age and condition of your home’s electrical system can help save a lot of time and money down the road. Part of making sure the electrical needs of your home are being met is scheduling regular electrical inspections.

What is an Electrical Inspection?

It goes without saying that the electrical system is one of the most critical elements of any home. It’s also one of the most dangerous systems of the home, particularly if there are defects that go uncorrected.

The job of an electrician during an electrical home inspection is primarily to find and note any electrical system defects. An electrical home inspection provides a thorough examination of your entire electrical system, ensuring that all electrical wires, components, and systems meet legal safety standards.

What is Included in an Electrical Inspection?

During your home’s electrical inspection, the electrician will inspect components both inside and outside the home. White’s Electrical offers a basic 15-point home electrical inspection for only $79. Some of the things an electrical home inspection from White’s Electrical may cover are the following:

  1. Remove panel cover
  2. Check termination on all wires in panel
  3. Check buss bar for damage, discoloration, or burn marks
  4. Check grounding system (two points of ground)
  5. Check wires in panel
  6. Check breakers to wire sizing
  7. Check random electrical outlets using plug tester
  8. Remove two outlets randomly to check for wiring method
  9. Check GFIs using plug tester
  10. Check for GFIs in all code required places (garage, unfinished basements, bathroom, kitchen, etc)
  11. Check all switches manually
  12. Check smoke detector operation
  13. Check smoke detectors locations to meet code (every bedroom, hallway outside of bedrooms, every floor)
  14. Check grounding on dryer, range
  15. Answer any questions or concerns you may have

Upon completion of your electrical home inspection with White’s Electrical, your electrician will provide a detailed, prioritized checklist including areas in need of immediate attention, recommendations for improvements, and upgrade possibilities. If the home is being inspected as part of a sale, a White’s Electrical electrician will be available to meet with both the buyers and sellers to review their findings and suggest improvements.

When is an Electrical Inspection Needed?

Just as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the same goes for an electrical inspection. The Electrical Safety Foundation recommends electrical home inspections:

• Upon buying a home.
• When a home is older than 40 years.
• When adding a major appliance.
• After a home has undergone a major renovation.

An electrical home inspection is important for the safety of your home and can give you peace of mind. Whether you are buying or selling a home, or just need confirmation that your home’s electrical system is functioning properly, talk to a licensed electrician at White’s Electrical today.

GFCIs vs Circuit Breakers

You probably have two types of outlets in your home: one type with only holes or slots, and one type with holes and buttons. Those with no buttons are regular outlets and those with buttons are GFCIs. Both types can shut off the electricity flowing through them, but in different ways and for different reasons. Knowing which type you have and which type you need can help keep you and your home safe. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to comparing GFCIs vs circuit breakers.

What is a circuit breaker?

Most people are familiar with a tripped circuit in their circuit breaker box. A circuit breaker is designed to stop the flow of electricity (break an electrical current) when there is a current overload. Regular outlets (those without a button) are connected to the breaker box.

An overloaded circuit means that too many power-consuming devices are being run at the same time on the same circuit. For example, if you have a 15-amp circuit with 20 amps worth of electricity running through it, the circuit breaker will trip to prevent overheating. When a circuit trips, a switch in the breaker box is “flipped,” and needs to be manually switched back to its previous position to turn it back on.

A circuit breaker is a way to prevent too much electricity from flowing through one circuit. Thus, it is able to prevent overheating the circuit and prevent fire hazards.

What is a GFCI?

Simply put, a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a way to protect people from electrical shock. The GFCI will turn off (interrupt) the circuit when there is a current leak (as opposed to a current overload like a circuit breaker).

If you look at a normal 120-volt outlet in the United States, you’ll see two vertical slots with a round hole centered below them. The right slot is slightly smaller than the left. The right slot is called “hot,” the left slot is called “neutral,” and the hole below them is called “ground.”

If an appliance is working properly, all electricity used by that appliance will flow from hot to neutral.  A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral, and if there is any imbalance, it trips the circuit. If the GFCI senses that there is a mismatch of power even as small as four or five milliamps, it can react as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second. So, if power is flowing through anything other than the circuit (say, a human body), the circuit is tripped almost immediately.

Do I need a GFCI or a regular outlet?

Besides the fact that you are required by law to install GFCI outlets in certain areas, they are generally considered to be safer and a better investment. They can help prevent electrical-related injuries, electrical fires, and appliance damage. Additionally, circuit breaker GFCIs are often used as replacements for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection for all outlets on that circuit.

White’s Electrical is a team of local licensed electricians who are up to speed on building codes. This not only keeps us safe, but it keeps our customers safe as well. If you need a new outlet installed, GFCI or otherwise, give us a call.

Why Choosing a Licensed Electrical Contractor Matters

licensed electrical contractor

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has named May as National Electrical Safety Month. While we take electrical safety seriously every day, now is a good time to remind ourselves and our clients why being safe – especially in this industry – is so important.

Whether for commercial or residential work, choosing a licensed electrical contractor who is adamant about following all safety protocol is extremely important. For many people who understand how dangerous improper electrical work can be, these reasons are common sense. But still, we come across situations every day that are just a disaster waiting to happen. Most of these problems could have been avoided by hiring a licensed electrician from the get-go.

We understand the dangerous nature of our work and can’t stress enough the importance of choosing a trained professional for electrical work. Before looking up those DIY YouTube videos or hiring an unlicensed electrician for the job, here are some things to consider.

1. Liability and Financial Responsibility

We hate to say it, but not everyone has the common sense to play it safe with electricity. Hiring your college buddy’s nephew to rewire your shed might not be the best idea. By hiring an unlicensed, uninsured handyman for something as dangerous as electrical work, you’re accepting a pretty big liability, even if you’re getting a good “deal.” Fashion designer Aldo Gucci expressed it well: “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.” Is saving a few bucks worth the risk of putting yourself and others in danger? Probably not.

2. Quality of Work

Just because the lights turn on, doesn’t mean that the electrical work behind the scenes is right. A licensed electrical contractor who follows safety procedures will get the job done right (read: safely). Faulty electrical work can pose a serious fire hazard. We come across situations every day where an unlicensed handyman or DIY homeowner wired something themselves, and in doing so, created a major hazard. Luckily, we are able to remedy these situations and save homeowners some grief.

3. Keeping Themselves and Others Safe

In new home construction or remodels, several contractors may be working in the same area. If one contractor doesn’t hold up his end of the “safety bargain,” he could easily be putting other contractors in danger. Likewise, an electrician who isn’t following safety standards can be putting himself at risk of electrical shock. A licensed electrician will come to the job prepared with proper safety equipment, as well as knowledge of building codes and safety standards.

Finding good electricians can be hard. Trust us, we know! Luckily, we have done the hard work for you. Our team is composed of some of the most highly-skilled, trained, and knowledgeable electricians in Indianapolis. So, please! Play it safe with electricity – just call us!

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Old Electrical Wiring?

cost to replace old electrical wiring

Individuals tend not to think about the cost to replace old electrical wiring running through their building. They tend not to think about the wiring at all. Every time they flip a switch or turn on an appliance, they’re thinking about their job, not electricity. But it’s good to consider the building’s electrical system from time to time because if it’s old or is damage, it can cause problems. Electrical fires, for instance, are a consequence of degraded wiring, and they occur too often.

Recently, vacant house in Lebanon, Indiana, caught fire because of bad electrical wiring. Although firefighters extinguished the blaze within 20 minutes, the flames did an estimated $30,000 in property damage.

Replacing wiring can be an expensive investment, but it’s important that you be able to identify old and damaged electrical wiring before serious damage or harm comes to your building.

Signs of Bad Electrical Wiring

Frayed Wires

Wires become frayed from age, wear and tear, heat, and corrosion. Damaged wire casing (the plastic covering) exposes the wires, which, when live, can ignite fires and puts people at risk of shock or electrocution.

Bad Outlets

Every year, 4,000 people are treated for electrical injuries. Bad outlets are one such cause. According to the National Fire Protection Association, discolored outlets (which turn colors when poorly wired circuitry heats up) — conduct electricity, meaning they can carry an electric current. If you notice an outlet turning colors, immediately call an electrician.

There are other indicators of an electrical problem with an outlet. Sizzling noises, popping sounds, and the smell burnt plastic all indicate that you should contact an electrician.

Tripped Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are the main distribution source of electrical circuits in a building. They provide power to all appliances and protect wiring from a becoming overloaded. When the breaker “trips” — when it shuts off the power — it’s protecting the circuit from overheating and causing damage.

If you must constantly reset your circuit breaker, it’s a sign circuits are overloaded and that a professional should asses them.

Costs of Upgrading Electrical Wiring

If you have electrical wiring that is isn’t functioning well or is damaged, it’s time to consider replacing it. Costs for upgrading electrical wiring  depend on a number of factors:

  • The price of the electrical wires
  • The cost of other materials including panels
  • The price of your electrician’s hourly rate

According to Home Advisor, new wires typically range from $6 to $8 per foot. Breaker boxes (also called electrical panels), if required, are priced separately. These appliances vary in price depending on what your budget and building necessitate. The average cost of breaker boxes by amperage are:

  • 100 amp: $800 to $2,500
  • 200 amp: $1,300 to $3,000
  • 400 amp: $2,000 to $4,000

Home Advisor also lists average labor costs for electrical jobs. In Indianapolis, Indiana, the average labor cost for basic home wiring ranges from $3,330.87 to $4,037.42. The supplies for such a job average between $1,322.31 to $1,504.22. Prices will vary depending on location and exact job parameters, of course. Ultimately, you will have to ask a licensed electrician for a quote to learn the cost.

Choosing Safety: OSHA Workplace Standards

Electricity mobilizes almost all aspects of modern life, both at home and on the job. Of course we’re familiar with it – comfortable even. However, it can post serious hazard in the workplace, especially for engineers, electricians, and power line works who work directly with it. Direct contact with electricity can result in shock, electrocution, and burns. And when electricity escapes its circuitry, it can cause fires and explosions.

It’s because of these dangers that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  was established in the ’60s to ensure and safe working conditions in the workplace. OSHA sets safety regulations and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance so workers can enforce its standards to protect themselves and their surroundings.

OSHA workplace standards

Health and Safety Standards

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA controls health and safety regulations. These regulations limit hazardous chemical exposure and employee access to classified information. They require the use of protective equipment and cautionary measures in case of accidents around dangerous machinery as well.

In order to guide employers and employees in avoiding hazards and developing effective plans, OSHA publishes “Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines”. The guidelines identify several crucial elements needed for a successful safety system:

  • Management leadership
  • Employee involvement
  • Worksite Analysis
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Safety and health training

The main goal of the guidelines is to provide employers, workers, and representatives with a flexible safety format which employers can adapt to any workspace. The adaptability allows companies of all sizes to use the programs to make changes where they’re needed.

The guidelines detail a proactive, inclusive plan to prevent hazardous conditions. Employers collect information about the known hazards beforehand, periodically inspect the workplace, and investigate all accidents, injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. OSHA pushes companies — employees and employers alike — to communicate trends or problems seen in order to prevent injuries.

Specifically, OSHA suggests employers take the following steps to create a safe environment:

  • Create a list of hazards in order from most to least important
  • Assign a trustworthy individual to implement controls on specific machines which require a steady hand
  • Establish a goal end date to have all new regulations and tasks completed
  • Track their company’s progress via charts, regular inspections, and employee reports

Responsibilities Under OSHA

OSHA regulations of course also list things every employer must do to ensure their workers remain safe, however. For example, employers must:

  • Provide safety training to workers in cohesive languages
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling
  • Display the official OSHA Job Safety and Health Law poster
  • Provide personal protective equipment
  • Notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality

Why OSHA Standards are Important to Our Relationship with Clients

When you choose White’s Electrical as your electrician, you’re choosing a professional company who is proud to adhere to OSHA standards. We take safety very seriously, and are constantly reassessing our own safety practices to ensure the safety of both our employees and clients. Our licensed electricians are highly trained, skilled, and ready to take on any job – safely. 

Understanding Your Breaker Box

Understanding Your Breaker Box Whites Electrical Indianapolis Indiana Electrician

An electrical circuit breaker panel is the main distribution of electrical circuits in your home. The system receives and distributes electricity through your home, and without the proper knowledge, you could end up in a dangerous situation if you tried to work on it.

How Does a Breaker Box Work?

The breaker panel is essentially a big switch filled with other smaller switches. The smaller switchers — breakers — control the power in all aspects of the building. They’re similar to the switches inside a living room. Flip with the switch on the wall, and you’ve got power and vice versa. As an added feature, these breakers perform a variety of safety services. They protect the wiring from overload, your home, and its occupants from fire and electrical shock.

Explaining the Aspects of a Breaker Box

Circuit Breakers

Each circuit within your home has a corresponding breaker. The corresponding breaker in the box not only controls whether electricity is on or off but, if there is an overload on a circuit, the connected breaker automatically shuts off to stop the flow of electricity to that circuit. An overload of electricity can occur from too many appliances running at once or a short circuit.

There are two main types of standard breakers:

  • Single Pole – These are single switches which supply 120 volts of power to all circuits within the home. Devices controlled by these breakers are light fixtures and ordinary plug-in outlets.
  • Double Pole – Double pole switches supply around 240 volts of power within a household. This supply of power controls heavy appliances such as clothes dryers and whole-house central air conditioning.

Other types of breakers, such as Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI), provide special purposes like additional safety protection from fire and electrocution.

Service Disconnect

In case of an emergency, the breaker box allows you to shut off the electricity to your entire home by flipping the service disconnect. The service disconnect is the biggest breaker in the box and is sometimes referred to as the “electrical main.” This is where the power from the electric company flows into the box, starting from the main circuit before flowing through the rest.

Expansion Slots

Many breaker boxes have empty slots for additional circuits to be added as needed by a licensed electrician. New circuits run electricity to new appliances in your home or a room such as the garage or basement if required.

The Lifespan of a Circuit Breaker

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates the life expectancy of a circuit breaker to be around 30 to 40 years, and it’s the same for the GFCI, AFCI, and standard breakers. Because a breaker is a mechanical device, humid conditions or corrosive atmospheres will shorten the life span. On the other hand, a dry, indoor location with moderate temperatures will extend its lifespan. Another way to extend the lifespan of a breaker box is to “exercise” it once a year by flipping each breaker on and off three times.

Breaker boxes provide power for your comfort and convenience. Maintenance and constant attention ensures the breaker box runs efficiently. At Whites Electrical, we are a team of highly trained electricians who can answer any questions and service all residential or commercial project. Contact us today to set up an appointment to have your home powered efficiently today.