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Electrical Terms Every Home & Building Owner Should Know

Posted on: March 27, 2015

As a home or building owner in the DC area, no one expects you to have the same technical vocabulary as an electrical contractor. However, knowing a few basic electrical terms can help you communicate better with the electricians on your project, saving time and misunderstandings, and preventing you from getting ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor.

Our Guide to Important Electrical Terms

  • Kilowatt – A kilowatt is a measure of electricity equal to 1,000 watts or around 1.34 horsepower.
  • Kilowatt Hour – This is the measure your electric company uses to calculate your monthly statement. This number comes from your electric meter.
  • Current – Current is the electrical charge that enters your home from the power company. In the United States, all current is AC (alternating current.) DC (direct current) is what you get from things like a car battery.
  • Electrical panel – Your home’s main electrical panel connects the main power source (from the exterior electrical lines) to your home’s individual circuits. Each circuit has either a circuit breaker or a fuse to cut the power in the event of a surge. The panel will also have a main shut-off lever or breaker (called a main disconnect) to easily cut power to the entire house in the event of an emergency.
  • Voltage – This is similar to current, but the voltage is the source of the power, not the power itself. For instance, generators and car batteries have voltage, whereas the electricity entering your home from the electric company is current.
  • Electrical receptacle – Commonly called an outlet, your electrical receptacle is where you plug in lamps, computers, appliances, and other electric-powered devices.
  • GFCI outlet – A GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter outlet, is required by most building codes near water sources, as in kitchens and bathrooms. These outlets include a built-in circuit breaker to help prevent the risk of an electric shock.

Electricians You Can Trust in MD, VA, and DC

At Kolb Electric, we understand that you may not be familiar with some electrical terms. That’s why we take the time to answer your questions and explain in layman’s terms what your project needs and the pricing associated with each step. To hire one of our licensed electricians to work on your Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC home, call us at 877 287-1179. We’ve been helping area Mid-Atlantic home and building owners with their electrical needs since 1925.

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