What Three Things Make a Circuit?


A circuit is a closed loop of conductors through which electricity can flow. Circuits are found in virtually every electronic device. A functioning electrical circuit only requires three components: source, line and load. These parts can even consist of common household items. Complex circuits build on these three common components to provide added control and safety.


  • The source provides the electricity needed to power the circuit. Common sources for circuits include batteries, electrical outlets and solar cells. In order for the circuit to function properly, the source must provide as much power as the circuit requires. This is why batteries no longer work after extended use, due to losing electrical power. When a power source provides too much electricity, a circuit may overload. This is commonly avoided by using power adapters, which regulate the energy into more manageable levels.


  • In a circuit, a line directs the flow of electricity between the power source and the load. Lines come in a variety of materials, thickness and styles: these determine the amount of electricity that can be transferred. Insulated copper is often used to transfer higher electrical voltage. A line can also be a single, solid strand or a stranded wire --- which is made from several thin lines wrapped together.


  • A load is an object that harnesses the electrical energy received from the line. It uses the power to perform a function of some sort. A light bulb, for example, is a load that uses the electrical energy to create illuminating light. Other machines such as engines, sound systems, televisions and any other active electrical system acts as loads as well. If a load requires a lot of electrical energy, then the circuit must also have a powerful source and a thick insulating line.

Other Components

  • Although simple circuits use those three parts, there are other components that make up a complex circuit. A switch is a metal contact that can turn the circuit on or off at will. Switches are utilized in a variety of ways, such as the power button on televisions, light or lamp switches, and automobile ignitions.

    A circuit breaker is used as a safety precaution in powerful circuits. If too much electrical power flows through a circuit's line, the breaker will cause the circuit to fail. A circuit breaker prevents short circuits which can include fire.

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