How Circuits Are Managed in Offices, Hospitals and Other Large Facilities

June 18, 2020

Electricity is a utility that most of us take for granted. It would be hard to live without it, but do you know how it actually works? Depending on the type and size of building you’re in, the way the electricity is transferred from the power company to the outlets in your office is different. Here is a basic overview of power distribution systems in Carlsbad, NM.

Power distribution to large facilities

Utility companies transfer electricity at different rates, depending on how large the building or facility is. For example, a residence will receive its power at a lower voltage, thanks to a transformer—it directs a reduced voltage into the meter and then into the home. Larger facilities, like office buildings, hospitals and retail complexes, receive electricity at 13,800 volts. This makes it less expensive for the facility, although they will use their own transformer to reduce the voltage to a usable level.

Particularly large facilities may have multiple transformers installed either inside the building in a dedicated room or outside. After the electricity is transferred to the transformer or transformers, it then moves “downstream” to equipment called switchgear. Switchgear directs the electricity to different parts of the building, and includes circuit breakers to disrupt the power when necessary.

Each floor or area of the building is its own “electrical closet,” which receives power from a conductor called a feeder or bus. The electrical closets have their own step-down transformers, which further reduces the voltage to 120 volts. This is the typical voltage used in the United States, which our appliances and consumer electronics are designed for—that’s why you have to use power converters for American electronics when traveling out of the country.

In other words, think of the power grid as a tree: the utility-to-facility line is the trunk, and the branches start forming at the building’s transformer. Each time the power is sent off to another electrical closet and reduced further, new branches form.

Why are there circuit breakers?

The electrical load of a large facility has a lot of branches, and therefore a lot of demands on its voltage. To be as safe as possible, electricians need to make sure that no one branch becomes overloaded. They also need to design a system where part—but not all—of the voltage can be shut off for repairs. It wouldn’t make sense to shut down an entire hospital to work on a lighting problem in the administrative offices, for example.

If you think of the power grid as a tree, the circuit breakers can interrupt power to one or more of the branches at a time, leaving the rest of the tree functioning as normal.

Again, this is a basic overview, since most large facilities have extremely complex electrical systems, but it’s useful to know how your utilities work.

If you need an industrial, commercial and residential electrician to work on your power distribution systems in Carlsbad, NM, call the team at JB Electric LLC today.

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