Quick Definition

An Electrical System is the series of meter boxes, wires, breakers, fixtures, switches and receptacles that are responsible for handling electrical power within the house.

In Depth

A home’s Electrical System starts with a correctly-sized Electrical ServiceElectricity from the power company that is sold to the consumer. (usually between 100-200 amps in a home), provided by the utility company. The Electrical Service is attached to GridTerm used to refer to the overall electrical system of a city or geographic area. Power companies control and send power to the grid which feeds individual businesses and homes. through the Meter BoxEquipment installed by the power company to keep track of how much electricity is used by a homeowner.. The Meter Box is outside the home and displays the amount of power a house consumes in Kilowatt HoursA unit of energy equal to 1000 watt hours or 3.6 megajoules. [kWh]. From the Meter Box, the electricity is routed through the Exterior Wall and inside the home to the Electric Panel BoxMetal box where breaker boxes for the house are installed.. The Electric Panel Box holds the Breaker SwitchesBreaker switches (also Circuit Breakers) are switches in the breaker box that control electricity to specific areas in the house. The switch is thrown during an overload, short circuit or ground default. When the breaker is tripped, it has to be manually switched to reset. that control the electricity running to different rooms and appliances. Each Breaker Switch controls a CircuitA circuit is a closed loop that electricity flows through. When the loop is open, electricity does not flow. with a certain amount of AmpsUnit for measuring electricity., the size of which are determined by how much electricity a room needs. (If you would like to learn about how solar power is integrated into a standard Grid Tied Electric System, please see click here.)

Light fixtures are wired to two or three locations: Once to the breaker box, once to the light switch and once to a secondary switch (if there is one). Light and fan combination fixtures need switches for multiple functions and can need wiring to five locations or more.

Most power outlets in a residential house are 110 Volts, but some appliances are wired for 220 Volts.

The type of wiring used in a home or building is regulated by building codes. For houses, most wiring must be insulated by an outer jacket of plastic or flexible metal. In some regions, the outer metal jacket is required for additional fire protection.

Codes dictate other electrical issues like the spacing between power outlets on interior walls and placing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupted (GFCI) outlets in bathrooms, kitchens and other wet areas in the home. In most regions, building code also dictates that smoke detectors be hardwired with battery backups in all bedrooms and common areas.

Electrical Systems should be installed by certified electricians in your area. Electricity is dangerous and can kill you if not safely handled.

Our Application

Make It Right minimizes electricity use in our homes by installing exterior lights with motion sensors, using compact fluorescent light bulbs in light fixtures and installing ENERGY STAR® appliances.

The most significant factor in reducing electrical cost and material use comes from a wireless switching system called Verve. Here’s a good description of Verve from Chic Ecologist’s blog:

A wireless lighting system that works via radio frequencies without the need for batteries, Verve works by routing all lighting to a programmable central controller. Each switch transmits a ‘blip’ of a radio transmission to the central hub up to 300 feet away, get this: by using the energy from the act of flipping the switch. That’s right, the switch itself powers the transmission without needing batteries or its own power source, so they are completely independent and self sustained units. This allows them to be mounted anywhere, you could even just carry it around in your pocket if you want.

By eliminating the need for light switch wiring and having a central hub to control lighting of the entire home, one can program an endless combination of lighting scenarios, and change it without having to do any re-wiring. The energy saving opportunities are equally as enticing. A one switch shutoff for the entire house so you won’t have to worry about that closet light you forgot to turn off.

Not only does Verve greatly reduce electrical install time, labor and cost due to the lack of a need for wiring switches, but the switches can be installed anywhere and moved at any time. The system is completely programmable, so you can change the operation of each switch or group lighting elements together. Imagine turning on one switch and having your entryway, driveway and garage lights all turn on at once - and then be able to click a button in your car to turn on the driveway and garage lights only.

Homeowners can use the system to raise or lower the intensity level of every light in their home from any switch or combination of switches, thereby creating home environments that support and enhance their state of mind.

They can use it to create lighting scenes and pathway lighting, to turn every light in the house on or off.

The Verve system provides 100% whole house dimming, which results in dramatic energy savings and extended bulb life.

Because all switches are 100% movable, homeowners can change switch locations any time they want or need to.

Billed as more of an entry level central programmed lighting system, it offers a quick and easy programming but does not have many of the bells and whistles of higher end systems with more complex programming, advanced logic, multiple button keypads, LED status lights and the like.

At present, Make It Right only uses hard wiring in bathrooms.

Lessons Learned

When we began to use SIP construction for our Exterior Walls, we realized we needed a new solution for wiring between fixtures and switches. The SIPs we use do have channels within the panel for wiring, incurring significant additional labor costs. We switched from traditional wiring to the Verve system. While the Verve systems could cost more than standard wiring on a conventional home, this cost is offset by the savings in labor costs.