Electrical Service is a system of wires that connects your home’s power usage meter and distribution panel to the lines coming from the utility company. The size or capacity of the electric service is usually measured in amps (or amperes) and can vary between as low as 30 amps in older homes that have not been updated to as high as 400 amps for larger newer homes.
Knowing how electrical service works is important because it can prevent safety hazards in your home and save you money on electricity costs. It is also crucial for any homeowner to understand how to operate their service panel, so that they can call a professional electrician with specialized knowledge of working on these types of circuits when there are problems or to make changes to the wiring in their home.
The main electrical line that enters your house is known as the electrical service or a service drop, and it can either be overhead or buried underground. Overhead services typically travel through a transformer on the power company’s pole before reaching the weather head. From there, the cable can run through a conduit to a meter box attached to your house.
A meter is used to measure how much electricity you are using in your home, and it is also where the utility company reads your account. The meter is connected to two 120-volt wires and a grounded neutral from the utility company’s lines that enter your house.
Next to the meter is the electrical service panel, sometimes called a fuse or breaker box. This is where the incoming electric current is split into the individual circuits that power your appliances and outlets in each room. It is important to remember that any time you touch an exposed part of the electrical service, it is live and can transmit electricity from one circuit to another, which could result in a fire or shock. For this reason, homeowners should always be very careful when working around the service panel and should use tools with rubber handles like screwdrivers and pliers instead of metal handles.
Your home’s breaker panel is usually located in a utility area such as a garage, basement or furnace room. It is a gray metal box that can also be contained within a finished cabinet mounted to the wall.
If your home has a 30-amp fuse panel that was installed before 1950 or a 60-amp breaker panel that was installed between 1950 and 1965, it is insufficient for modern consumption and requires an update. Most homes built since the early 1960s have a 100-amp or 200-amp circuit breaker panel, and many have subpanels as well.