Voltage and How it makes Circuits Work

Posted by Power Probe TEK on October 27th, 2017
Categories : Blogs

Like most people, and even some technicians, I was always afraid of electricity, all I knew was that a circuit requires a Positive, and a Ground, but that was it. I knew that if I connect the “Red +” to the “Red +” and the “Black – “to the “Black – “, that whatever component I was fiddling with would work. I didn’t know how much was actually going on. Atoms are traveling from one side, through a component, following the path-to-ground. Any terms beyond “Positive” and “Ground” seemed like a foreign language to me. Well, the time came where it was imperative that I learn. But it all seemed so complicated. So, my Manager/Mentor recommended a book that he had stashed somewhere in his collection. Eventually, he found it and passed it on to me.

The book started out so simple, and basic. It told me to think of electricity as water, flowing through a pipe; the pipe being a wire. The flow of the electricity, similar to water flowing, is “Current”. The pressure at which this water is flowing is called “Voltage”.  Voltage can also be compared to Torque, Current can be compared to Horse Power or Velocity. But for me, water seems to be the closest and simplest of analogies for electricity.

Once I understood the terms being used, thanks to the many analogies, it was beginning to make more sense. As I imagined it: A big water source with a hose coming out of it, with water flowing towards a wide-open reservoir. Now imagine a wheel with paddles on it, between the water source and the reservoir, being spun by the water, this wheel is your “Load” or “Component”. I finally understood and comprehended the basics of electrical circuits. I realized I was still quite early in the book, there was so much more to learn! For the essence of this BLOG write-up, I will keep it pretty basic.

Now, the same event as previously used with water, but with electricity: A battery with a wire coming from the Positive terminal, connected to the positive connector on a light bulb, another wire coming from the Ground connector on the light bulb leads to the Ground terminal on the battery. We have a power source, a load, and a ground; these are the three necessary parts of a circuit. Now it makes sense, it’s a big circle, hence the term “Circuit”.

What about Amps? And what is “Ohms”? Well, “Amps” are just a measurement of current. Just like velocity/speed can be measured in MPH, or Kilometers, “Current” (the flow of Voltage) is measured in Amperes or Amps. You’re basically measuring how fast the Voltage is flowing through a circuit. Current also produces heat, therefore when you have a Short-to-Ground, something usually burns up. Or if a wire is a thinner gauge than the amperage that a circuit is rated for, it will get very hot and can cause damage. This is caused by Resistance.

You can think of Resistance as traffic, on your way to work during the morning rush-hour. All of the cars in your way, are resisting you from speeding into work and being on time. Well, when talking about electricity, resistance is measured in “Ohms”. Thinner wires will cause more resistance to higher amperage circuits. Corrosion is also a big cause of resistance in any circuit. Imagine driving on a nicely paved road, when suddenly there is a segment of broken road, or loose gravel, with speedbumps right in the middle, it’s going to slow you down. Now in real life, if I see this, I would like to speed up because I drive a truck that will handle this stuff, but all of the traffic, or Ohms, are going to slow me down regardless of what I drive.

Not to worry, the imaginary road can be fixed, but generally more efficient than normal road work. The damaged segment of wire or cable can be snipped out and replaced with a new segment and installed with some solder. In fact, we have a great instructional write-up to show exactly how it’s done (Click Here).

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