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What's the difference between amps, watts and volts?

Science Concept: Volts, Watts, and Amps

Electricity is measured in terms of amperage, voltage, and
wattage. Amperage (amps for short) is a measure of the
AMOUNT of electricity used. Voltage (volts) measures the
pressure, or FORCE, of electricity. The amps multiplied by
the volts gives you the wattage (watts), a measure of the
WORK that electricity does per second.
Think of it this way: Electricity flowing through a wire is like water flowing through a
garden hose. The amount of water that can fit through the hose depends on the
diameter of the hose (amps). The pressure of the water depends on how far open
the faucet is (volts). The amount of work that can be done (watts) depends on both
the amount and the pressure of the water (volts x amps = watts).

Voltage is like the pressure in a garden hose with a hand operated spray nozzle at
the end.

Even when the nozzle is turned off there's still pressure in the garden hose. Even when a
light is switched off there's still voltage in the energized portion of the circuit.

Current is like the rate of flow of water in the garden hose, say how many gallons
per minute are moving in the hose. When the nozzle is turned off, there's still
pressurized water in the hose, but there's no flow.
When a light is turned off the electrons are still in the wire, but they aren't flowing -there's no current.
Power is like the product of pressure and flow rate. If you were spraying the water
into a bucket, it's like a measure of how quickly the bucket is filling up.
If you have a big hose with lower pressure, or a small hose with high pressure, you may
have the bucket filling at the same rate (if the numbers are right).
Electrical power is the product of voltage and current, and it's measured in

You could have a light bulb operating at 50 volts and 2 amps of current...
50 volts x 2 amps = 100 watts

You could have another light bulb operating at 25 volts and 4 amps of current.
25 volts x 4 amps = 100 watts
Even though the light bulbs have slightly different construction and are hooked to
different energy supplies, both would be burning 100 watts of power, and both would
have the same brightness.
Volts times Amps equals Watts.

Your UK electric heater:

240v x 10A = 2400W

Your US electric heater:

120v x 20A = 2400w

These heaters have the same output heat. The electricity does the same amount of work.

Volts: the difference between the two sides of a circuit. Big difference = big volts.
Electricity at a high voltage will be pushed cross great air gaps. 'Static' electric charges
are an example of this: they jump, but they won't kill you ordinarily. High voltage, low
watts (milliwatts).

Watts: Basic units of 'work' or effort.

Steam engines and Lance Armstrong's legs (~525w) can be measured in watts or
kilowatts; it doesn't have to be electricity.

An example from my experience: High voltage neon transformers produce 12,000 volts
at 30 milliamps; 360 watts. A fairly bright light output.
This will create a spark that will stretch to an inch or three once started.
Compare your lower voltage household 360 watt light bulb. A fairly bright light, again.
The electricity powering the light bulb would barely spark across a quarter of an inch.
Same power, less push.

Amperes (Amps): A relative measure of quantity.

Voltage is defined as the difference in energy required per unit charge to make the
charge move across two points in a circuit. Or, more formally:

, (measured in Volts)
Current is defined as the rate at which charge flows through a point, or again:

, (measured in Amperes)
Multiplying voltage with current and substituting with the above expressions, dq is
eliminated and you get

which by definition is the power P, or the rate at which energy is consumed or generated,
which is measured in Watts.

Apparent power

Apparent power is a measure of alternating current (AC) power that is

computed by multiplying the root-mean-square (rms) current by the rootmean-square voltage. In a direct current (DC) circuit, or in an AC circuit
whose impedance is a pure resistance, the voltage and current are in
phase, and the following formula holds:
P = ErmsIrms
where P is the power in watts, Erms is the root-mean-square (rms) voltage in
volts, and Irms is the rms current in amperes. But in an AC circuit whose
impedance consists of reactance as well as resistance, the voltage and
current are not in phase. This complicates the determination of power.
In an AC circuit, the product of the rms voltage and the rms current is
called apparent power. When the impedance is a pure resistance, the
apparent power is the same as thetrue power. But when reactance exists,
the apparent power is greater than the true power. The vector difference
between the apparent and true power is called reactive power.
If Pa represents the apparent power in a complex AC circuit, Pt represents
the true power, and Pr represents the reactive power, then the following
equation holds:
Pa2 = Pt2 + Pr2

Current is a flow of electrical charge carriers, usually electrons or
electron-deficient atoms.

DC (direct current)
DC (direct current) is the unidirectional flow or movement of electric
charge carriers (which are usually electrons). The intensity of
the current can vary with time, but the general direction of movement
stays the same at all times. As an adjective, the term DC is used in
reference to voltage whose polarity never reverses.
In a DC circuit, electrons emerge from the negative, or minus, pole and
move towards the positive, or plus, pole. Nevertheless, physicists define
DC as traveling from plus to minus.

Alternating current (AC)

In electricity, alternating current (AC) occurs when charge carriers in a conductor
orsemiconductor periodically reverse their direction of movement. Household
utility current in most countries is AC with a frequency of 60 hertz (60 complete
cycles per second), although in some countries it is 50 Hz. The radio-frequency
(RF) current in antennas and transmission lines is another example of AC.


Coulomb per second
Electric current is the flow of electric charge. The SI unit of electric current is the ampere (A), which is equal to a
flow of one coulomb of charge per second