A Simple Guide To Electrical Circuits

Lighting Basics

Wonder what goes on when we hit the 'on' switch to our living room lights? Learning a thing or two about how electricity works would help us gain a better understanding and appreciation for a technology that we usually take for granted. Of course we know about electricity flowing through a conductor, but ever wonder how electricity ever reaches the light bulbs? Here's a brief overview.

Components of a Basic Electrical Circuit

An electrical circuit is a simple circuit through which electricity flows. The important components include a battery or a power source; two or more light bulbs; a conductor or conducting wire with both ends connected to the power source to form a loop; on and off switch; and a fuse or protection device. Once the electrical circuit is activated by clicking the 'on' switch, the electricity will flow from the positive end of the power source through the conduction wires which will then flow to the light bulbs. The electricity will then loop back to the negative end of the power source.

Types of Electrical Circuits

There are two types of electrical circuits namely series circuits and parallel circuits. Series circuits are usually used in lighting Christmas lights. Parallel circuits are used in lighting light bulbs in the home. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

When using a series circuit several things happen. When you turn on the light switch, the current remains unchanged through all parts of the circuit. However, the voltage drops especially if you add more light bulbs. The result of this would be dimmer light bulbs. If the current gets disrupted or if one of the light bulbs is not working, the other light bulbs would also stop working. This explains why in series Christmas lights, you have to replace one light bulb for the entire Christmas lights to start working again. The main advantage to using series circuits is that it doesn't eat up too much electricity.

A parallel circuit on the other hand has lots of wires compared to a series circuit. A series circuit has one wire flowing from one light bulb to the next. A parallel circuit has wires for each light bulb. The current takes several paths or parallel paths. Several things happen when you use a parallel circuit. As soon as you turn on the light switch the current increases. Electricity starts to move faster and the currents flowing through the wires add together. The more wires and light bulbs you add, the current will increase and will not diminish at all. The increased current would allow the same current to flow in each of the light bulbs. There is no voltage drop meaning that each of the bulbs would be brighter than the other. If one of the light bulbs is not working, the other light bulbs will continue to work.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Different Circuits

The main disadvantage to using parallel circuits is the energy cost. More energy is going to be used. However, parallel circuits are still preferred to be used in homes since most homes require multiple light sources. Nowadays, even Christmas lights are using parallel circuits because the other light bulbs won't get affected when one light bulb is busted. Series lights however consume much less energy compared to those lights backed by parallel circuits.

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