When it comes to electricity, there’s always the possibility of something going awry, because electricity is unpredictable by nature. Technology has allowed people to tame electricity for their own purposes, but only to an extent. Proper electrical infrastructure and safety are crucial around your home in order to avoid this potentially useful energy turning against you. Here’s what you need to know.
Circuit Breakers and Fuse Boxes
Circuit breakers and fuse boxes serve the same function in a very different way. Essentially, they serve as the hub through which electricity travels throughout a structure, and they can also inhibit the flow of electricity. Where circuit breakers are concerned, a power surge or a short circuit will cause the affected circuit to “break,” interrupting the flow of electricity until the breaker is reset. This is done to prevent damage to the system. Likewise, fuse boxes prevent damage to an electrical system, but they do so by absorbing that damage within the fuses themselves, and damaged fuses must then be replaced, a weakness that circuit breakers don’t have. If your circuit breaker or fuse box is experiencing problems, you need to fix that problem, and doing so depends on diagnosing the problem using contextual clues. In the result of a lightning strike, the cause of a power surge will likely be obvious, and it will almost certainly affect all of the circuits and fuses evenly. However, another cause of outages is the overuse of electricity from the same outlet. In some cases, devices can be too powerful for anything other than a grounded wall outlet, and attempting to use them otherwise can cause major problems quickly.
Grounding is the process of distributing electricity into the ground in order to allow it to safely dissipate, and it’s a crucial part of safety both for you and for your devices. Grounding can protect you from power surges caused by lightning strikes or faulty wiring by disposing of excess energy that might melt your computer’s motherboard or injure someone. Grounding serves to disrupt excess electricity before it has the time or space to cause bigger problems. Grounding is a standard feature of power outlets, but someone who is building their own home will need to implement it on their own. Likewise, surge protectors often implement grounding technology, but this isn’t always the case. In much the same way, many power strips do not offer surge protection. Therefore, a keen eye is required when shopping for these products in order to provide yourself with not only the utility of power strips, but also the added protection of grounding and surge protection.
What to Look For
As mentioned above, using too much power can cause a circuit breaker to trip, so this is a go to possibility to investigate when the cause is initially unclear. While most homes are equipped to handle many devices in use simultaneously, this isn’t guaranteed, especially when grounding is missing or insufficient. However, there are many devices that require a relatively large amount of power, and these can easily create problems. These include predominantly appliances, and there is a tell that can indicate that a problem is imminent. If turning a device on causes your lights to suddenly dim, that indicates that the appliance in question is drawing so much power that it must be taken from elsewhere. That could mean that the appliance should be moved to another location, if possible, to avoid this conflict. On the other hand, a sparkling outlet is typically not a problem and instead an indication that the system is working as intended. However, prolonged sparking is something that should be avoided and necessitates having the wiring assessed.
Electricity is dangerous, at the end of the day, and it’s barely kept in check by the technology that is employed to control it. Even minor faults can cause major problems, and maintenance is often necessary. Using these tips, you’ll have a better idea of how to protect yourself and your family, as well as how to spot problems when they occur.
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