Basic Electrical Terms You Need to Know

It pays to know the basics of electricity, especially when you’re troubleshooting electrical problems. In this post, one of the leading electrical contractors, Bailey & Shipp, helps you understand how electricity works. 


Electricity refers to electrical energy flow within a conductive material while electronics is the use of changing electrical properties to transport information.


Current is the measure of the magnitude of electron flow in a circuit, measured in amperes. A water analogy is often used to explain electrical flow, where current is the amount of water that flows past a certain point. The higher the amperage, the more “water” flows.


It’s how much electrical flow there is in a circuit, measured in volts. Following the water analogy, voltage acts as water pressure.


It measures a material’s ability to oppose electricity flow. In the water analogy, a sponge in the pipe symbolizes a resistor, which reduces water flow.


It is a closed loop that contains an energy source like a battery and a load such as a bulb. The load uses the energy from the source and converts it into another kind of energy. What your electrician calls a short circuit is a circuit that lacks a load. In this instance, the energy flows back through the wire and back to the source, which may cause the wires to melt or worse, the battery to explode. Direct circuit and alternating current are the two most common types of circuits.

Components of a Circuit

Conductors allow current to move freely while insulators prevent electrical flow. Resistors resist electricity but don’t entirely block the flow of electricity. Capacitors store electricity while current flows through them. This energy is then released with the removal of incoming current. They can be polarized, which means the current can only flow in one direction. Wiring a polarized capacitor in the wrong way can cause it to blow up.

Moreover, diodes allow electricity to flow in one direction and blocks flow in the other direction. Light-emitting diodes or LEDs emit light when current flows through them. Switches let you control the current flow in a circuit junction. Other terms you may come across are transistors, thermistors, photoresistors, flex sensors. and piezoelectric devices.

Bailey & Shipp is one of the most trusted commercial electrical contractors. You can be assured that you’re getting expert service with our years of experience. Call us at (410) 457-3507 or complete our online form to learn more about our offers. We serve customers in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, VA.