Electricity is everywhere, and it is all around us. From lighting and heating or cooling our homes to powering up our computers, televisions, and other home appliances – we use electricity every day to do many functions for us. Despite being so valuable in our daily lives, most of us rarely stop to think what the world would be like without electricity and we tend to take it for granted.
So, What Exactly Is Electricity
Electricity is a form of energy. In its simplest definition, it is the flow of electrons. Matter is composed of atoms, and an atom has a center, called a nucleus. The nucleus consists of protons or positively charged particles and neutrons or the uncharged particles.
The nucleus of an atom is surrounded by negatively charged particles referred to as electrons. The negative charge of an electron is equivalent to the positive charge of a proton, and the number of electrons in an atom is typically equivalent to the number of protons.
An atom may gain or lose an electron when the balancing force between protons and electrons is disturbed by an external force. When an atom loses electrons, the free movement of these electrons makes up an electric current.
Electricity is a natural phenomenon that occurs throughout nature and is a controllable and convenient form of energy. Electricity takes many different forms and is the most versatile energy source that we have.
How Is Electricity Produced?
Electricity starts with one of the three main types of fuel as follows:
- Fossil fuel (Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas)
- Nuclear Power
- Renewable alternatives (Wind, Solar, and Hydropower)
Depending on the fuel, either steam or fluid is produced that moves a turbine, which turns a magnet in a generator. This movement causes electrons to run, which in turn generates electricity.
Once the generator produces the electric current, it is transported to the transformers, via thick power lines, which amplify the voltage. This high-voltage electricity is then carried to the power grid.
When the current reached the power grid, power is distributed to the different substations. During this process, the voltage of the current is reduced making it suitable for use in large industries such as the manufacturing factories.
For electricity to complete its journey to your home, it is distributed to local transformers via the power lines, which are either mounted or buried. At this point, local transformers further reduce the voltage of the current to make it safer for household use.
Finally, when electricity arrives in your home, and you flip that switch or button on, you have completed the circuit. Thus, current will flow throughout the circuit system in your home.
Electricity is measured in units of power called Watts, named after James Watt, a Scottish mechanical engineer famous for making improvements in the steam engine technology. One watt, denoted by the symbol ‘W,’ is defined as the energy consumption rate of one joule per second.
Our appliances require varying amount of Watts to operate. Some devices may require only a few Watts and other devices will require more substantial amounts. The power consumption of small electronic devices is usually measured in Watts, while the power consumption of larger devices is measured in kilowatts (kW). 1 kW is equal to 1,000 Watts.
Aside from watts, other main units used in measuring electricity are amps, volts, and ohms. Current is measured in amps (A), voltage is measured in volts (V), and resistance is measured in ohms (Ω).
Ampere is a unit of measure of the rate of current or electron flow in an electrical conductor. Volt is the unit of electric potential difference or the size of the force that sends the electrons through an electric circuit. Ohm is used to measure the electrical resistance of a material or an electronic device.