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Series and Parallel Circuits

Differences between single loop and multiple loop circuits through which current can flow.

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So Many Circuits

So Many Circuits!

Credit: Julian Colton
Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christmas_lights_strung_on_snow-covered_fence.JPG
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

These old holiday lights are connected in a series circuit. If one bulb burns out, they all go out. Parallel circuits avoid this problem. Many people think that modern circuits are all parallel circuits. Surprisingly, we still use series circuits as well.

The Back Story

  • Most modern circuits are a combination of many smaller circuits, both series and parallel. While most of your home is wired with parallel circuits, series circuits are also used.
  • Credit: Mark, Vicki, Ellaura and Mason
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brown_family_album/4607229186/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Almost all modern electronics make use of circuit boards which allow multiple circuits to be used together [Figure2]

  • Watch this video to see how a home electrical system is wired:


Can You Apply It?

Learn more about series and parallel circuits at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. Compare and contrast series and parallel circuits.
  2. Why is it important that home circuits are wired with parallel circuits?
  3. What is a circuit breaker? Where are circuit breakers located? What is the function of a circuit breaker?
  4. Do you think a circuit breaker is wired in series or parallel? Why?
  5. A ceiling light is generally controlled by a switch on a wall. Do you think the switch is wired in series or parallel with the light it controls? Why?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Julian Colton; Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christmas_lights_strung_on_snow-covered_fence.JPG; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Mark, Vicki, Ellaura and Mason; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brown_family_album/4607229186/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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