What is electricity?

Electricity is a form of energy that we use to power our homes and businesses. Power providers generate and transfer electricity into facilities, keeping the lights on, air conditioners cooling and computers and televisions running.

To understand electricity you should know a little about Atoms. Everything that exists is made of atoms – stars, trees, animals, us, even air and water. Atoms are made up of the nucleus at the center. The nucleus is made up of protons (+) and neutrons (-), which are attracted to each other. Balanced atoms contain an equal number of protons and neutrons. Electrons spin around the nucleus of an atom. Electricity is the movement of electrons between atoms.

How does electricity work?

Electricity works by traveling in circuits and must have a complete or closed path before the electrons can move. If the circuit is open the electrons can’t flow, which means electricity is off. When a light switch is switched on the circuit is closed and electricity can flow this turns the lights in a home or office on. Think of it like a drawbridge on a road. When it’s up you can’t cross it, when it’s down you can cross.

How does electricity get to homes/businesses?

To get to homes and businesses electricity must travel over long distances. Electricity flows along cables to a transformer.

A transformer is a device the transfers energy between two or more circuits. Transformers range in size and shape. Many can be seen on electrical poles and some are the large green boxes you sometimes see in yards or business parks. Inside are wires and circuits that take 7,200 volts of electricity and reduce it to 120/240 volts for use in homes and businesses.

Transformers are highly dangerous, IID takes precaution to make them safe on the outside; however the inside is still very dangerous and only trained professionals should ever open or be around an open one. It’s important to stay away from these boxes for your own safety. If you see an open transformer box with no one working in it notify an adult immediately.

What is an electrical conductor?

Electricity uses electrical conductors to reach its destination. Many elements work as electrical conductors these include metals like aluminum, iron, copper and liquids like water and acidic juices. Because the human body is made up of so much water we make an excellent conductor, which is what makes electricity so dangerous to us.

Electricity needs an insulator to keep it under control. Insulators can be rubber, wood or glass. This is why electrical wires are wrapped in plastic, if the plastic is damaged these should not be used. A damaged insulator means the electrical current can be released making it dangerous.

Electricity Facts

Here are some quick facts about electricity.

  • Electric current is measured in amperes (amps)
  • Electric potential energy is measured in volts.
  • When an electrical charge builds up on the surface of an object it creates static electricity.
  • Regardless of how energy is created – water, wind, geothermal, coal – they all require turbines to run generators to create electricity.
  • Lightning is a discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. Lightening bolts can travel 130,000 mile per hour and reach 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Your body even uses electricity. Your cells are contracted by electricity.
  • Electric eels can produce strong electric shocks – 500 volts.
  • There are two forms of current direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The difference is the way electrons flow. DC electrons move in a single direction…iPods, phones, flashlights use DC current to run when they are not plugged in. AC electrons change direction, they flow back and forth; this is the current.