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Energy CostsIN CHARLOTTEApril 21, 2022by AndrewAmps, Volts, Ohms and Watts: What Do They Mean?

Amps, volts, ohms and watts are words used a lot with electricity or power. It’s probably confusing. You just want your lights and refrigerator and so on to work. You can begin to understand these terms better and you don’t need to be a licensed electrician or an engineering major. If you know a little more about these ideas, you’ll understand stuff about your home electric system better, too.

Electrical energy in a circuit is pretty similar to water moving in a tube. Electricity is the movement of electrons through a conductor. In an electrical system, a wire is a conductor. In nature, and hopefully never your home, many other objects – including people – can be a conductor.

Since you can’t see electrons, but you can picture water pretty easily, we’ll keep talking about water and pipes in some of the explanations and descriptions.

What Are Amps?

An ampere, or amp, is a unit to measure an electric current. A current is the rate electrons move through a conductor. Amps are represented by the letter I in electrical equations. Using the water idea, an electric current is the flow rate of water through whatever it’s moving through.


Volt is a unit of measurement for electricity. Voltage is the difference in electric capacity, or the number of electrons, between two points in a circuit. V in an equation stands for volts. With the water example again, think of volts as water pressure. The difference in pressure causes water or electrons to move.


Ohms are another unit of measurement, this is for the electrical resistance in a conductor. Resistance slows the movement of electrons. R stands for ohms in an equation. Thinking of a flow of water through a pipe or hose, low resistance would be in a wide hose where water is easily running and running out. Greater resistance is a pipe that is narrow, or just narrows at the end point.


Watts is another unit of measurement. Watts is the measurement of the power transferring in a circuit. P stands for watts in an equation. Power is a little more challenging to discuss with the water and water flow example. With a water hose, you can raise the power by boosting the amount of water being put out or by boosting the pressure coming out. In an electrical system, you can boost the power by increasing the current or by raising the voltage.

Bringing It All Together

It’s important to understand these terms on their own, however the actual fun is when we learn about amps, volts and watts together to better understand electricity.

Voltage, Amps and Resistance

Ohm’s Law is about the relationship of voltage, current and resistance, or volts, amps and ohms. It’s represented by the equation:

V = I * R

Volts = Amps (multiplied by) Ohms 

If you keep resistance the same while raising the voltage, the current must increase. If resistance goes up while the voltage is the same, the current in a circuit decreases. Resistance works in opposition to voltage, slowing down electrons.

Watts, Amps and Voltage

To combine watts (power), amps (current) and volts (voltage), we require one more easy formula.

Looking back at our example of water streaming through a hose, we can currently see exactly how power is straight related to present and voltage utilizing this equation.

For instance, imagine you’re using the hose to move a water wheel. The faster the wheel rotates, the more power is produced.

If the hose diameter remains the same, we can make the wheel rotate faster by two methods. The first is to increase the circulation pace, which will need extra water and weight hitting the wheel. The second way is to raise the water pressure so the water is hitting the wheel with more pressure, forcing it to turn faster.

In our example, the water flow rate is the electric current and the water pressure is equal to the voltage. As the formula goes, if you raise either the current or the voltage, your power output will go up.

How Does a Current Flow in a Circuit?

A AA battery, which is a type of a voltage source, powers a light bulb. Electric current initially comes from the top of the battery, with a wire and the light bulb and after that it returns through the bottom cable. So it constantly flows in a loop and two wires are needed to connect the voltage source to make it a circuit.

We can represent this circuit in a simple fashion using a schematic or circuit diagram. A voltage source V will force a current I around the circuit through the light bulb whose resistance is R.

In other instances or uses, the R could be an electric home appliance such as a heating system, LED bulb, motor or part in an electronic circuit. The lines linking up with the energy source to the resistance would be the wires inside an appliance or device, or the components on a motherboard.


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