Throughout North America, your normal electrical outlet provides anywhere between 110 to 120 volts of electricity. The overwhelming majority of our devices are designed to utilize this standardized voltage in order to operate safely. Some devices need a little more power, and thus they draw a higher amperage in order to get it. To a certain extent that’s fine, but drawing additional current generates more heat and increases the strain on an electrical circuit.
But what happens when a device needs so much power that it pushes a 110-volt circuit to its very limits of safety? Is it wise to continue to rely on these appliances, knowing that the risk will only increase as your home and your electrical system age? The answer is clearly “no,” so the solution is to simply up the voltage running through a line in order to bring the required current back down. This is why certain appliances actually run on a 240-volt electrical circuit. 240-volt lines are pretty common these days, and you might be surprised just how many things in our homes use these connections now.
Perhaps the most common appliance to use a 240-volt connection is an electric dryer. Electric dryers need a lot of energy for virtually every part of what they do: they need a robust, high-torque motor to spin the drum, they need electricity to heat the air they pump into the drum, and then more electricity to extract the humid, damp air from inside the drum in order to dry your clothes out properly. All of that means they demand a lot of energy, and thus they’re not exactly feasible or practical to operate on a 120-volt connection.
While most homes built within the last 25 to 30 years have been built with a 240-volt connection in the laundry area, some older homes still don’t have this kind of connection, and that can be problematic when the majority of modern appliances are built to utilize a 240-volt setup. The easiest way to tell is to take a look at the space behind your dryer—if your plug is large, round, and has either three prongs in a Y-shape, or four prongs, then you have a 240-volt connection.
Fully-electric water heaters often utilize a 240-volt connection, particularly with modern units. With this higher-voltage connection, water heaters can reheat far faster than their 120-volt predecessors, primarily because they are able to get their electrical heating elements to much higher temperatures than before. That means more heat is transferred to the water, and thus the water reaches your ideal temperature far quicker. Whereas reheating used to take an hour or more, a 240-volt connection can reheat an average water heater in about half the time.
However, not all water heater areas are set up to utilize a 240-volt connection. This is especially true for homes or businesses that are set up to utilize a gas connection. These heaters only require electricity for a few basic functions, meaning a standard connection is usually way more than enough. If you’re considering switching from a gas-powered heater to an electric one, you may want to talk to an electrician about running a 240-volt line to your water heater before having your plumber start the project.
It should come as very little surprise that the single largest energy-consuming device in your home requires a high-voltage connection for stability. Over half of the energy an average home consumes every year goes to heating and cooling, meaning that even normal operation of a central air conditioner or heater will push an average 120-volt outlet to its limits. Thus, the answer is a 240-volt connection.
Some HVAC systems are directly wired into the electrical circuit they rely on, and that means they may not necessarily have the big three-prong or four-prong outlet that we are accustomed to seeing. If you’re unsure of what kind of connection your HVAC system runs on, we recommend calling a professional electrician and having them test the circuit for you. Likewise, working with an HVAC professional to select a compatible system is an important part of replacing your heating or cooling.
Electric Vehicle Chargers
Electric vehicle chargers almost always depend on a 240-volt connection. The reason is simple: a 110-volt connection simply can’t provide the electrical capacity needed to properly charge an electric vehicle in anything less than around half a day (and sometimes more). When most people depend on the ability to fully-charge their electric vehicles overnight, not being able to get a full charge in 6 to 8 hours really isn’t an option. Thus, 240 volts is almost a necessity.
Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular, either plug-in hybrids or fully-electric options. That means charging systems are becoming more and more popular, and people everywhere are looking to install them in their homes. For this, you’ll probably need to run a 240-volt electrical line to your garage as most don’t come wired for this voltage already. However, doing so will greatly improve the efficiency and safety of your charging system.
Need a high voltage line run somewhere in your home? Is one of your high-voltage appliances malfunctioning due to an issue in the circuit? Call Lightning Bug Electric at (404) 471-3847 today.