This zone describes the electrical systems and components of your home and the electricity that is used to power them.

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.

Electrical wiring at main
Electrical wiring leading from main panels to various circuits throughout home.

Electricity has in fact 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.

Because Edison’s low voltage DC system eventually lost the electrification competition over 100 years ago, Tesla’s high-voltage, alternating current (A/C) is the standard today in our homes. This voltage is good at traveling long distances (from remote generation plants) but is powerful enough to kill should we actually come in contact with it. Since A/C electricity does come with this undesirable effect, its installation is closely regulated, inspected by building officials and is required to be safely buried within the walls of the home.

Electricity comes in from the utility company lines to the main service panel of our home from generation sources 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.

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.

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.

The homeowner 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 and the amount of power your home is using, we recommend that you have an electrical audit done. Find out more here: www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-energy-audits/professional-home-energy-audits