A Short Glossary of Electrical Terms

What you should know about how volts, amperes, watts, conductors, and resistance work

Volt

Just as water pours from a faucet when the spigot is turned on, so does electricity move through a wire when a switch is turned on. In both cases, the release of pressure causes the flow of energy, and, in the case of electricity, this flow is measured in volts. Utility companies usually set the voltage level for households at 120, though current can vary from 115 to 125.

Ampere

How much current moves through a wire in one second is measured in amperes. Basically, the larger the size of wire, the greater the ampere capacity.

Watt

The amount of electricity consumed per second is measured by what are called watts, calculated by multiplying volts times amps. Most household electrical usage is billed in kilowatt hours, or the amount of hours times 1,000 watts.

Conductor

Anything that allows electricity to flow through it is called a conductor. Copper wire is an excellent conductor since it allows a free flow of electricity with very little resistance. Less expensive alternatives are aluminum and aluminum clad with copper.

Resistance

Anything in an electrical circuit that impedes the flow of current is referred to as resistance, or impedance. Resistance is measured in what are called ohms.

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