Electricity is something we all use everyday. We use it to power our devices, watch TV, and turn on our lights. Common household appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators, and electric stoves all rely on some level of juice to keep going. Yet most of us go through life using electricity without thought as to how it works. But electricity isn’t as complex as it sounds. All it takes is a little terminology.


Also known as an ampere meter, an ammeter measures the amount of amperes used in an electrical current in a circuit. You can connect the ammeter directly to the circuit to measure a current directly. For added security, most ammeters come with low-resistance technology. This adds greater protection against sudden voltage drops, which interfere with accurate current measures.

Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers are the brains behind electrical use inside your home. Circuit breakers guide and direct power throughout your home. They offer protection against sudden power surges that cause house fires. When you use an overload of electricity, the breaker protects your home by tripping. You can easily reset it by flipping every switch on and off.

A 120-volt circuit breaker is typically rated at 15-20 amps and can handle most basic operations. Circuit breakers that handle larger loads are known as double pole breakers and have ratings of 20-60 amps. They’re best when paired with homes that use larger appliances at 240 volts.

Service Panel

A service panel is the intermediary between the transformer and your home. The connection is through a series of wires that are connected between the transformer and a private residence. Electricity goes through these wires and is distributed through to each circuit through hot wires connected to the back of the box. It’s different than a circuit breaker box because it can handle more amperes.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the electrical equipment, let’s look at a few common terms used to describe how electricity really works.

Alternating Current

Since it’s inception at Niagara Falls in 1885, alternating current has been the electrical standard in North America and abroad. It is one of the most widely used electrical terms because it describes the way a current flows. Alternating current is the flow of electrons where an electrical current reverses direction during use. An alternating current comes straight from the transformer and into homes and businesses within a specific region. Electricity is transmitted using high voltage. As a safety measure, the high voltage transforms the current to a low voltage. This keeps it safe for private and commercial use.


Ampere is the electrical version of “gallons per minute.” An accurate description of an ampere is the amount of current flow that’s met with ohm resistance. A single volt of electrical pressure meets one ohm of resistance. It measures electron flow through a conductor and into your home. It’s the unit of measurement of electron flow in a conductor, where one volt going through the resistance of a single ohm produces the current known as an ampere.

Why are amperes so important? First, let’s look at circuit breaker boxes for a moment. Let’s say that you’ve just installed a brand new washer and dryer. You use both at the same time to get two loads of laundry done. While you’re running both machines, you have your TV playing and the computer going. Suddenly, everything stops. Your lights go out along with your TV, computer, and new appliances. Resetting the breaker is a good temporary fix, but in the long run, you may want to consider the load that your circuit breaker can handle. A better solution would be an upgrade to a circuit panel with higher amperage.

Ampere measurement determines the speed and strength of a current. Circuit breakers with higher amperage are more capable of handling greater electrical loads than those with low amperage. The higher the amps, the greater the power. More amps are needed to power newer appliances and electronics.


Current is the movement, in amperes, of electricity flow. It is highly dynamic in that it is the actual movement of an electrical charge. A current is best described as the way electricity flows along a conductor and through a wire for personal use. In layman’s terms, current is how you power up anything that uses electricity.

Some examples of a current are turning on your laptop, starting an engine, or charging your mobile device. It’s a lot like giving yourself that first cup of coffee in the morning to get going.


Ohm is an electrical term that means “resistance.” It’s like having brakes in your car because it ensures an even flow of electricity that’s safe. When resistance decreases, current increases. On the flip side, when resistance increases, current decreases. An ohm serves as a moderator that keeps electricity at the correct flow.

In electricity, resistance can be a good thing. It helps protect you from electric shock by keeping a current under control. It staunches current flow well enough to guard against electric shock, electric fires, and appliance damage. It’s like using brakes on a vehicle to prevent a collision.


Volt is the amount of pressure applied to a current flow within a circuit. Electricity flow happens when one volt is applied to one ampere. When this happens, the ampere moves through and is met with resistance from the ohm, which limits the flow. This is how electricity is moderated for safe use.

The best way to describe a volt is pressure. An analogy of two points in a system paints a clearer picture. The level of energy carried by a charging unit moves between points A and B using a battery as a power source. Voltage acts in a loop between these two points as the pressure from a power source. Charged electrons are pushed through a conducting loop in a direct current to power portable devices such as flashlights and battery-powered radios. The current runs through the loop and returns straight to the power source, or battery.

Voltage acts differently in alternating currents where an electrical source is used instead of a battery. When you plug in an appliance and use it, the electrical flow runs in a consistent wave rather than a cyclical loop. It’s what helps you use major home appliances.


Do you want to know the amount of electricity a new appliance requires to run? Measure that potential in watts. Wattage refers to the rate or speed of power flow, where an amp travels through a single volt as a power source. The amount of electricity in watts is summarized in the following equation: W = V x A, where V = volts and A = amperes.

For example, let’s say you just bought a brand new appliance for your home. You want to learn as much as you can about your new product, including the amount of electricity needed to use it. The appliance uses 3 amps and 110 volts. Let’s substitute these values into the formula:

W = 110V x 3A
W = 330
You need 330 watts to run your new appliance efficiently.

Contact the Pros

At Potts Electric in Ellisville, we understand how electricity works. You can count on us for our knowledge, expertise, and professionalism. We offer services in electrical panel repair and installation, home wiring, and more. To learn more about home electrical repair and installation, call Potts Electric today.

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