If your a DIY person or just want to be a bit more up with the lingo when your local sparky drops by you might want to know some of the basic electrical terms and concepts that they may use. Below are some of the key terms that you may want or need to know next time you have an electrical issue.

Alternating Current (AC) — An electric current that reverses its direction many times a second at regular intervals.

Capacitor — A device used to store an electric charge, consisting of one or more pairs of conductors separated by an insulator. Commonly used for filtering out voltage spikes.

Circuit — A closed path in which electrons from a voltage or current source flow. Circuits can be in series, parallel, or in any combination of the two.

Circuit Breaker — An automatic device for stopping the flow of current in an electric circuit. To restore service, the circuit breaker must be reset (closed) after correcting the cause of the overload or failure. Circuit breakers are used in conjunction with protective relays to protect circuits from faults.

Conductor — Any material where electric current can flow freely. Conductive materials, such as metals, have a relatively low resistance. Copper and aluminium wire are the most common conductors.

Current (I) — The flow of an electric charge through a conductor. An electric current can be compared to the flow of water in a pipe. Measured in amperes.

Direct Current (DC) — An electric current that flows in only one direction.

Frequency — The number of cycles per second. Measured in Hertz. If a current completes one cycle per second, then the frequency is 1 Hz; 60 cycles per second equals 60 Hz.

Fuse — A circuit interrupting device consisting of a strip of wire that melts and breaks an electric circuit if the current exceeds a safe level. To restore service, the fuse must be replaced using a similar fuse with the same size and rating after correcting the cause of failure.

Generator — A device which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Ground — The reference point in an electrical circuit from which voltages are measured, a common return path for electric current, or a direct physical connection to the Earth.

Hertz — A unit of measure for frequency. Replacing the earlier term of the cycle per second (cps).

Inductor — A coil of wire wrapped around an iron core. The inductance is directly proportional to the number of turns in the coil.

Insulator — Any material where electric current does not flow freely. Insulative materials, such as glass, rubber, air, and many plastics have a relatively high resistance. Insulators protect equipment and life from electric shock.

Inverter — An apparatus that converts direct current into alternating current.

Kilowatt (kW) — Equal to 1000 watts.

Open Circuit — An open or open circuit occurs when a circuit is broken, such as by a broken wire or open switch, interrupting the flow of current through the circuit. It is analogous to a closed valve in a water system.

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