How Electricity Works

A basic understanding of how electricity works is critical to keeping your home's electrical system in safe working order. Electricity enters your home through a service head, from a network of outdoor power lines or an underground connection.

Standard Volts & Circuits

A typical service head consists of two 120-volt wires and one neutral wire. The 120-volt circuits use one phase of the electrical service to power most home appliances. Some appliances - usually larger devices such as water heaters, dryers, electric ranges, electric vehicle charging stations, etc., require a 240-volt circuit. This is created using both 120-volt wires and the neutral wire.

Meter & Service Panel

The electric meter measures how much electricity is being used in your home. Tampering with the meter is not only extremely dangerous but also illegal. The electrical service panel is the central distribution point for delivering electricity to outlets, appliances and light switches throughout the house. It's usually located near the meter and is equipped with fuses or breakers that shut off the flow of electricity if a problem occurs. When you call to report an outage, you may be asked if you've checked to ensure your breakers are in order.


Grounding is a method used as protection for humans, appliances and the electrical system itself in the event of a short circuit or overload. Grounding calls for using a wire to connect the electrical system to the earth. Since electric currents are always looking for the quickest path to ground, grounding provides a path that could otherwise be provided by appliances, equipment or the person who's working on the system.