What is Electricity

Electricity is a catch all phrase for Electromagnetic phenomenon and the interplay of charged atoms and it's effects on our lives. The areas we will be discussing are Electric charge, Electric current, Electric potential, and Electromagnetism.

Electricity is described, measured and effected by four components, voltage, current, power, and resistance. Ohm's Law contains the formulas for dealing with these four components.

Voltage and Current

Most of us know electricity as what comes out of the wall and runs our TV's. But what makes up electricity that concerns us in everyday life is the voltage and current of electricity.

Electricity is measured by voltage and current.

Simply put, voltage is the pressure. Current is the amount of the content.

The electric plug in the wall in your home has 115 volts(more or less) and, for practical purposes, unlimited current. Because 115 volts is a lot of pressure when compounded with unlimited current, grabbing on to the wires of your outlet plug can kill you. It's not the voltage that kills you, it's the current.

To prove my point, when you touch a door knob and get that shock what's involved is hundreds of thousands of volts of static electricity. Very little current, almost nothing.

On the other end, when you touch the terminals of a 12 volt battery, nothing much happens even though there is enough current in a 12 volt car battery to kill a hundred elephants or more. Nothing happens because there is not enough voltage(pressure) to push the current(content) through you at a rate that it could harm you. It's like if someone was to push the big truck towards you, you simply just stand there and your body stops the truck. That's what happens with the 12 volt battery, your body's resistance stops the current.

Power, What is power?

Power is a measurement of both voltage and current that gives us a value corresponding to the amount of work that can be done, and is measured in Watts.

To get power we multiply the volts times the current.

Power is also how we measure how much energy we have used. Your electric bill is calculated by charging you for the amount of Kilowatts you have used. A Kilowatt is one thousand watts and is measured in kilowatt hours. That is, once you have used the energy that would have equaled a thousand hours of use at one watt, you have used a one kilowatt hour.

Lets look at a 100 watt light bulb for example. A hundred watt light bulb will use a kilowatt of power in ten hours. Ask your power company how much they are charging you per kilowatt hour and you now know how much that light bulb is costing you to run for ten hours.

Most items that use or produce electricity are rated in Watts. Many will also have the voltage and Current they produce or use.

Resistance, What is resistance?

Resistance is the opposition to current flow. Everything found naturally in nature has resistance. Resistance is important and also a huge cost.

A side effect of resistance is wasted energy in the form of heat.

There are two types of materials we are concerned with when dealing with electricity, conductors and insulators. A conductor is like a wire, it allows current flow with little resistance, an insulator is a material that strongly opposes current flow, like the plastic covering on wires you use in your home, this plastic covering keep you from being shocked. It resists the flow of current from the wire in side to your hands outside.

Resistance is also a great cost when distributing power over thousands of miles of wires, from power companies to consumers. Power companies spend great amounts of money researching better ways to lower resistance in their power distribution networks.

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