## A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

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### A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

There's a lot of questions about batteries, power, watts, amps, etc. and it's all Greek to lots of Burners unless you happen to be a bit of a tech-head.

I've got an analogy that may not be technically perfect but it'll get you a lot closer to understanding WTF it all means.

The formula is volts times amps = watts.

Power (watts) is the total amount of work being done. So think about something almost all Burners are familiar with: BICYCLES!

The total Power is the bike moving down the Esplanade at say 10 MPH. Think about the speed you are pedaling as your voltage, and how hard you push on the pedals as your amperage (current).

You could accomplish that 10 MPH down the Esplanade by pedaling really fast, in low gear, and not pushing very hard on the pedals. That's like higher volts, and fewer amps. You could also accomplish the 10 MPH ride down the Esplanade by shifting to high gear, pedalling slower but pushing a lot harder on the pedals. That's like low volts, but higher amps.

This is why you need larger wires for low voltage but high current power use; lets say you're really super strong and leave your bike in top gear when pedaling through super soft playa, dragging a wagon full of beer. You'd have to pedal really hard - but at low speed - and you'd need a strong chain, strong pedals, strong crank, etc. to handle it. You'd need big stout wires to handle all those amps.

You could also shift to super-low gear and pedal really fast, but much more lightly. You wouldn't need as strong a chain, pedals, etc.

Low voltage doesn't shock you when you touch it; you can grab both terminals of a car battery and feel nothing. Take that same battery, run it through an inverter that steps that same battery power up to higher voltage (but less amps) and it will shock the daylights out of you if you touch the wires coming from the inverter.
It's kinda like if you're pedaling your bike really hard but slowly (high amps/low volts) and someone stuck their hand in the way of your pedals. It wouldn't hurt, you'd barely bump them. If you were in low-low gear pedaling softer but really really fast and someone stuck their hand in the way of your pedals, they'd get whacked.

So... volts times amps equals watts. Watts is the total power.
100 amps of current draw at 12 volts is 1200 watts of power. And it would require some BIG wires. This is why power companies use super-high voltage wires to transmit power over long distances. Lower voltage would require giant wires to send the same amount of power.
10 amps at 120 volts is the same 1200 watts.

Amp-hours is simply how long something (like a battery) can deliver power. A 12-volt battery that is rated at 100 amp-hours theoretically can put out 100 amps (at 12 volts) for one hour. Or, it could make 10 amps for 10 hours. Or 1 amp for 100 hours.
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Captain Goddammit

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Holy crap. That's the best way I've ever seen that explained. Even I can understand that!

Thanks Captain!!

A-RockLeFrench

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Why cant the rest of the internet explain it this well?
They call me simba
Theraplst

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Thanks for this awesome info, maybe it should be a sticky!

5 mph in the city, on the Esplanade, and open playa.

and watch for darktards.
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gaminwench

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Cap'n, that was great!! well done.
someone get that man some sort of award!! or a wristy.............something at least.
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ygmir

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Battery charging analogy.

You want to fill your sink with water. (water=12 volt power you want to put in your battery.)

You can turn the water on just a trickle and it will take a long time to fill your sink or turn the tap all the way on to fill the sink quickly. (AMPS=the quantity of power moving into the battery at 12 volts.)

Turn the water off when the sink is full or you flood the kitchen. (Get a charger that can charge at higher amps and turns off automaticly as overcharging will ruin your battery.)
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FIGJAM

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Love this!

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9ah

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

This made me stop understanding electricity, and I'm an electrical engineer.

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

That's because I may be wrong...

but I'm not uncertain!
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"If I can't find an answer, I'll create one!!!"

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FIGJAM

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

This why I loves me The Captain!

Fucking spectacular!

Token

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

p.s.

Loves you too Fig!

Token

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

so the best way to charge your car battery is in the kitchen sink?
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graidawg

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

graidawg wrote:so the best way to charge your car battery is in the kitchen sink?

Yes. If it's a stainless steel sink, it will shield nearby sensitive electronic equipment from RFI (Radio Frequency Interference)
GreyCoyote: "At this rate it wont be long before he is Admiral Fukkit."

Captain Goddammit

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

But I don't want it shielded!!!

My sink is close to my microwave and I've got an experiment going on!

Now where did I put that vinegar?
"Don't buy ur Burn...........Build ur Burn!"

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FIGJAM

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

By the way, just to have said it, I'm making some oversimplifications with this analogy - I'm sure there's an engineer who would bust me a little - but most burners don't need to design a motherboard for a space ship re-entry control system, they just need to grasp the idea of it well enough to figure out how much battery, how much generator, how much they can run for how long, etc.

As I think about it, the bike pedal analogy also works to understand the relationship of horsepower, torque, and RPM.
Horsepower is the watts, RPM is the volts, and torque is the amps.
The formula is almost the same, RPM (analogous to volts) times torque (analogous to amps) = horsepower, except you then divide by 5250 to adjust the result to a value that coincides with the other definitions of "horsepower".
GreyCoyote: "At this rate it wont be long before he is Admiral Fukkit."

Captain Goddammit

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

The water analogy is a classic, and works great as the form of the underlying physics is the same.

However, I think it is best to think of the water as charge, the voltage as height, and the electrical current as the flow of the water.

If you have water at 12 ft high, in some container, and you release a valve opening a tube full of air, it will flow through the tube to a lower height. This means the water loses some energy (via gravity), and if you want you can insert a paddle wheel that the flowing water will turn as it goes down. The wheel can be connected to a fan that keeps you cool.

So if you want, imagine your camp with a big tank of water raised up 12ft high. When you open the valve, the water has a pathway through the air to a lower reservoir at 0 ft, and you can use this energy to run your fan and stay cool.

The battery can be thought of as a bucket of charge at 12 volts. Charge does not flow easily through air, but it does through metal. You can connect a wire with a fan, and charge can now flow "down" from the positive terminal at 12 volts to the negative terminal at 0 volts.

If you want to refill your water tank at 12 ft high, you need to pour in water from a greater height, say 15 ft. So you need to expend energy to pump the water back up (or have a bucket brigade up a ladder) which is ultimately going to cost you a little more energy at least then you got out from the fan.

If you want to refill your battery, you must connect it to a greater voltage source, typically 14V, and charge will flow back into the battery.

--------------------------------

Now there are a few important differences between flowing charge and flowing water. If I am pouring water out of a 12' high reservoir at a rate of 1 oz/sec, as I might a glass of wine, then I am releasing energy at a rate of about 1 Watt.

If I connect an aluminum wire the thickness of a paper clip across the terminals of a typical car battery, then this wire is thick enough to allow several hundred amps of current to flow through it - as much as the battery can supply. The rate of energy release can be more than 1000 Watts.

What happens to this energy? It turns into heat, hopefully just melting the wire, but also potentially causing serious burns.

So a very thin piece of wire can be enough to let an incredible amount of charge flow to lower voltage. Actual electronics have components that restrict charge flow to a reasonable rate and harness some amount of the energy, trying to minimize the amount wasted as heat.

Battery charging can cause outgassing. Basically, as you recharge hydrogen gas can be created, especially when the battery is near full. So it is important to regulate how quickly and at what voltage you charge the battery. In the analogy, one could compare this to splashing when you refill your water reservoir. If you pour in the water from too high or too fast, you will cause water to splash out, especially when the water is full. Luckily, there are inexpensive circuits that can regulate battery charging for you.

The battery is also like a slightly leaky reservoir of water. Over time it will lose charge, even if not used. So typically with a lead-acid battery one will keep it connected to a "float" charger which will keep a very small trickle of charge going into the battery.

The other difference between the water reservoir and the battery is that you can totally empty the reservoir and it is fine. With a typical deep-cycle battery, you should not empty it to much below 50% capacity or you risk shortening the lifespan of the battery. If you drop it to 0% and leave it there it may go completely dead.

5280MeV

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Thats a great analogy Cap'n!

Something I use to remember the two power equations is Power Is Valuable and Power Is Resistance. Which helps me remember P=I x V and P=I x R aka Watts= Amps x Voltage and Watts= Amps x Ohms.
P=Power
I= Current
V= Voltage
R= Resistance

The analogy that works best of me is to think of an electronic device as a giant block of heavy material sitting on the ground. Lets say it takes 48 lbs of force (watts) to push that block. Hands pushing on the block are volts, and current is the strength they are pushing with.
1 hand could push at 48 lbs.
2 hands could push at 24 lbs.
or
12 hands could push at 4lbs. In other words 12v at 4amps.
But if while pushing the block you come to a bump, you have to add more power to push over the rock. At times you might need 53lbs of force to get over a bump, if you only have 12 hands to push each hand has to increase strength to 4.41 lbs.

If 1 hand were doing all the pushing it would have to be a big strong hand or big strong wire and connections. Captain's analogy does a much better job explaining the wire gauge compared to the pedals, chain, and gears. I like that much better than the "strength of the hand".

In my example the electronic device is a Power of Ethernet PTZ Security camera (I couldn't come up with anything and the spec sheet is on my desk). The hill is the extra power required to operate the Point and Tilt motors in the camera.
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illy dilly

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

thanks cap'n! I have struggled with these calculations this past week and am slowly becoming dumber.

maybe someone can help. I have figured I need about 30 to 40 ah per day with the devices I have. I just got a 220ah deep cycle battery with 25 amp reserve, whatever that means. I am looking at solar panels to charge battery, hoping 100w panel will keep the battery at acceptable levels. I am considering a small genny as a back up. any ideas for how I can get the power I need and not break the bank?

Also, if ac powered devices that have 12v output power supplies, can I just wire to 12v battery? and will that save power? Please help!!!
"All the worlds indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers.
Each another's audience inside the gilded cage." - N. Peart
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fresh

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

fresh wrote:...I have figured I need about 30 to 40 ah per day with the devices I have. I just got a 220ah deep cycle battery with 25 amp reserve, whatever that means. I am looking at solar panels to charge battery, hoping 100w panel will keep the battery at acceptable levels. <snip>

Also, if ac powered devices that have 12v output power supplies, can I just wire to 12v battery? and will that save power? Please help!!!

A 100 WAtt panel will feed about 6 amps per hour of sun (figure 6 or 7 per day) to your battery. You will need a charge controller.

12V output- Yes and yes....and you won't need an inverter.
Your 12V stuff probably has barrel connectors and should work fine- just make sure you check polarity. You should see a little diagram on the device- a circle (outer sleeve)with a dot(center hole of connecter) in it and an indication of which is +

Just_Joe

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

fresh wrote:Also, if ac powered devices that have 12v output power supplies, can I just wire to 12v battery? and will that save power? Please help!!!

I ran into this with a pump I bought.

It had a wall wart to plug into the house current and the pump was 12 volt.

I thought "Great, I can just cut off the wart and connect it straght to the battery."

Turned out the pump was 12 volt ac, so it would give a half turn and stop.

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FIGJAM

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Twinkle twinkle little star power equals I squared R
You know it's going to be a bad day when you jump out of bed and miss the floor.

geospyder

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

My new camp trailer has one 12 volt deep cycle battery. I asked the shop guy how much it would cost me to add another battery to the tongue rack. He quoted me a price, but then said he recommended getting two 6 volt golf cart batteries which would give me more battery capacity than two 12 volt batteries...I'm like What?

Splain me how that works, 'cause his explanation went way over my pointy head.

dragonpilot

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Oh, and here is a pro-tip:
When in doubt about voltage vs current on a power supply, just touch the terminals to your tongue - you will know the situation instantly.

oscillator

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Mr oscillator is jesting. It is never safe to apply electricity to the neck, head or chest area or have a current path across them. The heart and nervous systems work on relatively small electric potentials across cell walls and the body is a relatively good conductor.

As for the two 6's in series vs 12's. Battery charging is nonlinear - a dark art. There might be a difference in \$/Watt hours, but parallel charging of like batteries of the same vintage is better.

I do like the water analogy. But explaining AC with it is out there.
increasing the signal to noise ratio with compassion

some seeing eye

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

some seeing eye wrote:As for the two 6's in series vs 12's. Battery charging is nonlinear - a dark art. There might be a difference in \$/Watt hours, but parallel charging of like batteries of the same vintage is better.

If you were replying to my question a coupla posts up, I still don't get why 2 6V batteries are better than 2 12V batteries.

dragonpilot

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

It's said that 6v batteries are more tolerant of being further discharged, and last longer (more charge/discharge cycles.
6v batteries are usually "real" deep cycle batteries with thick plates in them.
They sometimes cost less too.

But there's not much proof I know of that shows a series pair of 6v to outperform a parallel 12v pair.

I use parallel 12v just because of application flexibility. There's four-figure \$\$ into my MV's electric system, something I couldn't justify if it weren't that I can remove most of that gear and use it elsewhere too. I can use those 12v batteries separately if I want, rather than always tied as a pair.
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Captain Goddammit

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

There is no inherent advantage of a 6V or 12V battery, they are just made of different numbers of cells in series.

There would be a large advantage of the 6V's to the guy wants to sell you them...
increasing the signal to noise ratio with compassion

some seeing eye

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

Thanks for all the advice everyone!!!!! Over last weekend I played around with the suggestions from Figjam and Just_Joe. I cut the end off a power strip and wired directly to battery. I then took three devices that run off 12v dc and clipped off the wall wart and put simple outlet plus on the ends. Worked like a charm, as long as it is plug in the correct polarity!!! Got solar panel yesterday and should get the charge controller and remaining accessories tomorrow. Hopefully will have my playa setup ready to test this weekend!!!!! Plus my campmate who has a much larger setup offered to power up the wireless bridge and access point that I will use to *hopefully* tie into BRC WISP and provide internet for the hood. That was a main draw of power in my calculations, so I should be set with the one panel!!!

Pics to come!

Figjam, out of context here, but figured I'd ask, with my basic FJ swamp cooler last year I used monster glue to connect the fan to the lid. It was a mess and I had to pick off glue for hours. i see you have it screwed in, but how does the screw fit in with the duct on the top???
"All the worlds indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers.
Each another's audience inside the gilded cage." - N. Peart
"SAFETY THIRD" - Some idiot

fresh

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

It doesn't!

The fan is bolted on, and a small bead of GOOP holds the septic connector in place.

( it's a little dustay)

"Don't buy ur Burn...........Build ur Burn!"

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FIGJAM

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### Re: A Burner Analogy For Understanding Electricity

FIGJAM wrote:
( it's a little dustay)

Is that "dustay" or "dusté"?

Either way, how chic!
GreyCoyote: "At this rate it wont be long before he is Admiral Fukkit."

Captain Goddammit

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