What Are Amps? | What Do They Tell You About Electric Current?

In the realm of electrical systems, amps play a crucial role in determining the flow of electric current and the power delivered to various devices. In this guide, I will delve into the world of amps, exploring their significance, how they relate to other electrical measurements, and their importance in our everyday lives. Whether you're a beginner or an enthusiast, this comprehensive guide on what are amps will provide you with a clear understanding of them and their role in electrical circuits .

Key Takeaways

  • Amps, or amperes, are the basic units used to measure electrical currents.
  • Amps describe the rate at which electric charges (electrons) flow through a conductor.
  • Amps, voltage, and power are interconnected aspects of an electrical system.
  • Ohm's Law establishes the relationship between amps, voltage, and resistance in an electrical circuit.
  • Proper amperage is essential for the correct operation of various electrical devices.
  • Excessive amperage in a circuit can lead to safety hazards, such as overheating and electrical fires.
  • Amps are measured using an ammeter connected in series within the circuit.
  • The water flow analogy can be used to visualize the relationship between amps, voltage, and resistance.

What Are Amps?

Amps, short for amperes, are the basic units used to measure electrical currents. They represent the rate at which electric charges, in the form of electrons, flow through a conductor. Just like water flowing through a pipe, amps describe the quantity of electric current passing through a circuit.

How Do Amps Relate to Electrical Circuits?

In an electrical circuit, the flow of electric current is analogous to water flowing through a pipe. The wire in a circuit acts as a pipe, allowing electricity to flow from one point to another. Amps determine the amount of electric current that can pass through a circuit, similar to how the diameter of a pipe affects the flow of water. A volt is the unit of electric potential difference, or the size of the force that sends the electrons through a circuit.

They all use amperage because electricity flows from one location to another using an electric circuit that has low resistance when there are no breaks in the loop. A certain length of copper wire, which is a good conductor, has a resistance of .0000017 ohms, while the same length of Sulfur, which is a very poor conductor, is much more resistant. You need a larger wire to move more current. If you have a choice, the higher voltage is best. Among other things, higher system’s voltage enables you to faster charge a 12V battery which your power inverter is connected to, for example. Just bear in mind that power inverters don't require separate wiring!

An electrical circuit schema

The Relationship Between Amps, Voltage, and Power

Amps, voltage, and power are interconnected aspects of an electrical system. Voltage is the force that pushes electric current through a circuit and is measured in Volts. Amps, on the other hand, indicate the quantity or rate of electric current flowing through the circuit. Power, measured in Watts, is the product of voltage multiplied by amperage and represents the amount of work done or energy transferred per unit of time. For example, a corded drill needs up to 1500 watts to operate.

Calculating Power Consumption of a Microwave: Amps, Volts, and Watt-Hours When Powered by an inverter

Electrical power is measured in Watts. Let's say that the rating on the face plate is 8.3 amps.  To calculate the watts, multiply 8.3 amps by the home's voltage of 120 volts. This equals 996 watts. Now, let's calculate how much power a microvawe will use in one day if you plan to power it using a 2000 Watt power inverter. If you use the microwave for 2 hours a day, then multiply the hours per day by the watts to get watt-hours per day.  So, you have 996 watts multiplied by 2 hours, which equals 1992 watt-hours per day. 

Large, energy-hungry appliances like air conditioning units, electric ranges and clothes dryers operate at 240 volts. Combined with a right generator, a powerful 5000W inverter could power all those appliances in case of a power outage at your home, while most other devices like light bulbs, TVs, computers and cell phone chargers only need 120 volts and a less powerful 1000W power inverter.

Amps, Volts, And Watt-Hours formula

Benefits Of Amps

  • Precise Measurement: Amps provide a precise measurement of electrical current, allowing for accurate assessment and analysis of electrical systems.
  • Standardized Unit: Amps are a standardized unit of measurement widely used in the field of electricity, ensuring consistency and uniformity in electrical engineering and calculations.
  • Safety Assessment: By monitoring amps in electrical circuits, it becomes easier to identify potential overloads or excessive current flow, enabling proactive safety measures and preventing electrical hazards.
  • Compatibility: Amps are compatible with various electrical devices and appliances, as they help determine the appropriate amperage requirements for proper functioning and efficient power delivery.

Disadvantages Of Amps

  • Lack of Context: Amps alone do not provide a complete picture of an electrical system. They need to be considered in conjunction with other electrical measurements, such as voltage and resistance, to fully understand and evaluate the system.
  • Incomplete Evaluation: Relying solely on amps may overlook critical aspects of an electrical system, such as voltage drop, power factor, and electrical losses, which can impact the overall performance and efficiency of the system.


What is Ohm’s Law, and how does it relate to amps?

"Ohm" is a unit of an electric circuit that is defined as the electrical resistance between two points of a conductor when a constant potential difference of one volt, applied to these points, produces in the conductor a current of one ampere, the conductor not being the seat of any electromotive  force.

Ohm's Law is a fundamental principle in electrical circuits. It states that the current flowing through a conductor is directly proportional to the voltage across it and inversely proportional to the resistance. This means that if the resistance remains constant, an increase in voltage will result in an increase in amps, and vice versa.

How do amps affect electrical devices?

Different electrical devices have specific electrical needs, often expressed in terms of amperage. When selecting a power source or circuit for an electrical device, it is crucial to ensure that the amperage provided meets the device's requirements. Insufficient amperage may lead to the device not operating properly, while excess amperage can potentially damage the device.

What happens if there is too much amperage in a circuit?

If there is an excessive amount of amperage in a circuit, it can lead to overheating, malfunctioning, or even electrical fires. To prevent such hazards, electrical circuits are designed with fuses or circuit breakers that automatically interrupt the flow of current when it exceeds safe limits.

How are amps measured in electrical systems?

Amps are measured using a device called an ammeter, which is specifically designed to measure electric current. The ammeter is connected in series within the electrical circuit, allowing it to measure the flowing current accurately.

Can you explain the water flow analogy for understanding amps?

The water flow analogy is a helpful tool to understand the concept of amps. Imagine a pipe with water flowing through it. The water pressure represents voltage, while the flow rate of water represents amps. If you increase the pressure (voltage) and keep the pipe diameter (resistance) constant, the flow rate (amps) will also increase. Similarly, decreasing the pressure will result in a decrease in the flow rate.

Ohm's Law written in the notebook

Final Thoughts on Amps watts

In conclusion, I have come to understand the fundamental concept of amps, or amperes, and its significance within the context of electrical systems, particularly the power system. By delving into the concept of amps, I now understand what electric current is and also the intricate relationship between amps, voltage, and power. Amps serve as a crucial metric for assessing the capacity and efficiency of electrical devices and circuits, allowing me to make informed decisions about their usage and ensuring the safety and optimal performance of my power system. Whether it's evaluating the electrical needs of my home, workplace, or even the broader power grid, my understanding of amps equips me with the knowledge to navigate and manage the power system effectively.

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