110 Volt AC (Alternating Current) is the standard wiring system in all U.S. homes. This current runs our applances, gives us light and in many cases, heats and cools our homes. Even though we would have a hard time living without electricity, it can be very dangerous. Therefore, it is important that we understand it.
AC vs. DC
Alternating current changes direction repeatedly at a constant rate. In U.S. homes, alternating current usually completes 60 cycles per minute. In most other countries, direct current (DC) is used, especailly in the European and Asian countries. Direct current constantly travels in the same direction.
An advantage of alternating current is that its voltage can be easily changed through the use of transformers. Power companies use high voltage to send electricity through transmission lines between municipalities and a lower voltage on distribution lines between homes. Through a transformer, voltage is changed to 110 volts before it enters a home. Voltage is the energy that moves electricity through wire.
Voltage is often changed within our homes. Door bells usually operate on either 6 or 12 volts. A small transformer is installed to change the 110 volts to that required by the doorbell system. Cell phones and other items that have rechargeable batteries usually have transformers on their chargers to avoid burning up the batteries with the 110 volts.
Electricity can kill people and cause house fires if it is not handled properly. If a person has not been trained in electrical wiring, it is wise to call a licensed electirician to make electrical repairs or installations. Most municipialities require that electricians be licensed if they are doing electrical work for hire. A stringent test must be passed before an electrician can become licensed.
Houses must be wired in compliance with the National Electric Code or they will not pass inspections by either city or private inspectors. In addition, most cities have wiring codes which supplement the national code. These codes are written and maintained to help ensure that houses are wired correctly. If a house is wired correctly, danger of fire or personal injury from electricity is reduced.
Turning Off the Power
If a person does decide to do their own electrical work, it is important that the electricity be turned off before the task is begun. This is done by turning off the breakers or main switch. These switches can usually be found near the electric meter on the outside of the house, in a closet nearest the meter, in the utility room or garage. After the power is turned off, it is very important to double check wiring to ensure that there is no current coming into the house. This can be done by simply plugging a table lamp into an electric receptable in each room.
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