After a few years in the field, even the best sparkies (electricians) start to drop a few points and forget some field electrician’s basics. Like how to place a well-earned curse word to earn the respect of fellow foul-mouthed wire-pullers.
This handy guide is designed for all electricians, new and experienced, who need a reminder of electrical basics and lingo you can expect to hear in the field. It covers everything from technical terms to tangy slang and everything in between.
Electrical Components & Circuitry
A.R (Automatic Recloser)
An automatic high-voltage switch that opens when a fault is detected.
A circuit breaker, a device that trips and breaks a connection when a fault is detected.
A device in electric motors or generators used to reverse the direction of current on a rotating armature.
A complete circuit is said to be continuous.
Short for double-pole double-throw (six terminals) or single-throw (four terminals) used to simultaneously connect and disconnect four or six separate circuits.
Ground Fault Interrupt
An electrical outlet with an internal circuit breaker to prevent short circuits.
A device that blocks low-frequency signals and allows high-frequencies to pass.
Opposition to current flow; resistance.
Also called a coil, choke, or reactor, it’s a passive component that stores energy in a magnetic field and is mainly used to control signals and stabilize the electric flow.
A device that changes DC to AC, especially in solar power conversion.
An electromagnetic switch powered by a small voltage that operates another circuit with a high voltage. It does this extremely fast, especially when it’s an SCR (solid-state relay).
All the electrical switches, fuses, circuit breakers, and similar devices used to isolate and de-energize equipment or circuits.
A semiconductor device used to rectify, amplify, or switch an electrical signal.
A device whose current varies with the applied voltage. The most common is the Metal Oxide Varistor, which has a non-linear reduction in resistance as the voltage is increased.
The product of RMS voltage and RMS current, used to show the total electrical load the circuit or equipment should be able to withstand.
The potential difference that provides the force necessary to push electrons through the impedance in a circuit.
A measurement of inductance, representing the value caused by a one-ampere change of current in a circuit resulting in an EMF of one volt.
A unit of measuring resistance, with one Ohm being a resistance that allows a circuit to transmit one ampere of current when subjected to one volt of potential difference.
The basic electric law that voltage is the product of current and resistance.
The difference in charge values between two parts of a circuit.
The rate of energy transfer in a circuit measured in Watts.
The actual power consumed in the circuit.
Root Mean Square Voltage (RMS)
The AC equivalent of a DC voltage or the square root of the mean value of the instantaneous peak values.
Power manifested in physical, tangible forms such as heat, radiation, sound, etc.
A unit that measures apparent power.
A unit of measuring electrical energy expended in one hour of time, representing about 3600 Joules of energy.
Common Lingo for Tools
A battery-powered tool used to check the continuity of a circuit.
A digital multimeter, a device used to test electrical values such as current, resistance, voltage, continuity, etc.
Devices used to pre-situate conduits before concrete is poured around them to ensure perfect spacing.
Fish Tape, Electrician’s Snake
A steel tape used to route wiring through walls and conduit. A fish tape ball may be added to prevent damage during pulling. See image below.
Fox and Hound
A circuit tracer with audible feedback.
A heavy-duty set of pliers used to cut and splice heavy cable, also known as Klein Tools.
Adjustable wrench with serrated jaws.
A tool used to bend rigid metal conduit, also called a hickey. See image below.
A small lever you can use to bend offsets.
Right Angle Beam Clamp (RC)
A device with a right angle bend used to attach a pipe at right angles to a beam.
A reciprocating saw.
Send your apprentice for this and watch them make a fool of themselves, also called a henway.
The metal or plastic channels in which you can run cabling when piping is not available.
Used to remove the insulation from a cable.
A portable box used to store an electrician’s tools on site.
A metal device used to secure conduit, cables, etc. to a flange or rod.
The flathead screw used for everything from prying to chiseling.
A steel conduit hanger used to secure rigid conduit to suspended support, usually using a threaded nut. Also called a conduit hanger.
A high-voltage industrial fuse with “finger-safe” protection. See image below.
Nothing on the job seems to go right.
The neutral wire of a circuit or supply.
A knife that cuts large gauge cable.
Electronic conduit bender.
C-Clamp vise grips.
Anything whose name you don’t know.
A NEMA locking connector.
No-contact voltage tester.
A delta service with four wires and a center tap connection
Keep Up With Field Terminology, Practices, & Technology
The more you advance in your trade and see action in the field, the more you can expect to get out of touch with everything else. That’s why it’s important to keep yourself apprised of all the latest developments in field electrician technology, practices, and lingo.
Field managers especially need to keep up with industry trends. One trend we stand behind is the development of field service management software. These platforms enable more efficient, convenient, safe, and empowering management of field teams.
BuildOps specializes in creating advanced software solutions for commercial contractors in electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and other field service industries. We want you to improve not just your field language, but your performance and success rates as well. Try BuildOps for free to see how it can help you achieve your goals.