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Electricity is the most widely used form of energy. Its uses range from the miniature batteries that operate your wristwatch to huge motors that power trains and ships. Electricity operates our lights, runs our refrigerators and powers motors. It first must be changed to other forms of energy such as heat, light or mechanical to be useful. You can't see electricity but you can see what it does like when you turn on a light. WANT TO PLAY A GAME???????

Atoms make up all things. You can't see atoms because they're so tiny but you can imagine what they look like. Each atom is made up of PROTONS, NEUTRONS and ELECTRONS. Protons have a positive (+) charge, electrons have a negative (-) charge and neutrons have no charge. The protons and neutrons make up the NUCLEUS or center of the atom. The electrons circle around the nucleus like the planets orbit around the sun.

If an atom has the same number of protons and electrons it is balanced and has a neutral charge. When an electron gets knocked out of its orbit then it is called a free electron. This means the atom has a positive charge. The free electrons then may join another balanced atom giving it a negative charge. Atoms with the same charge move away from each other. But atoms with different charges attract each other.

The free electrons may be attracted to atoms where there is an electron missing. When this happens continuously, the jumping of the electrons makes electrical energy we call current. When you touch a doorknob after you shuffle across the carpet, you feel a shock or static electricity. Your movement across the carpet causes you to lose some electrons. They start jumping around from one to another and you feel a shock when you make contact with the doorknob.


To understand how to use electricity, understand how we measure it!

Voltage is the electric force that causes the free electrons to move from one atom to another.

Just like water needs pressure to force it through a hose, electrical current needs some force to make it flow. A volt is the measure of electric pressure. Voltage is usually supplied by a battery or a generator.

The scientific symbol for voltage is the letter "E" dating back to the early days of electricity when it was called "Electromotive Force." Electricians and wiring books use the letter "V", for Volts. Current is electricity in motion. It measures the amount of electrons that can flow through a material like a conductor. Electrical current is measured in amperes or "amps" for short. Amperes is like the amount of water flowing through a hose in a certain amount of time or the amount of electricity flowing through a wire. The scientific symbol for amps is the letter "I".

When current flows through a conductor it creates heat because of resistance. Resistance is how tight the material is holding the electrons. You may notice that a cord from an appliance may feel warm after running for a long time. That is the amperage flowing in the circuit. The more amps moving the more heat is produced. When a wire carries too many amps for its size, it becomes "overloaded" and the insulation can melt and cause a fire or can shock you if you touch it. That's why it is important to have the correct wire size. For example, use a heavy enough extension cord so it doesn't get real warm when you use it.

Smaller and shorter wires have more resistance than wider and longer wires because the current has a "tighter" space to move through.

The measurement of resistance is called ohms, and the scientific symbol is the letter "R".


Conductors and Insulators

Conductors are made of materials that electricity can flow through easily.
These materials are made up of atoms whose electrons can move away freely.

Some examples of conductors are:

  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Water
  • People and Animals
  • Trees

Insulators are materials opposite of conductors. The atoms are not easily freed and are stable, preventing or blocking the flow of electricity.

Some examples of insulators are:

  • Glass
  • Porcelain
  • Plastic
  • Rubber

Electricity will always take the shortest path to the ground. Your body is 60% water and that makes you a good conductor of electricity. If a power line has fallen on a tree and you touch the tree you become the path or conductor to the ground and could get electrocuted.

The rubber or plastic on an electrical cord provides an insulator for the wires. By covering the wires, the electricity cannot go through the rubber and is forced to follow the path on the aluminum or copper wires.


BASICSAlternative Energy

Alternative Energy comes from resources like the sun (solar), the earth (geothermal), the wind (wind power), wood, agricultural crops and animal waste (biomass), landfill or methane gasses (biogas), and other sources like fuel cells. These resources are abundant and are renewable fuels. By using alternative fuel sources we can conserve our non-renewable fuel sources like natural gas and oil. By doing this we can be more energy efficient in producing electricity and heat while protecting our environment.