Electricity powers our homes and many of the devices we use every day. It is generated in power plants, sent through a network of power lines and then delivered to homes and businesses by utility companies. When someone moves into a new home, renovates an existing one or makes significant electrical improvements they may be concerned about the size of their Electrical Service and whether it is up to the task. During the inspection process it is important to consider the size of the existing electrical service and its ability to meet future demands.
When considering an electrical service size for a new build, renovation or upgrade there are several considerations including the number and type of appliances and receptacles (outlets) in the home, the amount of electricity used during peak hours of usage and the current load on the electrical system. It is also necessary to take into account the home’s occupancy, insulation, square footage and if an air conditioning system will be installed.
Depending on the utility company and the location of the home, electrical service can reach your house either through overhead wires that enter a service mast at the top of the property or by underground wires. The main electrical service wires are usually two 120-volt wires that offer a combined 240-volts of power. These wires run from the utility’s main line to a metal service entrance cable that connects to the home’s electrical meter. Usually the utility is responsible for getting the power to the meter and the homeowner takes it from there.
The main electrical panel in the home is where the 240-volt power from the service entrance conductors will be split into the individual circuits that power each appliance and receptacle in the house. The main panel is a gray metal box mounted on a wall in a utility area of the home or in some cases it can be contained inside a finished cabinet. This is also where the ground fault interrupter or GFCI will be located.
When inspecting a home or commercial property it is often possible to determine the size of an electrical service by looking for a metal pole at the front of the property and counting the number of over head utility wires. It is important to note that these wires are live and can cause injury or death if touched. For this reason, it is extremely important that they are kept clear of trees, limbs and debris at all times. Also, these conductors must be kept at least 10-feet clear of driveways other than those on residential properties, sidewalks, patios and walkways. If this is not done then the voltage to those areas could be elevated and pose a danger to anyone who comes into contact with them.