We’ve all purchased a new appliance, browsed through the owner’s manual and understood everything it said. Not true. Don’t feel bad, you are not alone when it comes to understanding the electrical terms that come with new appliances. You’ll be left more confused than you were before. Let’s go over some of these terms so you’ll understand what they mean whenever you hear them.
Common Electrical Terms
Amperage. This is the measurement in the flow of electricity. It’s similar to the way water moves through a hose, only it would measure the water volume moving through the hose.
Current. This is the rate of flow of electrical energy though a conductor or wire. It’s similar to the volume of water moving through a pipe. Current is measured in amps (amperes).
Alternating current. This is the electrical current where the flow of electrical change will change direction periodically.
Direct current. This is the current that moves in one direction at a steady flow. A typical household’s electricity is alternating current (AC) and changes its direction. Many electronic devices need DC and will need to convert the current into DC before it can be used.
Hertz. This is the measurement of frequency and equals one cycle per second. Most devices in the United States are usually 60 Hertz and international devices are usually 50 Hertz.
Polarity. This is a term used to define the positive (+) and negative (-) ends of a magnet or electrical measurement like a battery or a coil.
Ground fault. The electrical path between a source of power and a grounded surface is a called a ground fault. When electrical appliances are “grounded”, they can be used safely. While devices can still lose their grounding, electrical currents will be diverted to the nearest channel. It can be done safely as it provides a path to the ground. Homes are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help protect appliances and you from electrical shock and fire.
Overload. Wires that get extremely hot get that way when a circuit has carried a little too much energy for too long. This becomes unsafe and will cause the breaker to trip.
Transformer. This is a device that is made of two coil windings that transfers voltage from one to the other. This happens through electromagnetic induction. The number of windings per coil will determine the way the transformer is designed to work. It will either step-up or step-down its output voltage from its input voltage. Transformers only operate with alternating current (AC).
Series circuit. One path for a flow of current is created through a series circuit where the parts are connected end to end, positive pole to negative pole.
Voltage. This is the “push” or force driving electrical energy through a conductor or wire. It can be compared to the pressure of water in a pipe.