When you turn on a light switch, the light that fills your room isn’t magic – it’s energy! Electrical energy is produced by the movement of electrons along an electric current. Keep reading to learn more about how electrical energy powers your life and what examples of electrical energy you can find in the home.
There are two types of electrical energy:
- Static electricity comes from friction, like when you shuffle your feet across carpet and touch a metal door handle.
- Current electricity comes from an electrical charge traveling through a current. Current electricity powers most household appliances.
Like all forms of energy, electrical energy can’t be created – it can only be converted from and into other energy forms. Check out these uses of electrical energy and examples of ways to convert other forms of energy into electrical energy.
Electricity keeps your food cold, your house warm, and your lights on. Chances are your daily life uses electrical energy several times every hour. Here are some examples of everyday objects that use electrical energy.
- Washing machine
- Cell phone
- Air conditioning system
- Heating system
- Car battery
- Light bulb
- Cordless headphone
- Electric stove
- Vacuum cleaner
Many of these items are AC/DC (alternating current/direct current) objects, which means they receive electricity from wall outlets. Others use electricity from batteries. While these sources both produce electricity, they convert different types of energy into electrical energy.
So where does electrical energy come from? Other forms of energy, including mechanical energy (from movement), radiant energy (from light waves), sound energy (from sound waves), and thermal energy (from heat), can be converted into electrical energy to produce electricity. Some examples include:
- Electric generators (mechanical energy to electricity)
- Windmills (mechanical energy to electricity)
- Hydroelectric power plants (mechanical energy to electricity)
- Steam power plants (thermal energy to electricity)
- Nuclear power plants (thermal energy to electricity)
- Solar panels (radiant energy to electricity)
- Batteries (chemical energy to electricity)
Some of these examples are more effective or efficient than others when it comes to producing electricity. Others are safer for the environment. A challenge for the 21st century is identifying and developing sustainable energy sources that are both efficient and environmentally-friendly.
Every type of energy comes in two forms:
- Potential energy indicates that an object is storing a type of energy, ready to work. An object’s potential energy depends on its material and position.
- Kinetic energy occurs when an object is actively using energy to do work.
With electrical energy, it’s helpful to think of an on/off switch. When the switch is off, the electrical energy is stored as potential energy. When the switch is on, electrical energy is being used as kinetic energy. You can also think of a battery: when it’s not in use, it’s potential energy. When it’s powering an item, it’s kinetic energy.