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Electrical FAQs

Why Do Our Homes Use Alternating Current (AC) Instead of Direct Current (DC)?

The reason for the use of alternating current in modern homes has to do with the nature of power itself, and its relationship to voltage and current. Power is defined as the product of voltage and current, so lower voltage requires higher current in order to produce a given amount of power, which calls for a larger conductor.

That means using a larger cable for conducting the power, which is more expensive. A solution that allows for the use of a cable that is smaller in diameter is more cost–effective. That’s where the difference between AC and DC comes in. Simply put, AC can be converted more simply to a form that has high voltage and low current, therefore requiring less bulky wiring.

On the other hand, while transformers can readily convert AC to a more usable form, this is much more difficult with DC, hence this is why AC is the current of choice at home.

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Can I Do My Own Electrical Work?

Electrical work is tricky and requires a good deal of training, and for good reason. It can be dangerous to work on wiring without the proper skills and training, which is why so much education is involved in becoming a professional electrician. Many people may be tempted to do their own electrical installation or repairs in order to save the expense of hiring an electrician, but this can be very unsafe. Even for minor repairs, if you are even the least bit unsure about how to address it, it’s best to call in a professional.

Safety is not the only reason to eschew doing your own electrical work. Every area has its own rules, regulations and codes. Only a trained electrician will know how to follow these exactly so that all parts your system will comply.

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Do My Kitchen Outlets Need to Be Different Than Outlets in Other Rooms?

Generally speaking, all outlets within six feet of a sink or above the countertop in a kitchen should be protected, either by a GFCI outlet or GFCI circuit breaker. You have almost certainly seen GFCI outlets before. They are the outlets that have the “Test” and “Reset” buttons on them, common in kitchens and bathrooms. These outlets are designed to trip suddenly if there is a sudden difference in energy flow, in order to prevent short circuits, electrocution or electrical fires.

An alternative to multiple GFCI outlets is to have one GFCI circuit breaker attached to multiple outlets. The exceptions to the GFCI rule are refrigerators and freezers, which should not be left without power for obvious reasons, and lights, which would just be a nuisance if they got tripped off frequently. There are other specific requirements for safe wiring in the kitchen, so be sure to consult your electrical contractor when the time comes.

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How Can I Spot Potential Electrical Hazards in My Home?

Among the most frequent and easily detected electrical hazards is an overloaded electrical system. The signs and symptoms of this are usually pretty clear, but you should be vigilant about watching for them. If your lights temporarily dim or shudder when an appliance (dishwasher, air conditioner, refrigerator, etc.) kicks on, if the light switches in your home are hot when you touch them, or if you find that your circuit breaker is tripping very frequently, call an electrician right away. An overloaded electrical system is very dangerous and can lead to injury or fire.

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