Definition of Voltage

Voltage, expressed in volts (V), is the kinetic energy caused by the difference in electrical charge between two points in an electrical circuit. Engineers and scientists also express voltage as an E for electromotive force.

Voltage is the pressure from an electrical circuit's power source that pushes charged electrons (current) through a conducting loop, enabling them to do work such as powering a light.

Volt, Ohm and Amp illustration

It’s visually helpful to picture voltage as water pressure within a pipe, with the electrical current being the water and the electrical conductors, such as the battery and electrical wire as the pipe.

Much like water, electricity flows from a high potential energy region (e.g. your local substation) to a low potential energy region (e.g. your home appliances). The pressure or force of this electric flow is voltage.

The higher the energy potential, the higher the voltage and amount of electricity (current) pushed through the circuit. The amount of electricity is usually expressed in amperes (amp).

Besides electrical current, another inescapable characteristic that accompanies voltage is resistance or impedance. Resistance is the opposition to electrical flow caused by the conductor size or insulation materials.

Resistance causes the phenomenon called voltage drop, which affects the performance of your boat lighting making it dim or fizzle out.

There are two types of voltage:

  • AC voltage: commonly found in power grids and electrical outlets, it has a sine waveform and changes direction and magnitude over time and is used to power devices that require a constant supply of electricity
  • DC voltage: constant voltage that does not change direction or magnitude over time and is used in battery-powered applications

It’s essential to understand the voltage of your boat or home and the operating voltage of equipment or devices you plan to install in it, to avoid frying your fixtures.

To ensure your LED lighting doesn’t blow from maxing out their current rating, consider stabilizing the current using LED drivers.

Example of Voltage in a Sentence

"The LED light strip has a maximum operating voltage of 12 volts, which must not be exceeded to prevent damage to the LEDs."

Synonyms: electrical potential difference, electric pressure, electric tension, electromotive force

Related Terms for Voltage