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The Science of Electricity

May 17, 2022 | Blog

How Does Electricity Work?

As we all know, electricity plays a vital role in the modern world. And, as technology becomes more advanced, our reliance on electricity will only increase. In fact, the average household in the United States uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. This is 13 times more electricity than was consumed in homes in the 1950s!

There’s no overstating how important electricity is to our lives—but have you ever wondered how it works? What sorts of electricity are there, and how do they affect us? Use this blog by Arnold Electric Services to learn more about the science of electricity and what it means for you and your home.

What is Electricity?

To understand electricity, it helps to have a basic understanding of atoms. Everything is made of atoms, and within every atom is a nucleus. Inside every nucleus are protons, which have a positive charge, and electrons, which have a negative charge. Since they’re opposites, they are attracted to each other (hence the phrase “opposites attract”). Both protons and electrons lie in shells that surround the nucleus.

The electrons in the shells closest to the nucleus are strongly attracted to nearby protons. This means that electrons in an atom’s farthest shell lack attraction to some protons. These electrons can be pushed out of their positions, leading to electron movement between atoms. These shifting electrons create electricity!

Types of Electricity

There are two types of electricity: static electricity and current electricity. Here’s a basic rundown of how each one works:

Static Electricity

When electricity is at rest, it’s called “static electricity.” This type of electricity generates by rubbing two suitable substances together. Rubbing can cause the atoms of a substance to lose electrons, making it positively charged. The same goes for the substance that gains those lost electrons, which makes it negatively charged. Static electricity is all about moving negative charges from one object or substance to another by friction or other means.

Current Electricity

“Current electricity” is the process of moving electrons in a specific path or direction using a conductive material like a wire. There are two types of conductors: good and bad. Copper wires are an example of a good conductor because they allow an electric charge to pass through them.

Other materials, such as wood, are examples of bad conductors because they oppose the flow of an electric charge. The conductor will frequently become hot due to the constant flow of electricity that passes through it.

The electrical currents themselves generate when a chemical reaction occurs (such as in a battery or generator); these currents then flow through wires to power our electrical appliances.

Electricity and Our Homes

When it comes to electricity and our homes, there’s a lot of jargon thrown around. Here are the most important concepts to know regarding residential electricity, along with suggestions on practicing electrical safety:

AC vs. DC

As you might already expect, most homes use current electricity. More specifically, they use AC, which stands for “alternating current.” AC is a type of electricity that is formed by a generator (your area’s power plant), and it can reverse in direction (hence the “alternating”).

The second type of current is called DC, which stands for “direct current.” This is the type of current used in batteries. Renewable energy sources, such as windmills and solar panels, take DC and convert it into AC to be used by businesses and homes.

Electrical Wiring

Your home’s electrical system is made up of a complex network of wires that transfer energy from a power grid to your home. We depend on our electrical wiring every day, so it’s important that we keep it up to the National Electric Code (NEC). Here are some things you can do to maintain a safe and long-lasting electrical system:

  • Avoid DIY wiring projects
  • Unplug appliances when not in use
  • Never overload a socket or overuse extension cords
  • Use proper wattage for appliances
  • Don’t ignore burning smells, charred outlets, or buzzing sounds coming from outlets or appliances

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are an essential electrical safety device in all homes. It works by shutting off your electricity whenever an area of your home exceeds the maximum number of amps needed. This is done to stop your system from overloading and potentially causing a fire.

When a circuit breaker is shutting off (or “tripping”) more than usual, it may be time to call a professional for an inspection. It’s crucial that you don’t put this off since this device is what keeps you and your family safe in the event of a dangerous electrical issue.

Contact Arnold Electric Services!

At Arnold Electric Services, we understand that electricity can be tricky to understand, but we hope this blog helped dispel some of the mystery! If you have any questions about electricity or how it affects your home, our electricians are eager to answer them. Since 2008, we have delivered high-quality Chicago electrical repairs to keep you and your family safe for many years. Contact us today!

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