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Electricity, Energy, and Power: Understanding the Differences

Electricity 101

We rely on electricity to maintain nearly every aspect of our daily lives. When we use and make purchasing decisions about electronics and appliances, we’re deluged with the latest information on ‘energy efficiency,’ and best practices for minimizing electricity use and reducing power bills. Often co-mingling terminology (electricity, energy, power), these seemingly synonymous words are not the same.

What is electricity?

Many times when people are talking about energy, they’re really referring to electricity – typically generation and usage. A form of energy, electricity, is produced as a result of the movement of electrons. And there are two kinds: Static, like when your kid’s socks stick to his blanket when you pull laundry out of the dryer; and current, the kind supplied and accessed from the outlets in your home. Electricity is easily converted to other forms of energy, such as the light generated in a light bulb, space heater warmth, or movement (fans, blenders), making it infinitely convenient to use.

What is energy?

So where does ‘energy’ come in? Energy is the capacity to do work – essentially what makes it possible to push things around A car, a turbine, bread dough… By calculating the strength and force necessary to move an object, and the distance we need it to go, we can calculate the amount of energy we’ll need to achieve the desired outcome. There are many different measurements of energy, ranging from joules and BTUs to calories, and for today’s educational purposes the watt-hour, electrical energy’s most common unit of measurement. 1 watt of electrical power X 1 hour = 1 watt-hour of energy. Multiply that watt-hour by one thousand, and you’ve got a kilowatt-hour (kWh).

What about power?

Related to energy, but different, power measures how fast you can accomplish the necessary work (versus energy’s measure of the total quantity of work). You could haul a load of cargo with a horse and buggy, but it’s going to get there a lot faster on a tractor-trailer. The poor horse would accomplish the same amount of work, but it would take it a whole lot longer. Power is energy per unit of time – the rate of producing or consuming energy, whether it be by mechanical, solar, horsepower, or other means.

  • Electricity
    • Electron flow (current)
    • What actually flows through electrical lines and cables into electronics/appliances?
  • Energy
    • Watt-hours
    • The total amount of work done.
    • Makes change happen: Can be transferred from one object to another, or transformed from one form to another (light, heat, movement).
  • Power
    • Watts
    • How fast you can accomplish the work (the rate at which energy is transferred – energy per unit of time).
    • The energy that is produced/used by various means (mechanical, solar, horse).

Don’t have the energy to handle your home or business’s electrical needs? We’ve got the power. Contact Mr. Electric today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.

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