Electricity Basics

The average person uses a lot of electricity in the many things they do every day. We are used to being able to turn on a light, watch the television, use our mobile devices, and stream music or videos. Because electricity is so much a part of our lives, we should know something about it.

Electricity is the flow of electrons from one place to another. When the electrons flow, they carry energy and this is called “current electricity” or “electric current.”

Even though a lightning bolt may only last a really short time, it’s an example of an electric current. Other electric currents last longer, and these can be everything from a laptop to a washing machine.


When we talk about energy, scientists use two terms to describe the types. There is “potential energy” that is energy stored for use in the future. Another word for potential energy might be “ability,” because it has the ability to use that energy.

A scooter that is sitting on a hilltop has potential energy since it has the ability to roll down the hill. The second term used when we talk about energy is “kinetic energy.” This is energy that is moving. When the scooter rolls down the hill the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy.

Current electricity and static electricity are similar to kinetic and potential energy. When the energy from electricity gathers in a location it then has the “potential” to do be used in the future. An example of potential electrical energy is a battery.

It has electricity stored that can be used when switched on to power a flashlight or other object.

When you turn the flashlight on the battery that’s inside supplies the electrical energy needed to give power to the lamp, and the flow of energy continues until you turn it off. The energy in the battery slowly turns into light as well as heat and eventually drains the battery.


Essential things to know

There are important terms and ideas that you need to be familiar with on the topic of electricity.

  • Conductorsare materials and elements that allow the flow of electricity to easily happen. Most metals are thought to be good conductors, and this is why you see metals used for electrical wiring. An example of a common wiring metal is copper.
  • Insulatorsare materials and elements that are the keep electricity from flowing. They are extremely important as they act as protection against the dangers of electricity. Examples of good insulators include plastic, rubber, and paper.
  • Voltageis a word used for the force of electricity that causes the flow of electrons. It’s the measurement of the potential difference between the points in a circuit. Voltage can be really huge such as the voltage from a power plant, or smaller such as the voltage from a battery.
  • Currentis the measurement of the electrons flowing within a circuit, and is measured in Amperes or “Amps.”
  • Wattsis the energy or power that is used by a circuit. Watts is how the power is measured and is figured out by multiplying the “voltage” times the “current.” The average electric bill for a home is charged by “kilowatt hours,” and this is the amount of time used over time which is usually for the previous month.
  • Resistanceis a measurement of how an object or material conducts electricity. You can compare the idea of resistance to a kind of pushing back. Low resistance means that a material conducts electricity well, while high resistance pushes back and doesn’t let the electricity conduct well.



We use batteries in many of the devices that we rely on every day. A battery can be an electricity source for circuits.

The battery stores us the electric power and then when accessed or turned on, it gives the voltage needed across the circuit so that the power flows through the circuit from one point to another.

Chemicals are used in batteries so that they react to make electricity. An “anode” is the positive connection and the “cathode” is the negative connection.

The chemicals react when a circuit with a load is placed across the cathode and anode and the reaction causes electricity to flow through the circuit. A battery’s chemicals have a limited lifespan and they eventually run out.

Fun Facts about Electricity Basics

  • Our heart relies on the natural electricity that runs through our bodies and contract using that electricity.
  • Electricity travels at a speed of 6,696,000 mph
  • The average bolt of lightning is 100 million volts
  • Electric eels make shocks that are 500 volts or more


What is electricity?
the flow of electrons from one place to another

What are the positive and negative connections in a battery called?
anode and cathode

Why are electrical insulators important?
they stop the flow of electricity and protect us from the dangers of electricity

What is potential energy?
energy that is stored for use in the future

What is electrical resistance?
a measurement of how an object or material conducts electricity