When people start talking about power, all sorts of phrases like watts and volts get thrown around. What do these measurements actually mean? Being able to understand various power measurements can help you make smart decisions for your electrical needs.
Amp stands for ampere, which is one of the most common ways of measuring the electrical current. Amps essentially measure just how quickly electricity is flowing through a wire or other device. To get a little more technical, a single amp is defined as the level of current that would produce a force equal to 2×10^-7 newtons per meter of length. You can usually calculate amperage just by taking the number of watts you are working with and dividing by the number of volts.
In a residential setting, amperage is mostly used to ensure that power is being routed through wires, fuses, and circuits that can handle the force of the amp. Sending too many amps through a wire only rated for fewer amps can lead to overheating, fires, and broken fuses. The typical homeowner will not need to work with amps frequently, but any electrician will.
Most people are a little more familiar with watts because light bulbs often use this measurement. Watts directly measure the power that the rate of energy flows at. Think of it as being like a "miles per hour" measurement. One watt is equivalent to the amount of electricity that flows at the rate of a single joule per second. In an electrical system, you can calculate watts by multiplying the voltage by the amps.
A watt measurement tells you just how much energy is needed to run an item. For example, a 60-watt lightbulb is a bulb that will use electricity at a rate of 60 watts. Understanding the wattage of a device is important because it ensures that the proper amount of power is being supplied. Using too much wattage for your light bulb will draw too much power through the system, potentially melting the socket. At the same time, hooking up too many high-watt items to a low watt generator may keep them from working.
Volts measure the voltage of an electrical system. Basically, voltage is the pressure from a power source as it pushes electrons through the conducting loop. It is technically defined as the amount of work needed per unit of charge when moving a test charge between two different points in a system. Voltage often gets confused with wattage. The main thing to keep in mind is that voltage is more about the input of power into a system while watts are about the level of power output from a system.
Volts are often used when discussing batteries and other similar items. You see it in car appliances, phone chargers, and all sorts of other electronics. Using improperly rated voltage can greatly damage an item. If the input voltage is lower than a device needs, then you may notice that the device cannot work. When input voltage is higher than a device's limits, it can lead to electrical burnout.
Ohms are not used as frequently as the other three measurements. However, they do show up occasionally, so it is still a good idea to understand them. Ohms are the amount of resistance in an electrical system. Think of any electrical system like a hose. Amps are the flow rate for the water, voltage is the water pressure, and watts are the amount of power you could get from running the water over a waterwheel. In this analogy, ohms would be the hose itself.
Essentially, ohms dictate just how much electricity is let through a system. Higher ohms mean less electricity is flowing while lower ohm ratings allow more electricity through. A high ohm rating on a device means that it usually runs more powerfully but drains batteries more quickly.
Do you have more questions about how power measurements really work? At Lightning Services in Metairie, we're always happy to help our customers learn more about electrical systems. Over the years, we have expanded our business to provide a variety of heating, cooling, electrical, and home comfort services to Metairie residents. You can use us for all sorts of repairs, installations, and maintenance. To learn more about all our helpful services, go ahead and give us a call now.