Although there are a lot of other complex circuits constructed from various designs and installation purposes to suit specific electrical requirements, all of them are based from a combination of these two basic wiring principle.
The best way to understand the difference between the two is that, in a series circuit, a broken or open component in any one of the devices connected in series will result in an incomplete or open circuit. Whereas in a parallel circuit, any broken device connected in parallel will not break the circuit.
With a series connected circuit, each electrical component are successively connected one after the other in sequential order as shown in Fig.1. The absence of branches in the circuit causes the current to flow through only one straight path starting from the power source to the load.
Since each connected load are known to possess some form of resistance, then the more the load connected in series order will result in higher resistance in the flow of current to the succeeding load in the circuit.
|Fig.1 Typical Series Connected Circuit|
Fig.1 shows two resistors R1 and R2 seriesly connected between the power supply and the lamp. The sum total of these two resistors acting on the circuit depletes the amount of current going to the lamp, resulting in a poorly illuminated lamp. Whereas if we are to remove R2 and leave only R1 connected in the circuit, then more current could flow since R1 is the only resistor that is getting in the way of the current to flow freely between the power supply and the lamp.
With parallel connection, the circuit is constructed in a manner so that the connected loads are arranged across each other to form a branching of circuit. Unobstructed flow of current is established through this type of circuit, and equal amount of voltage is supplied to each load in the branch.
|Fig.2 Typical Parallel Connected Circuit|
Parallel connection is done by connecting the consecutive load between two points across the preceding load as shown in Fig.2, hence there is no reduction or restriction on the flow of current in the circuit, allowing each connected load to receive the same amount of voltage equally distributed in any branch of the circuit, which makes it the most ideal circuit connection in home wiring installation.
Important Note: Understanding these two types of circuit configuration is a prerequisite to learning how to use the electrical multimeter effectively.