How Does Electricity Flow What Is Electric Current Fix It

How Does Electricity Flow? What Is an Electric Current?

How Does Electricity Flow? What Is an Electric Current?

September 7, 2018

How Does Electricity Flow What Is Electric Current Fix It

So you’ve probably heard of amps, watts, and volts, but what do they all mean and how do they relate to your electrical system? Let’s go back to the classroom, and learn a little bit about each electrical measurement, how they relate to electric current, and what they can tell you about how electricity works.

How Does Electricity Flow?

Voltage (”electrical potential”)

The terms “volt” and “voltage” come from Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), best known for his invention of the first modern battery. Although the concept of voltage is fairly complicated, the best comparison is to magnetism.

Like magnetism, voltage is an invisible field that attracts and repels, referred to as “electric field,” “e-field,” or “electrostatic field.” In its simplest definition, voltage is “the difference in electric potential between two points” (Wikipedia). It’s basically the amount of pressure (force) used to make electric current flow.

The voltage difference between any two points, connections on a circuit, is known as the potential difference. This potential difference is measured in units of volts (a joule per coulomb). If you have a strong voltage across a short distance, your “electric field” will be strong. You can measure the voltage between two points with a voltmeter.

Electric Current

Electric current is the flow of electric charge, which measures the number of movable electrons that flow through a conductor. Think of plumbing and how water flows through pipes. The electric current is like the flowing water inside the pipes, but it moves a lot slower, so think of flowing syrup instead. In fact, this may not be the best analogy, since in AC circuits, the current doesn’t “flow” at all, but rather oscillates back and forth, reversing its direction 60 times a second (60 Hertz, cycles per second).

Electric current is measured in amperes “amps” for short (the flow of current across a surface at the rate of one coulomb per second).

Electrical Resistance

Electrical resistance measures how much the flow of electricity is restricted or impeded. Your electrical resistance consists of the physical wires and devices themselves. As the current flows, resistance reduces this flow and is measured in ohms (R).

Discovered by Georg Simon Ohm in 1827, the formula for electrical resistance is: R = V/I.

R = resistance, measured in units of ohms (Ω)

V = voltage, measured in volts (V)

I = electric current (intensity), measured in amperes (A)

As you can see, the three main concepts involving electric flow are resistance, voltage, and electric current. For any of your electrical products to work, all three must exist. Ohm’s law perfectly captures the balance between the three, outlined above. This formula can be rewritten to solve for V or I:

R = V/I

V = IR

I = V/R

Your electric current is measured in amperes, often shortened to “amp.” The electrical circuits in your home (in the U.S.) are set at 120 volts (exceptions include certain dedicated appliance circuits, which normally operate at a higher voltage).

Since the voltage is constant in your home, and resistance cannot be controlled, the only remaining variable is current.

How Does Electric Current Change?

Electric current can be changed by adding or removing power demands in the form of electrical devices. It is the continuous flow of electrons from a voltage source. The demand is measured in amperes. Whenever you add a device, such as a television set or lamp, your home draws more electricity into its system. While these devices won’t add much load, things like space heaters and refrigerators do. Another way that current increases is when wires become overheated. This is fine up until it reaches a “runaway” point, which occurs when your conductor heats up to an unsafe level. This will cause your breaker to trip. Too much heat can also cause the insulation to melt and cause a fire or shock you. It’s important to have the correct wire size and make sure you are not overloading your circuit. If your breaker continues to trip, call a certified electrician right away to investigate the source of the problem. A common reason for tripped circuit breakers is overloaded circuits. You can easily adjust this by either adding additional circuits to your existing electrical system or moving heavy-load devices from one circuit to another. If that doesn’t fix your problem, you may have an issue with your home’s wiring. We specialize in circuit breaker installations and repairs, including:
  • Main circuit breakers
  • Branch circuit breakers
  • Fuse boxes
  • Additional circuits and breakers
  • Dedicated circuits
  • Electrical troubleshooting
  • Panel upgrades and repairs
  • Fuse-box-to-circuit-breaker upgrades
We work on all makes and models. Contact Fix-It 24/7 at(720) 702-4956 for 24/7 plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical service in the Denver area or schedule service online.

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