How Electricity Works

9 Oct 2014
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You turn your light switches on and off, you plug in your kettle or your cell phone charger and you never really stop to think, how does this electricity thing really work?
Chart showing how electricity flows

You turn your light switches on and off, you plug in your kettle or your cell phone charger and you never really stop to think, how does this electricity thing really work? We Trinis think the only thing we need to know about electricity is, “It could shock yuh, so let T&TEC deal with that!” but there is so much more to know about the 19th century discovery that basically changed the entire world!  To think of electricity in simple terms, you can think of it as functioning in the same way that your home plumbing system does.  Electricity flows through wires much in the same way that water flows through pipes. In plumbing, water first flows through and enters your home through what is called, a pressurized water supply system. Electricity reacts in the same way, entering with pressurized current flowing along hot wires. This pressure of the electrical current is what is referred to as voltage.  I know you’re thinking, I heard that term before.  Have you ever noticed that not all the wires in your house are the same size? Well if you have, the reason for that is because large electrical wires carry more current, just like when WASA lays those large supply pipes to facilitate a greater volume of water. The current-carrying capacity of wires is called amperage. And I know you’ve also heard that term somewhere before as well! When you turn on your faucets or showerheads, water is available to you. Electricity is made available to you in the same way, only it comes through receptacles, switches and fixtures.  Water eventually exits your home through a drain system, which is not pressurized and electricity exits in the same fashion through neutral wires. The unpressurized neutral wires are said to be at zero voltage.