Your lightbulb just blew out, and you’re wondering why. You decide to take a closer look at your home wiring and discover that the circuit was wired in series. If this sounds like a foreign language to you, don’t worry—you’re not alone! Series and parallel circuit configurations are two of the most important terms electrical engineers have to know, and understanding the difference in each type of circuit can be key for troubleshooting and preventing further issues.
You probably already knew that electrical circuits are necessary for any device powered by electricity. But what you may not have known is that these circuits come in two main types: series and parallel. In a series circuit, the current flows in one continuous loop from one point, through each device, and back to the other point. A parallel circuit is slightly different; the current splits off at one point and travels through each device, only rejoining itself as it reaches the end of the circuit.
The main difference between series and parallel circuits lies in the way the voltage is distributed across each part. In a series circuit, the voltage is shared among all components. So if one wattage-consuming device, such as a light bulb, takes up more power than the others, it will reduce the amount of voltage available to the other devices. If a device breaks or fails, it can cause a chain reaction and affect the other devices in the circuit. In a parallel circuit, on the other hand, all components will receive equal amounts of voltage, meaning that if one device breaks, it won’t affect the rest of the circuit.
Though series and parallel circuits can be difficult to understand initially, recognizing the difference between them is an important part of electrical engineering. Understanding the impact of one device on the rest of the circuit is essential for safely troubleshooting and repairing electrical systems. Armed with knowledge of series and parallel circuits, you’ll be better prepared to prevent electricity-related problems in your home and in any electrical system you encounter.
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