The difference between electrical and electronic equipment

Electrical and electronic equipment may sound similar, but they’re very different. Their main difference lies in the way they manipulate electricity to perform their work. Electrical equipment takes the energy produced by an electrical current and then transforms it into other simple forms of energy like heat, light or motion. For instance, a toaster contains heating elements that transform electrical energy into heat that burns your toast.

Electronic devices are much more complex than that. Apart from converting electrical energy into heat, motion or light, they can manipulate or control electrical current so that devices can do more useful or interesting things. For instance, an audio device like a radio that adds sound to electric currents, enabling you to listen to music.

Examples of electrical equipment:

-Light bulbs
-Electric ovens
-Refrigerators and Freezers
-Washing machines
-Transformers and Generators
-Resistors and Capacitors
-Older technologies like the electric telegraph and batteries

Examples of electronics equipment:

-Mobile phones
-Game consoles
-MP3 players
-Microwave ovens

How do they work?

Electrical and electronic device circuits work in an entirely different way. Electronic equipment circuits don’t have any processing capability, while electronic equipment circuits do. Circuits in electrical devices simply power equipment with electricity. However, electronic circuits can easily interpret an instruction or signal and perform various tasks to suit the circumstance. For example, when a microwave finishes cooking, it often beeps to alert the user.

Most modern appliances today use both electrical and electronic circuits. For example, a washing machine, which is an electrical equipment comprises of a plug socket, an on/off switch, a fuse, a heater and motor and control panel. An electronic circuit interprets the instructions that a user inputs in the control panel to define the desired temperature and wash circle.

Difference of scale

Another significant difference between electrical and electronic devices is in scale. The majority of electronic components are small and only require small direct current (DC) voltages. Electrical appliances, on the other hand, are mostly larger and use alternating current (AC) voltage. While most electrical appliances require 230 volts AC to operate, most electronic components can work using 3-12 volts DC.

When you look at factories, industries or power stations, you will realise that they have far more electrical components. Products that we use every day in our homes and offices like laptops, desktop computers and mobile phones have many small electronic components than electrical components. In short, electrical devices use much higher voltage to generate their work as compared to electronics equipment.

Energy efficiency

Large electrical equipment and appliances like refrigerators and washing machines provide information to consumers about their electrical efficiency in their product details. In the USA, most electrical equipment is categorised by electrical efficiency, in the form of energy star ratings at any point of sale to ensure consumers get the most energy efficient solutions to help them reduce energy consumption.

Most electronic devices provide little or no information on their electrical efficiency. To get details on energy efficiency, consumers either have to visit the manufacturer’s website or get details on websites that offer information on green consumer products. However, power consumption is specified in most electronic devices.

The distinction between the two is changing

Whether you’re an electrical expert buying used testing equipment or a consumer buying home appliances, the difference between electrical and electronic equipment has become less clear than it used to be. That’s because unlike years back when electrical devices were those that used electrical power but didn’t include electronic components like transistors and integrated circuits, today many of these devices come with electronic control components.

Most modern electrical equipment like refrigerators and vacuum cleaners often have electronic components in them such as power regulators and temperature control components. While it’s important to know the difference between electrical and electronic equipment, technological advancements are making it harder to classify a single device or appliance as either electrical or electronic.

Arnold Sharpe is a freelance writer and an electrical engineer focused on helping businesses choose the right engineering and management solutions in Los Angeles, CA. His work in design and process development has helped numerous clients in the industry solve complex problems.


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