What Are Electrical Symbols Anyway?

Most of us have only a vague notion of what an electrical symbol is; we know they exist, but that is about it. Answering a basic question like “Does a lamp have an electrical symbol?” has us scratching our heads. You know, you may find yourself, one day, applying for a work permit for your home and in need of an electrical diagram that includes electrical symbol information. I know. Here is some general knowledge that most of us should probably be aware of.

So, What is an Electrical Symbol, Again?

An electrical symbol is simply a pictogram that is used to represent electrical components in an electrical diagram or a wiring schematic. Nothing more. There are electrical symbols for lamps, different kinds of light switches, wires. The direction of the flow of an electrical current can also be shown by a symbol. For more information on these symbols visit www.make-my-own-house.com/Electric-symbols.html.

Does Everyone Use the Same Electrical Symbols?

No, but stay with me! Different countries and even different companies use some different electrical symbols. There are manuals and online references that list most of the electrical symbols in use today. The good news is that for the average homeowner, the number of electrical symbols you need to be able to recognize is relatively small. And most electricians, engineers and architects use the same basic symbols; there is more variation, as the list gets longer.

Would it be Easier To Just Use Words?

Not really. (But I like how you think!) Trying to fit labels into a diagram or schematic makes things look crowded pretty quickly. Clear electrical symbols accompanied by an easy-to-read legend make for schematics and diagrams that are easily read and understood by those who need to use them.

Just Who Does Need this Electrical Symbol Information?

A wide variety of people – a regular homeowner who is changing out her light switches to dimmers and needs to read the electrical plan for her house; an engineer who needs to know how energy is flowing through a skyscraper; an architect who is passing off his plans to a electrical contractor; an engineering student who needs to show her professor that she understands how to draw an electrical plan.

Okay, But How Likely is it I Will Ever Need This Information?

One case where understanding electronic symbols could be handy has already been mentioned – if, as a homeowner you are applying for a work permit for your home, you will likely have to submit an electrical plan. Obviously, it is helpful if you can understand the plan and therefore verify its accuracy.

If ever you need to call an electrician into your home to help you solve a problem or make some changes, she will need to use this plan. Basically, how much you want to learn about how electricity flows through your home is up to you, but being able to read a schematic at a basic level is useful.

Let’s Wrap Up

Basic electrical symbols are easy to understand and you can find them on the blueprints for your home or on an electrical plan for your home, accompanied by a legend. You can easily learn to understand them and therefore understand just what that electrician just told you about the flickering light in the bathroom.


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