Glossary of Terms

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The definitions provided below are in alphabetic order. If you do not see a definition you need, please contact our professional team at THERMAL-ELECTRIC Inc. We will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)
 AFCIs are electrical devices designed to protect against fires caused by arcing faults in residential electrical wiring. The AFCI resembles a normal breaker that is placed in the electrical panel except it contains a reset button in the event a trip occurs and the arc problem is fixed.

Amp (Ampere)
Unit that measures the strength or rate of the flow of an electrical current. An ampere is the unit of measurement of electric current produced in a circuit by 1 volt acting through a resistance of 1 ohm.

AWG 
American Wire Gauge, typical house lighting and receptacle circuits are either 14 AWG or 12 AWG. The smaller the AWG number, the larger diameter the wire will be. 

Ballast
A transformer that increases the voltage to operate a florescent lamp or other non-incandescent light fixture. 

Branch Circuit
(See “Circuit”)

Breaker
See Circuit Breaker- Safety devices found in the main electrical panel and are used to protect life and property from electrical short circuits and overloads. If the “live wire” (black or red) comes in contact with anything connected to the “neutral wire” (white) or “ground” (bare copper or green) the breaker cuts power to that circuit.

Breaker Panel - (Electrical Panel)
An electrical box that houses breakers and connects branch circuits to the rest of the house. A typical residential breaker panel is 100 to 200 Amps, 120/240 Volts.

Conductor
Any material (wire, water, etc.) that allows electrons to be transferred. Local and NEC codes require the use of copper conductors for all new electrical circuit installations, the use of aluminum wiring for the main service conductor and #8 AWG or larger is permitted.

Conduit
A protective metal or PVC tube that electrical wires run in and through.

Connector
A small insulating plastic or metal piece that attaches to an electrical box that holds the wire or conduit entering it securely.

Circuit
The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground. All the wiring controlled by a breaker is considered a circuit.

Circuit Breaker
See Breaker – A device that looks like a switch and is usually found inside the breaker panel. It is designed to shut of the power to portions or the entire house and limits the amount of power allowed to flow through a circuit as measured in amperes. They are safety devices used to protect life and property from electrical short circuits and overloads.

Dedicated Circuit
An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance, such as a stove, dryer, hot water tank, or dishwasher. “Clean power” is served to sensitive equipment like computers and home theater systems using dedicated circuits.

Dehumidistat
A control mechanism used in a home, to operate an exhaust fan based upon the relative humidity.

Disconnect
A large electrical ON/OFF switch. Typically 20 to 200 Amps. Normally found on main electrical panel, in sub-panels and inside air conditioning/hot tub breaker panel boxes. 

Duplex Receptacle
A normal electrical outlet, called “duplex” because it has two plug-ins.

Electrical Permit
A building permit required for electrical work, can be issued to home/ property owners and licensed electrical contractors for residential applications. However, only a licensed electrical contractor can obtain an electyrical permit for commercial, industrial and residential projects.

Electric Meter
Device that measures the amount of electricity that flows through it (or how much electricity a customer uses).

Electrical Finish – (Trim)
A small insulating plastic or metal piece that attaches to an electrical box that holds the wire or conduit entering it securely.

Electrical Metal Tubing (or EMT)
Metal tubing that electrical wires are routed in and through to protect the wire from exposure to the elements of weather, inadvertent damage and other exposures that could render the circuit unsafe.

Electrical Rough-In
Electrical work done by an electrician to prepare for the open walls to be insulated and covered. Usually all electrical wires and/or circuits are installed along with all the electrical boxes for all the lights, switches and outlets.

Fish Tape
A long strip of thin spring steel or composite material used for fishing cables behind existing walls and for pulling wires through conduit.

Fixture
All permanently connected lights, fans or other electrical devices that consume electrical power other than equipment such as air conditioners, garbage disposals, furnaces, etc.

Fluorescent Lighting
A fluorescent lamp is a gas filled tube with a chemical coating on the inside. Gas inside the glass tube is ionized by electricity which causes the chemical coating to light up.

Forced Air Heating
A common form of heating using natural gas, propane, oil or electricity as a fuel source. Air is heated in the furnace and blown via an electrical motor through metal ducting to various areas of the home.

Fuse
A device often found in older electrical panels. Fuses are designed to prevent electrical overloads. Fuses can still be found in some electrical appliances, like ranges. However breakers have now replaced fuses in the electrical panels that distribute the branch circuits throughout the house.

Fuse Box
A box to hold fuses and often confused with electrical panels.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
An ultra sensitive outlet or breaker designed to shut off all electric current. Typically used in bathrooms, exterior outlets, and wet areas like hot tubs, saunas and whirlpool tubs. GFCI breaker outlets have a small reset and test button on the plug or breaker. Testing a GFCI outlet monthly is recommended to ensure its proper operation.

Ground
A conducting connection, whether intentional or accidental, between an electrical circuit or equipment and the earth or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth.

Hot wire (or “Live wire”)
Typically a black or red wire that carries electricity to a receptacle or device.

Incandescent Lamp
A lamp using an electrically charged metal filament that lights up. A typical light bulb is considered an Incandescent lamp. 

Junction Box (or “J-box”)
A plastic, composite or metal box that is securely mounted and contains the wires that are connected to light fixtures, switches, receptacles and devices. A junction box is sometimes installed with the electrical wires capped and the box covered for future use. In remodeling and finishing the wires are left in the open box until all other wall work and painting is complete.

Keyless Lamp Holder
A plastic or porcelain light fixture. Typically found in unfinished basements, crawl spaces, utility rooms and attic areas.

Knockout
A removable piece of an electrical box or panel that’s “knocked out” to allow a wire or conduit to enter the box through a connector.

Lumen
The unit of measure for total light output. A standard 100 watt incandescent light bulb emits approximately 1700 lumens when powered by 110 volts.

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NEC (National Electrical Code)
The set of rules issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) governing safe electrical wiring practices.

Neutral Wire
Typically a white wire that carries electricity from an outlet, light or other device back to the main electrical service panel.

Outlet
(See Duplex Receptacle) – also called a receptacle, or plug.

Pigtail
An added piece of wire connected by a wire connector. Normally used to extend or connect wires in an electrical box.

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Radiant Heating
A type of heating that consists of a hot water system with pipes installed in the floor, wall, or ceiling. You can also use electrically heated panels or mats that are installed under tile. The electrically heated panels are normally used for a small floor area like bathrooms but are also designed for snow melting systems on roofing eaves and under driveways.

Receptacle
(See also Outlet and Duplex Receptacle)
An electrical outlet. A typical household will have many 120 volt receptacles for plugging in lamps and appliances and 240 volt receptacles for the range, and laundry dryer.

Romex
Trade name of sheathed electrical cable.

Service Equipment
Main control gear at the service entrance, such as circuit breakers, switches, and the service panel box itself.

Switch
A device that connects or disconnects an electrical circuit. Also called a single pole switch.

3 Way Switch
Switch used when a light is controlled from two different places, like outside and inside a room, both ends of a hallway, the top and bottom of stairs.

4 Way Switch
A special switch used when more than two switch locations is desired.

Thermostat
A device which regulates the temperature of a room or building by switching heating or cooling equipment on or off as the temperature rises and lowers.

Travelers
Wires that carry current between three way and/or four way switches.

UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories)
An independent testing agency that checks electrical devices and other components for possible safety hazards. UL is not a government agency.

Volt
Unit that measures the degree of electrical pressure.

Voltage
A measure of electrical potential. Most homes are wired with 120 and 240 volt lines. The 120 volt power is used for lighting and most of the other circuits. The 240 volt power is usually used for the kitchen stove, hot water tank, drier, and electric baseboard heating.

Watt
The unit of measure for the amount of electrical power.

Wire Nut
A wire connector used to fasten bare wires together. “Wire-Nut” is a trade name for a wire connector.

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