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How Does your Electricity Flow?

Understanding The Electrical Terms


In order to understand how electricity flows, you must first understand what the key terms mean.  This simple list gives you some of the most commons terms.  Electricity flows through electrical wire and componets like water flows through copper tubing in your home.  As electricity flows through a circuit, it encounters some resistance in the wire, depending on the type. This leads us to our first term, ohms.


Ohms is the measurement of resistance to the flow of electrons through an electrical conductive material. The higher the resistance, the lower the flow of electrons. This causes a certain amount of heat to be generated in the circuit. Too much resistance can overload a circuit and cause an electrical fire. Because bad connections, like loose terminal connections, and corrosion are likely culprits, electrical connections should be checked regularly to ensure safe electrical power to your home.


An electron is a negatively charged subatomic particle. In electrical conductors, current flow results from the movement of electrons from atom to atom individually, and from negative to positive electric poles in general. The charge on a single electron is considered as the unit electrical charge. It is assigned negative polarity.


Current is the flow of these electrons in a circuit or electrical syaytem.  Current is measured in amperage, often called amps.  Current is broken down into two types: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC).  In your home, alternating current is used to run everything from kitchen appliances to lighting.  However, with the green age upon us, DC power is becoming more popular with the addition of solar power and wind turbines that can power DC lighting and other things in your home.  And with the help of inverters, Dc power can be converted into AC power.


Amperage is the measurement of the strength of the volume of electrons flowing through an electrical conductor or system.  The measurement is based on the amount of electrons that pass through a point in a given amount of time.  To do this, we use an ammeter that tells us reading like 20 amp, 30 amps, etc...  Some like to use a multimeter which reads ohms, amperage, and voltage.


Voltage, also known as electromotive force, is the pressure of the electrons in a system.  The potential difference in charge between two points in an electrical field is another defintion of voltage.  The quantity of charge carriers passing through a fixed point per unit of time determines the voltage reading.  In other words, the greater the flow of current, electrons, the greater the voltage.  Voltage is a representation of the electric potential energy per unit charge. If a unit of electrical charge were placed in a location, the voltage indicates the potential energy of it at that point. In other words, it is a measurement of the energy contained within an electric field, or an electric circuit, at a given point.  Voltage can be read with a voltmeter and voltage is symbolized by an an uppercase italicized V or E.

Wattage or Watts

Wattage is used to specify the rate at which electrical energy is dissipated, or the rate at which electromagnetic energy is radiated, absorbed, or dissipated.  A watt is a standard unit of power of which it is measured by the amount of energy used per unit of time.  The power consumed by your electrical sysytem in your home is read through the utility company's electric meter.  It is measured in kilowatts and that is how you are billed.

Power or Electrical Power

Electrical power is defined as voltage times amperage or VA. Power is also defined as the potenial in the system to produce or create motion for motors, heat for heaters, and light for lamps or bulbs. Power is measured by the rate at which electrical energy is converted to one of these forms. Every day your home uses power to run motorized appliances, heaters, and lighting. As the size of your home increases, you may mimic the words of Tim, The Tool Man, Taylor, "It needs more power!" and an electrical upgrade may be in order.

I hope this helps to explain some of the terms you may have to deal with while dealing with electricity. Once you understand the terms and know a little bit more about electricity, it isn't such a mysterious thing afterall.

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