You are on page 1of 8


AC: AC stands for alternating current. AC current flows first in one

direction, then in the opposite direction, alternating very quickly back and
forth in a circuit. This type of current is the most commonly used form of
electricity. It is this type of current that is generated by utility companies
and transmitted to homes and workplaces.
Ampere interrupting capacity (AIC): Fuses and circuit breakers are
rated according to the maximum amount of current that can pass through
a circuit before the fuse or circuit breaker interrupts the current. This is
known as the device's ampere interrupting capacity (AIC). When this
capacity is exceeded due to a short circuit, the breaker or fuse opens the
circuit to stop the flow of current.
Ampacity: Ampacity refers to the amount of current that will safely flow
through a particular diameter of conductive material. Ampacity can be
affected by the composition and diameter of a wire. For safety, certain
ampacity standards for electrical wiring have been established in the
United States that are specified in the National Electrical Code (NEC).
Ampere: This is a unit of measure for current. One ampere is a given
number of electrons that flow past a single point in a wire in one second.
Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs): AFCIs are designed to interrupt
any current taking an unintended path to the ground. Specifically, AFCIs
prevent electrical arcs that result from electrical wires being stapled or
animals chewing through live wires.
These electrical arcs can set
flammable materials on fire. Some AFCIs have a manual switch so the
interrupted circuit can be closed again.
Atom: Atoms are the building blocks of all physical matter. The nucleus
of an atom is made up of positive sub-particles called protons and neutral
(no charge) sub- particles called neutrons. The negative sub-particles that
orbit the nucleus are called electrons.
Busway: The distribution of electricity within a commercial or industrial
building is often handled by a system of conductors called

busway. Busway consists of current-carrying bus bars (solid copper or

aluminum bars). These are an alternative to flexible wire conductors.
The bus bars are insulated and enclosed in a metal housing or enclosure.
Circuit: This is the path of electrical current flowing from a power source
to the loads via conductors and back to the source again.
Circuit breaker: Circuit breakers are rated according to the safe amount
of current that can pass through a circuit before the circuit breaker
interrupts the current. When this capacity is exceeded due to a short
circuit, the breaker opens the circuit and stops the flow of current. Many
circuit breakers have a manual switch so the circuit can be closed once
the short circuit has been corrected.
Combination switch: Combination switches and circuit protection
devices consist of both manual switching and automatic overcurrent
protection. Circuit breakers and fused safety switches are examples of
this type of device.
Conductors: These are wires, cables or other pathways made out of
conductive material such as copper or aluminum that carry electricity from
the power source to the loads and back again.
Conductors have
imbalanced atoms with a greater number of negative electrons than
positive protons. Because of this, the outer electrons of the atoms can
be freely and randomly exchanged causing electrical current to
flow. Silver, copper, and aluminum are commonly used conductors.
Current: Current refers to the electrons flowing in an electrical
circuit. The amount of current, called amperage, is measured in units
called amperes or amps.
Cycle: In AC, each complete start and stop from one direction to
another (each alternation) is called a cycle. The number of cycles per
second made by the alternating current is its frequency. In the U.S., AC
is generated and flows to loads at a frequency of 60 cycles per second
(60 hertz).

DC: DC stands for direct current. In a circuit, direct current (DC) is

current that flows from the power source through the conductors to the
loads and back to the source in only one direction.
Electrons: Electrons are the negatively charged sub-particles in an
atom. Electrons have a natural attraction to the positive nucleus of the
Electrons are in constant motion. However, the outermost
electrons of some atoms can also be attracted to other atoms. These
electrons are called valence shell electrons and are loosely held. We
can cause them to move by applying a voltage, or difference of potential,
which pushes the free electrons through the circuit.
Enclosure: Enclosures and housings form a shell or case around
electrical devices and equipment so that people do not come into contact
with any electrical components that carry current.
They are rated
according to their ability to protect electrical equipment and people from
exposure to electrical current.
Franklin, Benjamin: Benjamin Franklin was an American scientist,
statesmen, and publisher who lived from 1706 to 1790. As a scientist his
discoveries and experiments on electricity were very influential in our
understanding and use of this power source.
Fuse: Fuses are rated according to the safe amount of current that can
pass through a circuit before they interrupt the current. When this
capacity is exceeded due to a short circuit, the fuse opens the circuit and
stops the flow of current. Typically, blown fuses need to be replaced to
close the circuit again.
Generator: A power company uses some type of generator (water,
wind, coal, nuclear) as a power source. Initially, it is a generator that
causes the flow of AC in a circuit.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs): GFCIs sense very small

leakages of current to ground (called ground faults) that a standard circuit
breaker would not sense. When this occurs, they interrupt the current
flowing to ground. They also typically have a reset button to close the
circuit again. They are often used in outlets near water in kitchens and
Ground wire: The ground wire carries current only under a ground fault
condition when it is used to protect people and the electrical system
by draining a leakage of current into the ground. Ground wires can be
connected to a metal rod in the ground, to a metal pipe, to electrical
equipment housings or enclosures, or to the receptacles used by
electrical appliances.
Grounding: To ground an electrical system means to physically connect
an electrical circuit to the ground using a ground wire that is attached to a
metal rod in the ground or to a metal water pipe for example. This
provides a safe path for current to travel to the ground when ground faults
IEC: The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
Insulators: Insulators, such as plastic and rubber, are materials that
stop the flow of electrons. Conductive wires and cables are wrapped
with insulators to control the flow of electrons and to protect other
materials and humans from electric shock.
Interlock: An interlock is a protective mechanism that prevents the
opening of an enclosure or other housing when an electrical device is

Load: The loads (motors, lamps, appliances) VOLTAGE

the electrical current from the power source into useful energy or work.
Load centers: Once the electrical current reaches a home, the
distribution of the current to branch circuits and loads within the home
begins at the load center. In homes, load centers are typically circuit
breaker panels.
Molecule: All physical matter is comprised of sub-microscopic particles
called molecules.
These molecules are comprised of different
combinations of atoms.
NEC: The National Electrical Code (NEC)
NEMA: The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
Nichrome: Nichrome is a special alloy that is considered neither a good
conductor nor a good insulator. So it has a special use in electrical
systems as a heating element.
Ohms: This is a unit of measure to measure resistance in a circuit.
Ohm's Law: Ohm's Law was discovered in 1827 by a German scientist
named Georg Ohm. He discovered that there is a relationship between
voltage, amperage, and resistance in operating circuits. Ohm's Law
states that current is equal to the voltage divided by the resistance. (I =
Overload: An overload occurs when the conductors in a circuit begin to
heat up because they are carrying more current than they are rated to
safely carry.

Panelboards: Once the electrical current reaches an industrial or

commercial building, the distribution of the
current to branch circuits and loads within the building starts at the
panelboard. These are also known as switchboards in some commercial
and industrial applications.
Parallel circuit: Loads in parallel circuits are connected to a common
source of power but current does not have to flow through any single load
to get to the other loads, as it does in a series circuit. Parallel circuits are
used in the majority of residential, commercial and industrial electrical
Phase: AC generators typically produce three waves of electricity called
Each phase flows from the generator in a separate
conductor. The symbol for phase is
Power: Power is the rate at which electrical energy is consumed over a
period of time. Power is measured in watts.
Power lines: Power lines are the pathway for the electrical current to
flow from the generators at a power plant to all the loads in a geographic
Resistance: Resistance in a circuit is measured in ohms.
current flows through any conductor, there is always a certain amount of
resistance to the flow. There are three factors that affect resistance in a
circuit: the conductor's material, size, and length.
Short circuit: A short circuit occurs when an unintentional path is
created between the conductors. This path bypasses the load (and its
resistance), causing an extremely large quantity or surge of current to
flow in the circuit.

Single phase: A single phase system is standard for residential AC

service. It consists of three wires coming into the house. Single-phase
systems can be either two-wire or three-wire and typically are 120 or 240
Switch: This is an electrical device in a circuit that toggles between on
and off. When the switch is on, the circuit is closed allowing the electrical
current to flow. When the switch is turned off, the circuit is opened
stopping the flow of electrical current.
Switches can be activated
manually or by other non-touch methods such as light, sound, or motion.
Series circuit: In this type of circuit, all loads are connected by one
continuous flow of electrical current. Regardless of the number of loads
(or control devices in the circuit switches), they are all connected one
after another in a series by the same flow of current.
Substation: A substation transforms voltage in an electrical system from
low to high and high to low using transformers.
Three phase: Three-phase systems are typically used in industrial
applications and may be either three-wire or four-wire. These systems
offer a wide range of gs: 120, 208, 240, 277, 480, and 600 volts.
Transformers: Transformers change the voltage in a circuit. Step
down transformers are placed in the circuit to step down (decrease) the
voltage which causes a corresponding increase in current. Step up
transformers are used tostep up (increase) the level of voltage causing a
decrease in current.
UL: Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
Voltage: Voltage refers to the potential or potential energy that is
required to push electrons through a circuit. This electrical pressure is
measured in volts.

Volts: This is a unit of measure for measuring electrical voltage or the

electrical pressure needed to move electrons through a circuit.
Watts: This is a unit of measure for measuring electrical power, the rate
at which electrical energy is consumed over a period of time.