Electrical System

This zone describes the electrical systems and components of your home. The following pages include information about main service, generators, sub-panels, circuit breakers, wiring, switches, outlets and light fixtures. Also in this zone, you will find some discussion about the electricity that is used to power these systems and how to be efficient with it.


Thanks in part to the fierce competition between rivals Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla, American homes have had electricity available to them since around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Over the last 120 years, electricity has morphed from being an interesting feature into a life support system that powers basically everything in the home including even the toilets and faucets.

Image showing exposed electrical wiring at main panel during framing of a home
Electrical wiring leading from main panels to various circuits throughout home.

Electricity has become so important to the operation of the home that some systems require a separate back-up power generator to keep things running in case the main power supply is ever interrupted.

Thomas Edison’s low voltage DC system eventually lost the electrification competition over 100 years ago. Instead, Westinghouse’s (Tesla) high-voltage, alternating current (A/C) won and is now the standard used today in our homes. A/C voltage is good at traveling long distances (from remote generation plants) but is powerful enough to kill should you actually come in contact with it.

Since A/C electricity comes with this undesirable and deadly effect, the wires are required to be safely buried within the walls of the home. Electrical installations are closely regulated and inspected by building officials and installers must pass knowledge exams and be licensed by each state.

How Is Electricity Made

Electricity is a manufactured product. It is generated from raw energy products such as natural gas, coal, wind, solar and other energy sources. From the generation plants, electricity travels from the utility company lines to the main service panel of our home perhaps hundreds of miles away. From there the power is distributed throughout the residence via wires which connect to the various appliances, lights, switches and outlets.

Although most electricity n the US is generated by burning natural gas or coal, or by nuclear plants, from the perspective of the homeowner, electricity is a clean, convenient power source.  Electricity is easily portable with extension cords and batteries and useful for powering just about anything imaginable in and around the home.

Electrical Design

There is quite an art to designing the locations for outlets (AKA receptacles,) switches, and understanding the proper placement of lighting within the home. Entire professions are available for electrical and lighting design.

As a homeowner you should be familiar with these key components of the electrical system: Light switches, outlets, lighting, distribution (main and sub) panels and circuit breakers. In addition, if the home is so equipped, photovoltaic panels, generators and low voltage, entertainment and network systems.


If you are concerned about high electrical bills we recommend that you have an electrical audit done. Find out more about electricity and how it’s made go here: Saving electricity is better than generating new.