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A couple more basic electricity questions sorry

#1
01-17-17, 10:27 PM
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A couple more basic electricity questions sorry

So I'm wondering something.

When nothing is drawing a LOAD (is that the correct terminology?) on a circuit is there electricity in the circuit or is it waiting at the panel and then comes rushing out? lol sorry.

So, if it's flowing through the circuit at all times, how come my electric bill doesn't go up if I didn't power anything?

In an outlet I would assume that electricity also has to flow through the outlet at all times to power things on down the circuit.

So inside the outlet receptacle the neutral and hot sides are always connected and there's electricity flowing through from black to white or vice versa?

Another thing I'm trying to figure out is - Is an outlet basically a switch, where if something is not connected it's not a complete circuit?

Then if that's the case, if I have an outlet downstream of that outlet, how does power get to the downstream outlet if the one upstream from it is not "switched" on by having something plugged into it?

#2
01-17-17, 10:35 PM
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So, if it's flowing through the circuit at all times, how come my electric bill doesn't go up if I didn't power anything?
If there is no load there is no flow.

#3
01-17-17, 10:50 PM
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If there is no load there is no flow.
Oh ok, so LOAD is a "completed circuit"?

So I'm going to assume that electricity has the ability to flow across an "outlet receptacle" with nothing plugged into it of course.

So electricity also has the ability to flow through a light receptacle when something is upstream of it also.

#4
01-17-17, 11:20 PM
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So I'm going to assume that electricity has the ability to flow across an "outlet receptacle" with nothing plugged into it of course.
Cmon now Brian.

Electricity needs a complete circuit to flow.
If nothing is plugged into a receptacle.....there is NO flow.
If there is no bulb in the socket.... there is NO flow.

#5
01-18-17, 01:15 AM
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Cmon now Brian.

Electricity needs a complete circuit to flow.
If nothing is plugged into a receptacle.....there is NO flow.
If there is no bulb in the socket.... there is NO flow.
Thanks. What I mean is if there are two outlets and one is upstream from the other and then you plug something into the upstream one. In this case doesn't electricity flow through the outlet downstream of the plugged in outlet to reach the one upstream? How else could it get there?

#6
01-18-17, 09:21 AM
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Electricity flows TO each SIDE of the receptacle, but not ACROSS the receptacle. The black wire (the "hot") goes to one side of the receptacle, with the brass screws, and the white wire (the "neutral") goes to the other side, with the silver screws. There is no connection between the two within the receptacle.

If the receptacle is wired to the house wiring with a pigtail, it's basically a short extension off of the "primary" wiring for the circuit. If the receptacles are daisy-chained together, the wiring "comes in" at the top screw on the side of the receptacle and "leaves" to the next receptacle in the chain by the bottom screw. It passes along the outside of the receptacle, but not through the middle where you plug things in. That's why the little tab is there for switched receptacles, so that one half doesn't pass power to the other half. If you break that tab, there's no continuity between the top and bottom halves, and you can't daisy chain those receptacles together.

When you place a plug into the receptacle, you are essentially extending the hot and neutral to the device using the device's cord. The hot side prong on the plug connects to the hot side home wiring within the receptacle, and the same with the neutral side. The only place they "meet" is at the device itself, where the electricity is used to create light, heat, motion, etc.

Remember, the hot and neutral are ALWAYS separate until they come together in a device -- whatever device that may be -- a night light, a space heater, whatever. If they came together anywhere else, you'd have a short and trip the breaker.

A switched light is different in that the light is screwed in or wired up all the time. If you had a screw-in light bulb, and no switch -- as soon as you screw in the bulb, it completes the circuit and comes on. But that's not practical, so a switch is used to break the circuit at a location that's more accessible -- on a wall, for example.

Does this make sense, or would some diagrams help?

#7
01-18-17, 09:47 AM
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It depends on how the circuit was installed, but if the electrician used the feed-through screws or stabs built in to the receptacle, then yes current flows through the screws and tabs on downstream receptacles. If the electrician used wirenuts and pigtails to extend the circuit, then no current would flow through downstream receptacles as it would be going through the wirenut connections instead.

#8
01-18-17, 09:49 AM
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SuperSquirrel THANKS!! That was PERFECT and cleared it all up for me!

#9
01-18-17, 04:43 PM
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Load can stand for the total amperes flowing in a given wire at a given time. Now, electricity requires a complete circuit (out and back if you insist) so, in a simple 120 volt circuit, when there are X amperes flowing on a hot wire there will also be X amperes flowing on a neutral wire.

Load (singular) can also stand for the sum total of lights, appliances, etc. drawing power at a given time.

Loads (plural) can stand for the individual lights, appliances, etc. drawing power at a given time.

Loads (plural) is more often used when referring to multiple circuits or combination circuits such as 120/240 volt circuits. In the latter case the calculations are more complex for example X amps on one hot wire, Y amps on another hot wire and the difference on the neutral.