Electricity 101

Electricity 101 can refer to the basics of electricity in both how it works and its simple applications. When we think of how electricity works, we think of the nucleus, which is the center of an atom that contains protons and neutrons. There are also electrons that orbit around the nucleus.

In conductive material, the atoms have just a few electrons in the outer orbit. These are called Valence Electrons and they are situated in such a way so that they can be moved easily from one atom to another, enhancing their movement. Copper is a good conductor which is used for most wires.

The insulator serves to protect us from the electricity flowing through conductors. It has many electrons in its outer orbit and these are difficult to move from one atom another. They resist the movement of electrons.

An electrical current occurs when there is a difference between the end of a conductor. This causes a movement of electrons and creates a voltage.

A current can either be direct or alternating. In a direct current, electricity flows in one direction. A simple example of this is the battery operated flashlight.

In alternating current, electricity can flow in both directions. 120 VAC household power is a good example of this. It changes direction 120 times per second. It starts at 0 degrees with a voltage of 0. Voltage rises to 170 volts at 90 degrees but goes back to 0 at 180 degrees. It then reverses direction and rises to a peak voltage of -170 at 270 degrees. It completes the cycle when it goes back to 0 volts at 360 and then the cycle starts again.

Electrical Equipment

Electrical equipment is needed at every job site. It is necessary for the installation, repair, maintenance and sometimes it is even needed to make other pieces of equipment run. Electrical equipment can include several types of supplies that can be very small or very large. These include wires, fitting, switches, push buttons, circuit breakers and more.

Some common pieces of electrical equipment include:

Electric switchboards: These direct electricity from one or more sources of supply to smaller regions of usage. They can contain one or two panels, both of which have switches that allow for electricity to be redirected.

Transformer: These are used to reduce or increase the voltage of an alternating current. They can take large amounts voltage from an outside source and make it suitable for household use.

Electric panel: These are components of an electricity supply system that divide electrical power so that it can feed into subsidiary circuits while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit in a common enclosure.

Circuit breaker: An automatic device which  is used as a safety measure for stopping the flow of electricity when it reaches dangerous levels.

Electrical Meter: This is a device that measures the amount of energy consumed by a residence, business or electrically powered device.

Electrical equipment can also refer to any machine powered by electricity. These can include the following:

Microcontroller: A computer present in a single integrated circuit that is designated to perform on specific tasks. It contains memory, programmable input and output peripherals and a processer.

Programmable Logic Controller: An industrial computer control system that monitors the state of input devices and makes decisions based on a custom program to control the state of output devices.

Appliances: Small or large, these are devices or pieces of equipment designed to perform a specific task, usually in the home.

Electrical Safety

Anyone who has ever been exposed to electrical equipment must be informed as to the dangers associated with it. Despite this, electrical hazards are all too common all over the world. Injuries can include burns, shocks, electrocution and can result in death. Here are some basic electrical safety tips to keep in mind when you are around electrical equipment:

Prevent Electrical Overloads: Overloaded electrical circuits are a major cause of fires. For optimal electrical safety, avoid plugging too many devices into one circuit and know the amperage rating of your circuit breakers to avoid plugging in appliances that use too much power.

Use Extension Cords Safely: Extension cords also cause a number of fires every year. Make sure to use precautions by avoiding using indoor cords for outdoor applications, not plugging cords into each other and not overloading them.

DIY Electrical Work: If you are performing electrical work at home and are not a licensed electrician, take time to make sure you are following electrical safety regulations before proceeding. Always make sure all power is turned off before performing any electrical work and follow directions for all tools and supplies you may need.

Beware of Overhead Wires: Overhead wires that are used in outdoor applications can be very dangerous. Never touch a downed power cord. If one falls on your vehicle while you are driving, drive away from the it and instruct anyone you might see not to touch the wire or the vehicle until it is looked at by a local utility company and emergency services.

Don’t Mix Water and Electricity: Never use any type of electrical equipment while you are standing in water and make sure that any appliances or devices you use are kept dry. If equipment gets wet, have a local electrician inspect it before energizing it again.

Energy Savings

In today’s world, we are always looking for ways to conserve power which can result in savings on our electrical bill. Thanks to new technology, there are many options available to those who wish to save energy. Read on to find abut some of these methods.

Turn your refrigerator down: Refrigerators account for about 20% of household electricity use. If you set your refrigerator temperature to 37 degrees and your freezer to 3 degrees, you should see a significant saving in energy. Also, make sure your energy saver switch is turned on and check the gaskets around your refrigerator and freezer doors to make sure they are sealed tightly.

Don’t Overheat or Overcool Rooms: Try to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees during the daytime in the winter and 55 at night. In the summer, keep it at 78. This will not only keep your bills lower but also save cut down on heating related CO2 emissions.

Buy Energy Efficient Bulbs: Energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs may cost more than other bulbs, but they will end up leading to energy savings in the long run.  They use only ¼ of the energy of an incandescent bulb and can last 8-12 times longer.

Insulate Walls and Ceilings: This can save 20-30% on heating bills as well as reducing CO emissions by 140 to 2100 pounds a year. If you live in a colder climate, consider super insulating.

Plant Trees: Trees can provide shade that will keep your house cool and keeping air conditioner costs low. It’s also a good idea to paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate and a dark color if you live in a cold climate. These colors will affect the amount of heat your house absorbs and can also keep bills low.

General Interest About Electricity

If you have a general interest in electricity, there are several directions you can take. Some may be interested in taking a career path as an electrician while others may simply want to learn ways to make repairs and installations in their homes. Some may want to think about new advancements in solar energy. No matter what path you choose, there are classes available that might interest you. Here are some examples of these classes.

Electrical Theory: Electrical theory includes learning about the fundamental principles and terminology of electrical energy systems, Ohm’s and Kirchhoff’s laws, energy and power, power factor, generation and AC principles including the use of phasors for AC circuit analysis.

Homeowner’s Electricity: This can be helpful for homeowners looking to do DIY tasks around the house. It can provide valuable information concerning electrical safety, permits and codes, safety devices, design and layout, wire types and connectors, fixtures, circuits and working with existing layouts.

Electrical Fundamentals: Those who wish to become a bit more advanced in the electrical field can learn about alternating current theory as applied to single phase and three phase circuits. A class like this one will involve some mathematical theory as you delve into computations that will help you move forward in a career field.

Solar PV Installations: Those with a general interest in electricity will realize how important solar power is becoming in this field. If you wish to pursue a career in the electrical field, you would be remiss not to learn a bit about how solar power is being utilized including the PV installation process.

Electrical Essentials: A more basic course, this can provide those with a general interest in electricity with a basic knowledge including the understanding of electrical terms as well as the application of various electrical concepts, principles and relationships.