Speak Like an Electrician: Vocab Basics
Q: Why do we say extravagant when we could just say nice; why should we describe something as cerulean when we could just say blue?
A: Because being specific allows us to describe things as accurately as possible.
When it comes to something as detailed as electrical work, accuracy could be a matter of life and death. Over the years, our team has heard electrical terminology being misused. Below, you’ll find a simple guide that clearly defines some frequently misused electrical terminology:
A fuse box and a breaker panel/electrical panel both function to interrupt the flow of electricity if it exceeds a certain level. A breaker panel has switches that correspond to each circuit in the home. On the other hand, a fuse box either uses an electromagnet or a bi-metal strip to break the connection.
Essentially, a receptacle is a type of outlet into which a plug can be placed..
An outlet is the “point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment.” (National Electrical Code)
A receptacle is “a contact device installed at the outlet for connection of an attachment plug.”
And a plug is what goes inside an outlet or receptacle.
ACFI and GCFI are commonly mistaken for one another because they look very similar - but the similarities end there! They differ vastly in function.
ACFI (arc fault circuit interrupters) are receptacles that protect against fires.
GCFI (ground fault circuit interrupters) monitor the flow of electricity to protect against shock. Whether it’s electrical shock or a fire, both ACFI and GCFI will shut off electricity when sensing danger.
A romex or NM (non-metallic) cable is the outermost casing that bundles individual wires together. Naturally, wires are the electrical conductors inside a romex/NM cable.
All about light bulbs:
LED stands for Light-Emitting Diodes. They are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting light bulbs on the market.
In an incandescent light bulb, an electrical current passes through a filament wire and heats it until it glows. It’s unlikely you will encounter these lightbulbs frequently; they have declined in popularity due to their low efficiency.
Like the name suggests, halogen/xenon light bulbs use halogen to produce light. They are technically a category of incandescent lightbulb, but are distinct in its process involving halogen rather than argon.
CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lamps. Like the incandescent light bulb, the CFL generates heat to create light. Unlike its predecessor, the CFL gets its glow through a process in which an electrical current through a tube contains argon and mercury vapor.
The next time you’re trying to explain a problem to an electrician or diagnosing an issue for yourself, we hope this guide will help you be as accurate as possible. You never know, it could save a life!
Now that you know how to best describe an issue you might have, give us a call for electrical assistance!