Electricity. It’s something we use everyday, and is part of our daily lives. Just what is it?

Electricity is a form of energy, just like heat, light or mechanical energy.

Electricity can be found everywhere and not just in your sockets, wires and batteries.

Atoms, basic building blocks of matter consist of positively charged protons, uncharged particles called neutrons and surrounding this are negatively charged particles called electrons. In its stable form, all atoms have an equal amount of protons and electrons, but if this balance is upset by an outside force, the atom may gain or lose charge, depending on whether a proton or an electron was lost or added. In an instance when atoms lose a charge, this “free” flowing charge becomes an electric current.

The study of electricity has been around since the time of the Greeks. In fact The word "electricity" comes from the Greek Word "electron", meaning amber (a fossilized resin). When rubbed with wool cloth, the early Greeks observed that it attracted bits of materials such as pieces of straw and leaves.

Modern studies on electricity began with Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with a kite, a key and lightning. Another inventor, Thomas Edison, changed everyone’s life when he invented the electric light bulb. Nikola Tesla in turn is the pioneer of the use, generation and transmission of alternating current (AC) electricity. His inventions provided the backbone for modern use of electricity.

Measuring electricity can be tricky, because it’s something you don’t really see. We use the term watts, in honor of James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine as the basic unit of power. One watt is a minute amount of power. In fact, it takes about 750 watts to equal one horsepower. Using the metric standard, one kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is equivalent to the energy of 1,000 watts working for one hour. This is the standard unit of measurement for the amount of power generated by a power plant, and how much a home consumes in a period of time. Computing kWh’s are easy. Take the wattage of an appliance and multiply it by the number of hours used, and divide it by 1000. (i.e. 50-watt light bulb 5 hours a day = 200watts or 0.2kWh.

Below are some common terms used when we talk about electricity:


The energy used to run household appliances and industrial machinery; can produce light, sound, heat, and can serve numerous other uses.


Is the flow of electricity through a circuit, either AC or DC


Alternating Current (AC)
Is an electric current reversing its direction of flow at regular intervals. For example, it would alternate 60 times every second in 60-cycle system. This type of current is commonly found in homes.


Direct Current (DC)
Is an electric current flowing in one direction. This type of current is commonly found in industries.


Unit used in measuring intensity of flow of electricity. Symbol for it is "I".


Unit used for measuring electrical pressure or force, known as electromotive force. Symbol for it is "E" or "V".


Restricts the flow of current; unit of resistance is Ohm. The more resistance, the less current flows.


Unit of electric power, Volts x Amperes = Watts


Flow of electricity through 2 or more wires from the supply source to one or more outlets and back to the source.


Any substance capable of carrying an electric current. In the home, copper wire is usually used.


Conductors carrying the electric current or power to the load.


Material that will not permit the passage of electricity.


Circuit Breaker
Safety device used to break the flow of electricity by opening the circuit automatically in the event of overloading, or used to open or close it manually.


Safety device that cuts off electricity when the current flowing through the fuse exceeds its rated capacity.


To connect with the earth as to ground an electric wire directly to the earth or indirectly through some other conductor. Usually a green-colored wire is used for grounding the whole electrical system to the earth. A white wire is usually used to ground individual or electrical components of the whole system.


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