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Series Circuit VS. Parallel Circuit – Differences And Comparison

Electronic circuits or the components of electric circuits can be connected in different possible ways and two of them that are usually discussed are series and parallel. The distinctions between series circuits and parallel circuits need to be understood to have a firm grip and knowledge about these electrical components.

Table of Contents

What is a parallel circuit?

A parallel circuit is an electrical configuration that has more than one path for the flow of the current. Multiple components are connected in a way that allows the flow of current through multiple pathways at the same time.

parallel circuit
parallel circuit

In a parallel circuit, each component is connected to the same source of voltage that enables independent flow of current. Due to some reason, if one component fails to perform, the other components don’t get affected and perform independently. The parallel circuit provides stable electric potential due to the constant voltage.

What is a series circuit?

A series circuit is an electrical arrangement that includes a single pathway for the flow of the current through a continuous loop. Electric current encounters each component in a sequence following a single route in this arrangement . When current flows through each resistor, bulb, or any other point, the voltage gets divided and total resistance being a sum of all the resistance makes it sensitive to any sort of changes in any component.

series circuit
series circuit

Unlike parallel circuits, the entire circuit is interrupted, causing a break in the current flow if any of the components fail to perform.

What is the difference between series and parallel circuits?

Series Circuit VS. Parallel Circuit
Series Circuit VS. Parallel Circuit

Current Path:
Series circuits follow a single pathway and on the other hand, parallel circuits follow multiple pathways.

Current Flow:
In series, current flow is same throughout the circuit while divided into branches in parallel.

Brightness in Bulbs:
Brightness is dimmer for each additional bulb in the series, and the same for every bulb in parallel.

Resistance:
Resistance is the cumulative sum of individual resistances in series and the reciprocal of the sum of reciprocals of individual resistances in parallel circuits.

Component Failure Effect:
In series, the entire circuit is interrupted if one component fails while in parallel, only a particular branch is interrupted.

Complexity:
Series includes simple wiring whereas in parallel, there’s more complex wiring due to multiple paths.

Applications:
In series, there are limited applications due to sensitivity to failures and parallel circuits offer widespread applications, as it is resilient to individual component failures.

What are the applications of series and parallel circuits?

Applications of series circuits

Decorative Lighting
Series circuits are used for decoration purposes like decorative lighting like strings of holiday lights. The dimming effect looks aesthetically pleasing and enhances the visual appeal.

Voltage Divider Circuits
Series circuits are applicable for precise voltage control where the voltage across each resistor is a small fraction compared to the total provided voltage.

Temperature-Controlled Devices
The heat output is controlled using series circuits in temperature-controlled devices where heating elements need to operate in a defined sequence.

Electronic Devices
Series circuits show their application in electronic devices like flashlights, and toys where components are arranged linearly.

Applications of parallel circuits

Emergency Lighting Systems
Emergency lighting system in buildings uses parallel circuits. Each light is connected independently to make sure that if there’s failure in one light, the other remains illuminated. This combination helps to keep visibility during emergencies.

Automotive Electrical Systems
In automotive electrical systems, the headlights and taillights are arranged in parallel so incase one bulb fails doesn’t affects the other.

Audio Systems
In audio systems, speakers are often connected in parallel so that in events like concerts, or public address setups, things go smooth. This allows for flexibility in adjusting the number of speakers in use while maintaining a consistent impedance level.

Photovoltaic (Solar) Power Systems
To maintain a constant voltage output, solar panels in photovoltaic systems are connected in parallel so that incase one panel is shaded or malfunctioning, it doesn’t affects the others.

Series circuit vs parallel circuit examples

Example of a series circuit: Christmas Lights
Consider Christmas lights strung in series. In this fashion, each bulb is connected to the next one in a linear sequence. If one bulb is removed or stops functioning, the entire string goes dark. The cumulative dimming effect can be seen as the voltage across each bulb adds up in series circuits.

Example of the parallel circuit: Home Wired Settings
In a home electrical outlets, each outlet operates independently, as they are in a parallel circuit, and the failure of one outlet have no effect on others. This parallel arrangement ensures a continuous power supply to different devices throughout the house.

Series circuit vs parallel circuit diagram

Series circuit vs parallel circuit diagram
Series circuit vs parallel circuit diagram

Which is better parallel or series circuit?

It varies as per conditions. Sometimes, a combination of both circuits is used to deal with complex setups.

However, a parallel circuit is better for you if your preference is reliability and flexibility, This is the reason they are used in household wiring, power grid stations, and for many electronic devices.

On the other hand, a series circuit will fulfill your requirements if you want to run simple operations or operations in sequence.

Can a circuit be both parallel and series?

Yes, such a type of circuit is called a hybrid or mixed circuit.

Example:
A mixed circuit becomes useful when different devices are connected altogether. Each parallel branch comprises components arranged in series in this setup. This mixed configuration enables devices to operate independently in parallel while functioning sequentially, i.e., in series, within each branch.

Conclusion

Series circuits are characterized by a sequential pathway and shared voltage. They find application in decorative lighting and voltage control circuits etc. 

Conversely, parallel circuits provide independent pathways and a consistent voltage. They find extensive use in power distribution grids, and various electronic devices. They demonstrate robustness in the face of individual component failures.

The choice between series and parallel circuits depends on the specific requirements of the electrical system. The flexibility of mixed circuits allows engineers to customize setups to meet diverse needs, finding a balance between reliability and sequential operation.

FAQ

A parallel circuit is an electrical configuration that has more than one path for the flow of the current. Multiple components are connected in a way that allows the flow of current through multiple pathways at the same time.

A series circuit is an electrical arrangement that includes a single pathway for the flow of the current through a continuous loop. Electric current encounters each component in a sequence following a single route in this arrangement . When current flows through each resistor, bulb, or any other point, the voltage gets divided and total resistance being a sum of all the resistance makes it sensitive to any sort of changes in any component.

  • Current Path
  • Current Flow
  • Brightness in Bulbs
  • Resistance
  • Component Failure Effect
  • Complexity
  • Applications

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