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Practical Electricity Commonly asked Questions

1. An electric lamp is marked ‘250 V 100 W’ and an immersion heater is marked ‘250 V 2 kW’.
(a) Explain why the filament of the lamp is made to have higher resistance than the heating
element of the immersion heater.
As the current through the filament lamp is low, its resistance needs to be high in order that the
required power is lost as heat and light. An immersion heater requires more power
compared to that of the lamp, hence, a lower resistance is required.
NOTE: Since P = V2/R, the higher power can be achieved by using a lower resistance. (Potential
difference is the same)
(b) Suggest a reason why the filament is made of a metal with a much higher melting point than
that of the element.
This is to ensure that the filament of the lamp will not melt at a high temperature as it
needs to emit light.
(c) The heat capacity of the filament of the lamp is very small. State one reason why this is an
With a lower heat capacity, a small amount of heat will be able to raise its temperature very
high and in a short time. Thus, the filament of the lamp can reach the required temperature
for light emission very quickly.
(d) Explain why the wire connecting the immersion heater to the supply remains cool even when
the heater has been in use for some time.
The connecting wires have a large cross-sectional area and thereby reducing the resistance.
Even though the current in both connecting wires and the immersion heater are the same, a
lower resistance in connecting wires results in a lower power loss (I2R) as heat.

2. What s the purpose of live wire/lead?

To provide high potential (either +240V or -240V) so that the charges can flow.

3. What s the purpose of neutral wire/lead?

To provide an earth potential (0V) which completes a circuit by forming a path for the current
back to the supply.

4. What s the purpose of earth wire/lead?

To prevent electric shock from occurring if through a damaged insulation and the live wire
touches the earth wire. The earth wire provides a low resistance path for the current to flow to
5. State why the metal casings of electrical equipment are often connected to the earth wire.
If any electrical fault causes the metal casing to be in contact with the live wire, then the metal
casing would will be at very high potential and cause danger to whoever touches it. If the metal
casing is earthed, this provides an alternative path for the current to ground which has a
much lower resistance compared to the human body and the person touching the casing is safe
from injury.

6. What s the purpose of fuse?

Fuse prevents overheating and damaging the electrical appliance . Whenever there is a short
circuit, the fuse melts and ‘break’ the circuit.

7. Explain why the fuse is placed in the live wire rather than in the neutral wire.
The fuse is connected to the live wire because the live wire is at very high potential. If the fuse
blows, then the live wire is isolated and no current flows. If the fuse is connected to the neutral
wire and blows, the live wire still carries the high potential and is still dangerous.

8. Explain why the switch is placed in the live wire.

If the switch is in the live wire, when it is switched off, it isolates the appliance from the
electrical supply and makes it safe for the user in case of any electrical fault.

9. (a) When there is a large current in the circuit, the circuit breaker operates. Explain what
happens to the soft-iron core, the iron lever, spring and contacts.
The magnetic field is created by the current in the coil. The iron lever is attracted to
towards the coil and thus the springy metal is pulled away by the spring. As a result, the
contacts are no longer in contact with the springy metal, and the circuit is broken.
(b) The current now stops. Explain what happens to the soft-iron, iron lever, spring and contacts.
The soft iron core is demagnetized, and iron lever will drop. But, the contacts are still not
in contact with the springy metal.
(c) State how the current is switched on again after the circuit breaker has operated.
Depressing the reset button will reestablish the contact.
10 Fig 10.1 shows a circuit breaker with the contact closed.

Fig. 11.1
Fig 10.2 shows the same circuit breaker after a large current passes through the circuit.

Fig. 11.2
(a) Describe how the circuit breaker switches off the current when it becomes too large.
When the current flowing through the solenoid is large, it produces a stronger magnetic field
around the solenoid. This strong magnetic field will magnetise the iron core. The strongly
magnetized iron core attracts the iron armature, therefore breaking the circuit, cutting off
current flow.
(b) State and explain which wire a circuit breaker should be placed in a household circuit.
Live wire. When the current flowing becomes too large, the circuit breaker trips, cutting off
the current to the household.