Electricity is one of the key pillars enabling modern life as we know it today. Without it, there would be no television, computers, lights, or machines. One could argue that we would struggle to even maintain our civilization without the electricity we have come to rely on. Yet it is also something that we often tend to take for granted.
Plainly put electricity is the current that flows continually, just like a stream of water. It’s always there in residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure. When you flip a switch, press a button or turn a dial a “Circuit” is connected, or “Completed” and the electrical current is then delivered.
An electrical panel or junction box typically controls the flow of the electricity. The overarching goes is to make sure that that the electrical system is not overloaded or underpowered for the appliances, lights, and other devices it is responsible for.
This also means that different buildings require different electrical loads to be delivered. In fact, residential and commercial properties often have very different needs, and there are electricians who specialize in each.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the duties and areas of specialization for both residential and commercial electricians.
The Type Of Wiring Used
The voltage being carried by commercial and residential wires can be orders of magnitude in difference. This means each application has different requirements, as well as different ways to protect wires from damage while also limiting potential human or animal exposure.
Residential homes and multi-family housing tend to use a thin gauge or narrow wire that is then insulated in a simple, yet effective plastic sheath. Not only does the sheath protect the wires from accidental short circuits it also prevents human beings and pets from accidental exposure to the current traveling through the wires.
Many wiring sheaths are also color-coded or labeled. This helps service technicians to quickly determining the use as well as their intended voltage.
In areas where the wiring might be vulnerable, there might also be special metal conduits, panduit ducts, or wiring pass-throughs. These things limit damage to the wires, while also allowing them to travel to their intended destinations. It also helps limit the potential risk of contacting the wire when installing something like a drywall hanger or pounding a nail into a framing stud.
In some states, it may be legal for an individual to wire their own home. However, improper wiring will almost always show up on a thorough home inspection. At the same time, a fire caused by a homeowner’s do-it-yourself wiring might void any insurance coverage. The net cost of these events can be staggeringly high compared to the relatively low expense of hiring a qualified residential electrician.
Commercial And Light Industrial Wiring
When it comes to commercial and even light industrial locations, the wiring needs to be more robust. The amount of current flowing through these wires is typically much more powerful and even potentially lethal to human beings.
These heavy-duty thick gauge wires are often contained in durable tube-shaped conduits that pass overhead through ceiling rafters or through protected subfloor spaces. They are designed for maximum protection while also being easy for service personnel to access.
Qualified commercial electricians are highly trained and experienced in working with these types of wires and the protective measures they use. This also includes things like robust junction boxes, terminals and other components that interconnect the typical high voltage carried by these wiring systems.
The Type Of Power Being Delivered
Residential and commercial properties have different power load requirements. In general, residential buildings use what’s called “Single Phase Power.” This consists of AC electrical current being delivered at 120 Volts. A system that is up to code typically has three wires: a positive, a negative, and a neutral.
Humans and most pets who are accidentally exposed to this level of voltage likely won’t find it lethal. Yet it is capable of significant harm and can cause a destructive fire.
However, there are appliances with higher voltage demands. This includes things like large refrigerators, electric clothes dryers, oven ranges, and large central air conditioners. There are also several woodworking tools that while residential in nature, also require a higher voltage than a single-phase power wire setup can deliver. In these situations, a “Two-Phase Circuit” is needed to deliver 240 volts.
This level of voltage can be lethal to humans and most pets. Accidental exposure can cause severe injury and even death, as well as fire danger.
Light industrial and commercial properties typically use a “Three-Phase Design.” This essentially means that there are two smaller legs that supply 120 volts as well as a third which operates at a consistent 208 volts. This type of configuration allows each leg to operate at a lower workload, yet it is also capable of supplying more energy to the intended operation. A three-phase design offers greater overall efficiency while also helping to extend the life of heavy-duty, large commercial equipment.
The excess demand, of commercial wiring and current, typically requires more insulation. Also known as thermoplastic high-heat resistant nylon coated or TTHT it also serves to protect the electrical wiring from corrosive substances, gases, and harsh liquids. In certain applications, there are additional local, state, and federal regulations that dictate the type of safety measures that need to be used on a commercial or light industrial site.
What Are The Risks Of Attempting To Perform Your Own Electric Installation?
At first glance, the idea of performing your own electric wiring and installation might seem easy enough. Especially if power hasn’t been connected to the lines. Unfortunately, this is rarely true. There are many codes and safety requirements that need to be met in even the most simple of residential settings. If they are not in place when current is connected to the line it could lead to fire, damage, and potential loss of life.
A qualified residential electrician is well aware of these requirements and will be able to take every measure possible to ensure that your home, condo or apartment building is up to modern-day building codes.
When it comes to commercial applications, you should never attempt to perform your own installation. The voltage being used in these lines is definitely lethal. In some applications wiring, a three-phase system yourself can even be illegal. Compounding this, most incidents that occur from improper wiring by in-house service personnel can even void insurance policies. It’s always best to seek out the services of a qualified commercial electrician.