What Is Electrical Service
Electrical Service is the system of wires that connects your homes meter and distribution panel to the power lines coming from your electricity provider. This system is rated in amps (or capacity) and varies according to the size of the home and the amount of power required by appliances.
Electrical service also includes the system that feeds electricity into your home and the meter. This includes the conductors that run from the pole to your property and into the meter base and into the house. The main circuits within your home are powered by two 120-volt wires and the neutral conductor. Electricity travels from the utility panel through these circuits to your appliances and back to the service panel via a third wire, the grounding conductor. A faulty grounding connection or a lightning strike to the pole can send a surge through this circuit that can damage equipment and cause injuries.
While the majority of homes have overhead service cables, newer construction will often see the lines buried underground. This option is more aesthetically pleasing and safer for homeowners, as it is less likely to be damaged by falling trees or other debris. It can, however, be more expensive for the homeowner to install a buried line, as well as more difficult to repair if it is damaged.
When performing an inspection of an existing residential home, a building inspector should always be sure to locate the electric meter and the service panel. The meter is the point at which the home receives its electricity from the utility company and is usually a gray metal box mounted outdoors on an exterior wall of the home in a utility area. The meter is monitored by the utilities and tampering with it is extremely dangerous and illegal.
The service panel is a grey metal box that splits the main circuits into the individual circuits that power your appliances. The meter is connected to the service panel by two, 120-volt wires that are usually labeled hot and neutral. The neutral wire is the grounding wire that is common to all circuits in your home. The breaker panel is where the fuses or circuit breakers are located to protect your home from electrical surges and overheating.
The main breaker panel should have spaces for additional circuit breakers and fuses, if needed. If you are adding more appliances, it is a good idea to consult an electrician to make sure that you have enough space for the additional wiring. In addition, you should be very careful not to touch areas on the breaker panel that are exposed and do not use metal tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, hammers and wire cutters around these areas, as these can transmit an electric shock.