If you know a lot about the electricity, this post may seem like child’s play. (Hey, it is electricity 101!) But for many, the different types of circuits are something you learned about in the middle school and promptly forgot. They are one of those subjects that slowly disappear from your brain because you just do not have any use for them. It happens. If you want to wrap your head around the basics of the electricity, you need to know about the types of circuits and how they work. So let’s get started! If you could learn it in the eighth grade, you can certainly learn it now.
First off, let’s define the word circuit. A circuit is the defined as a complete and closed path around which a circulating electric current can flow. It can also mean a system of the electrical conductors and components forming such a path. Every time you flip a (functioning) switch, you are the completing a circuit and letting electrical currents do their thing.
One of the basic types of electric circuits is the power circuits. These circuits transfer and control large amounts of the electricity. If you were wondering, the other basic type of circuit is an electronic circuit, which processes and transmits information (they’re used in computers, TVs, cell phones, etc).
Types of Circuits
Closed Circuits and Open Circuits
A closed circuit has a complete path. An open circuit does not. In order for a circuit to work, it must be closed; thus, open circuits are not functional. That may be a hard idea to grasp at the first, but circuits are very different from open restaurants or open doors. When a circuit is open, the current can’t flow through.
Series Circuits and Parallel Circuits
A series circuit is a circuit in which the same current flows through all the components of the circuit. The current only has one path to take. If you’ve ever had trouble with Christmas lights, you might know the little about series circuits. If the lights are constructed in a series circuit (as many holiday lights are), when one bulb is the missing or burnt out, the current cannot flow and the lights won’t turn on. Series circuits can be very frustrating because if they do not work, you have to figure out which piece is responsible for the whole.
A parallel circuit is a circuit in which the components are arranged so that current must break up (with bits flowing across each parallel branch) before the meeting and combining again. Because the current divides, each component is assured a charge. And if one path breaks, the other paths will still work because they are not reliant on each other. (So if you’re looking for new Christmas lights, check that they are in a parallel circuit arrangement to avoid a lot of hassle.) Houses are always built with parallel circuits so that if one light burns out, your entire house won’t lose the power.
A short circuit is the circuit that allows the current to travel along an unintended path. In this way, it encounters little (or no) resistance. The piece of the circuit bypassed by the short circuit may cease to the function and a large amount of current may begin flowing. This causes the wires to heat up and can potentially cause the fire. As we’ve already discussed, circuit breakers and fuse boxes are the put in place to cut off circuits as a safety measure when a short circuit occurs. A short circuit is not, as some believe, just an electrical malfunction.