Electrical maintenance & repair

If you’re an independent rental owner, performing your own electrical maintenance and repair can save a lot of money. Here’s a quick primer on the common tools and terminology used in electrical projects.

Amp (or Ampere) – The rate at which electrical power flows to a light, tool or appliance. Large wires can carry more electricity than small wires. The amount of current flowing through a wire is called amperage.

Arc Flashes – A short circuit through the air. In an arc flash, a huge amount of energy explodes outward from electrical equipment.

Ballast – A special transformer that regulates the flow of current to the sockets of the fluorescent fixture.

Continuity – An uninterrupted electrical pathway through a circuit or a fixture. A continuity test establishes if current could flow through a circuit or fixture as it should.

Electrical Fires – Common causes include overloaded receptacles, loose connections and melted or corroded wire insulation.

Electrical Receptacle – Provides the connection between the building’s electrical circuit and the corded appliance or other devices that require electricity to operate.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Receptacle – GFCI receptacles continuously monitor the current used by appliances and automatically stop the flow of electricity in case of a problem. They are required for use in kitchens and bathrooms within three feet of a plumbing fixture.

Grounding – A key safety feature designed to conduct electricity to the ground where it becomes harmless. A grounding wire (a bare copper wire or an insulated green wire) provides an additional return path for electrical current.

Hot Wire – Any wire that carries voltage. In an electrical circuit, the hot wire is usually covered with black or red insulation.

Lock-Out/Tag-Out Procedure – A safety procedure to make sure that power and energy sources, such as electricity, are shut off and secured properly. This is used when doing electrical maintenance and repairs such as installing new switches, receptacles and lighting fixtures or investigating a short circuit.

Multi-Meter – Versatile, battery-operated tool used to measure electrical voltages, test for continuity in switches and light fixtures and test resistance in devices like heating elements.

Neutral Wire – A wire that returns current at zero voltage to the source of electrical power. Usually covered with white or light gray insulation.

Ohms – Units of electrical resistance.

Pigtail – A short piece of wire mostly used to connect a single wire to a screw terminal rather than connecting two or more wires.

Resistance – Opposition to the flow of electricity measured in Ohms.

Short Circuit – When current seeks to return to a path other than the neutral wire.

Three-Way Switch – Switches that have three screw terminals (in addition to the ground terminal). They operate lights from two locations and are used in pairs.

Voltage (or Volts) – A measurement of electricity in terms of pressure.

Wattage (or Watts) – A measurement of electrical power in terms of total energy consumed. Watts can be calculated by multiplying voltage x amps.

To learn more about being an effective independent rental owner, check out the Independent Rental Owner (IROP) Certification. And for more ways you can perform your own repairs and save money, explore the Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians.