Electrical Service is the supply of electricity to a residence, business or other structure. It includes the delivery component of the electric power, as well as the metering, billing and customer service portion.
Electric service typically reaches a home through two 120-volt service wires that offer a combined 240 volts of power (voltage is a measure of electricity’s pressure or rate of flow). This power may reach the house through overhead conductors that enter a service mast and pass through an electrical meter, or it may travel underground from the utility lines to the main electrical panel.
The main electrical panel is referred to as the service panel, breaker box or fuse panel. Most homes built since the early 1960s use circuit breakers as their power distribution method. Older homes and some commercial properties use a different style of power distribution, utilizing fuses in a fuse panel.
Overhead electrical services are becoming less popular as municipal design standards and utility regulations increasingly require that these conductors be installed underground. This not only offers a more aesthetically pleasing look, but also helps to prevent the conductors from being subject to excessive wind or winter icing events, as well as unintentional contact by vehicular traffic passing over them.
A single-family residential household typically requires a 200-amp electrical service. This is enough power to run a wide variety of appliances and devices without exceeding the capacity of the main electrical panel or causing damage to equipment, outlets and wiring. Larger homes or those with more energy-intensive appliances or machinery will often need a 400-amp service.
An electrical subpanel is an additional electrical panel that feeds into the main service panel from either a dedicated branch line or by using one of the main breaker spaces in the main service panel. These panels are often used to power detached garages, workshops or other structures that are not close to the home’s main breaker panel. They can also be used to provide additional breaker capacity for a home addition or major remodel, or to serve as a satellite panel for a multifamily dwelling unit that does not have enough space in the existing main service panel.
It is important to understand the sizing requirements of an electrical service in order to avoid over or under-sizing it. Under-sizing can lead to numerous problems, including breaker trips and other signs of overheating, as well as expensive rewiring expenses and serious safety risks. Over-sizing, on the other hand, can lead to hefty utility bills and unnecessary wastage of electrical energy.
While it’s not always obvious, an electrical system has a hidden workforce that is working around the clock to keep the electrons moving. These workers are the men and women who respond to power outages, braving sleet and snow in their efforts to restore your electricity. They are the invisible heroes that society relies on to keep our lights and gadgets on, and they deserve your thanks and appreciation.