Measuring energy expenditures in your home or can be a daunting task. Rates and fees for your electricity can change on a monthly basis, and there are utility regulations that alter prices over time. The energy efficiency of your electrical items, which presents yet another set of variables. Assessing how much you will pay for your electricity can easily be overwhelming. However, there is one factor you have complete control over, and that is measuring the exact amount of electrical power you can and do use. This knowledge below gives you a far better chance of understanding and adjusting your monthly utility expenditures.
Understanding Amperage, Voltage, and Wattage
First, before we can measure energy we need to get our vocabulary straight. For many people, the best way to do so is to think of electricity like water running through a hose. Amperage (current) is like the flow rate of the water through a hose. Voltage (also called electromotive force) is like the water pressure in the hose. Understanding amperage and voltage this way lets us move on to power, measured in wattage. Electrical power can be expressed through the following simple equation.
1 amp x 1 volt = 1 watt
With this basic vocabulary and formula in mind, you can now move on to the next step — determining how many of each unit you circuits (that is, electrical outlets) can handle, and how much power your electrical items will use.
Know Your Averages
Most houses in the United States have a set range when it comes to amperage, voltage, and wattage. We call these ranges capacities. Unless you have a home that is more than 30 years old, it’s a safe bet that any American appliance with a common plug (called an Edison plug) will be rated so it doesn’t exceed standard household capacities.
In a modern home, a circuit has a capacity of between 15 and 20 amps (A). The newer the home, the likelier the capacity is 20A, even though 15A is the standard for a household dual outlet. It is important to note as well that 15A receptacles can use 20A circuits. Your safest bet is to assume that the capacity of any common household outlet is 15A.
Most dual outlets are rated for 120 volts (V) of electricity. Your common household items will therefore most often be rated at 15A or 20A and 120V, and will be abbreviated like so: 15A/120V.
Your typical 20 amp outlet will have a wattage (w) capacity of 2.4 kilowatts (that is, 2,400w). In older homes, the capacity may be a little lower, with 15 amp outlets and a capacity of 1.8 kilowatts (1,800w). It is important to know the wattage each plugged in appliance requires.
The Difference Between Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC)
You will find the majority of your modern electronics (such as televisions, stereos, phones, PCs, tablets, and gaming consoles) employ direct current (DC), in which electricity flowers in just one direction. However, the vast majority of houses are built for alternating current (AC), and their outlets are configured for AC power. Alternating current varies between 110v and 240v, making AC able to accommodate a wider variety of electrical products.
Small, portable electronics that have rechargeable batteries usually require an AC adapter (sometimes called an AC/DC adapter). These convert higher voltage AC power into lower voltage direct current (usually between 6v and 12v, but sometime less). These adapters are used for electronics that either have no internal power source or require a battery to function. Because of the nature of AC-to-DC conversion, it is important to unplug these adapters when they are not in use, because they continue to draw power whenever they are plugged in.
Can Your Outlet Support a Certain Voltage?
It is always best to know the amperage of your outlets. If you do, you can run a simple equation to see if your item is a safe voltage for that outlet. First, look for the lettering on the electronic item to find the wattage. To determine the voltage of the item, run this equation.
The number of watts / the number of amps = the voltage
If your final number does not exceed the voltage of the outlet (along with the voltage of any other item plugged into the outlet), it is safe to use in that outlet.
How Many Watts Can Your Circuit Handle?
Here, you need to know the amperage of the circuit (or outlet) and number of volts the outlet can produce. Then, run the following equation.
Number of amps x the number of volts = number of watts
The above knowledge and simple equations will keep your electronics running and your home safe.
Your Next Move
You should always contact a licensed electrician whenever you consider upgrading or repairing anything electrical. Electricity is nothing to play with, and attempting to fix a problem on your own could worsen your issue or create a bigger problem than you know how to fix. When it comes to installing dedicated circuits, you want to make sure the process goes smoothly and causes no issues.
At D.O.C. Electric Inc., we have the know-how to assist you. We’ll send out a professional electrician to help you figure out which appliances deserve dedicated circuits so that you can configure the electricity of your home more efficiently and logically. To get in contact with an electrician today, contact us, and we’ll help you get your circuits sorted out.