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Electricity in the home

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family using electrical devices at home Electricity is such an integral part of everyday life now, that we often don’t give it much thought. However, you wouldn’t be reading this without electricity! Here is some information about basic electrical concepts that apply to most households.

The wires in a plug

wiring in a plug UK, live, neutral, ground The three pins/prongs on a standard UK plug each have a different purpose. If you were to remove the back of a plug, the neutral wire, which is blue, would be on the left. The earth/ ground wire would be green and yellow and positioned on the top pin, and the live wire, which is brown, would be on the right, attached to the pin, via a fuse.

The plug’s case will often have the terminals labelled with E, L and N (earth, live and neutral) or with the colours of the corresponding wires.

Although in AC circuits the electrons travel backwards and forwards, there is only one hot wire because the blue wire is grounded (neutralised) on entry to a property, before it reaches any outlets.

UK plug socket The ports in a socket correspond with the wires in a plug. The three terminal, earthed and fused UK standard plug is officially known as BS 1363.

Mains electricity levels

mains electricity pylons
There is a standardisation of electricity levels in the UK, which means that the household voltage is around 230v and has a frequency of 50Hz.
UK power usage % percentage pie chart

What is household electricity used for?

In a typical UK household, the biggest electricity output is for entertainment purposes – that’s TVs, computers, sound systems, gaming consoles, etc. The next three biggest uses are heating, lighting and refrigeration.

Short circuits

short circuit A short circuit occurs when more than the intended current is flowing between two points in a circuit, where there is little to no resistance (where there isn’t supposed to be a pathway). This can cause damage and overheating to occur.

A short circuit can be caused by a wire becoming loose and/or coming into contact with another, or if the resistance in a wire is too low, it can happen to any household device.

The opposite of a short circuit is an open circuit, where no electricity flows.