The Difference Between Electronics & Electrical Devices

what is the difference between electrical and electronics

The invention of electricity revolutionized the world. It brought humankind from the dark ages to the digital age, where most devices require electrical power to operate. No one can deny that the ability to generate electrical energy provides unlimited potential to make lives easier and more convenient. 

With the dawning of the electronic age, numerous electrical and electronic devices and equipment came into being. This equipment boosted productivity and triggered technological advances that led to a whirlwind of modern conveniences we now can’t live without. These include heating and air conditioning devices, mobile phones, computers, and other modern or smart appliances. 

Electrical power has been available for so long we now take it as part of our daily lives. We’re also not particular about what terms we use to describe the multitude of devices and appliances around us that require an electrical current to run. We may even interchange the terms electrical and electronic devices. But there’s a difference between the two. Let’s find out what distinguishes an electronic device from an electrical one.    

What are Electrical Devices?

Equipment that takes electric energy and the flow of electrons in a conductor and converts it into other forms of energy are called electrical devices. They work mainly on high alternating current (AC) to perform their task.  

Most electrical devices in our homes run on high voltages. As such, they’re quite dangerous when incorrectly handled because the high voltage carries the risk of electric shock. They’re also bigger compared to electronic devices; thus, they occupy more space. Examples of electrical devices are electric fans (they work by converting electrical energy into rotational motion) and light bulbs (they transform electric energy into light).   

What are Electronic Devices?

The word electronics refers to the study of how electrons behave under the effect of an electric field and electronic devices are gadgets or equipment that control the flow of electrons to perform a particular task. They manage or process the electrical energy to utilize it in an efficient manner. Unlike electrical devices, electronic devices don’t convert electrical power into another form. 

The electronic components come in two types; the active component and the passive component. The active component delivers the electrical energy while the passive component or device receives it. Capacitors, resistors, and inductors are active components, while semiconductors and tubes are considered passive components of electronic devices. 

Electrical vs Electronic Devices

Both electrical and electronic devices need electric power to run. However, how much electricity they require and what they do with the electrical energy differentiate one from the other. A comparison chart will give you a clearer idea of what an electronic device and an electrical device is. 

Comparison Basis Electronic DeviceElectrical Device
Operating principleControls and processes the flow of electrons and utilizes it in performing a specific taskTransforms the electric power into another form of energy
Material usedSemiconductors, such as silicon, boron, carbon, selenium, germanium and the likeMetals, such as copper and aluminum
VoltageWorks on low voltageRuns on high voltage
CurrentDirect current (DC)Alternating current (AC)
Power consumption Low High
Space requirementNot muchLarge space
Response time SlowFast
UsesFor amplifying weak signals or for coding or decoding informationFor work requiring mechanical energy

Similarities

Despite the characteristics that distinguish electrical devices from electronic ones, they share some similarities. These include the following. 

  • Electrical and electronic devices require the flow of electrons to perform their tasks. 
  • Both electronic and electrical devices use a transformer for transmitting their respective voltages. 

Differences

While electronic and electrical devices share a few similarities, several characteristics make them different from one another. The main difference between an electrical and an electronic device is their power consumption. Electrical devices use significantly more electricity than electronic devices. Here are other characteristics that set them apart. 

  • Electronic devices control the movement of electrons to perform their tasks, while electrical devices convert electrical energy into other forms of energy, such as heat or light. 
  • Electrical devices are composed chiefly of passive electronic components. In contrast, electronic devices contain both passive and active components. 
  • Simple electrical circuits characterize electrical devices. On the other hand, electronic devices come with complex electronic circuits. 
  • Electrical devices cost less to repair and maintain than electronic devices. 
  • Electronic devices rely on semiconductors to process electrical energy, whereas electrical devices use copper and aluminum wires. 
  • Because they operate on high voltages, short circuits that occur in electrical devices are more dangerous than those that take place in electronic devices, which work on low voltages. 
  • Electrical devices don’t have the ability to manipulate data, something electronic devices can do because of the chip embedded in them. 
  • Electronic devices don’t consume a lot of electricity. In contrast, electrical devices often require plenty of electric power. 

Examples of Electrical Devices 

We mentioned that electrical devices draw electricity from the circuit and transform it into other forms of energy, such as heat or light. Many appliances, equipment, and fixtures in a typical home are electrical devices. Here are some of the commonly used ones.

  • Light bulbs: These are equipment that illuminates various areas of a home. The different types available in the market include incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED bulbs. These lighting solutions vary according to their energy consumption, quality of light emitted, price, and operating life.  
  • Electric toaster: With the use of radiant heat, this common kitchen appliance browns various types of sliced bread until they get toasted. There are several types of toasters. These are oven, convection, smart and commercial toasters. 
  • Electric heater: This equipment is designed to produce heat. It does so by converting electric power into heat using resistors that produce radiant energy. Typical applications for the device include water heating and space heating
  • Dishwasher: This is a handy appliance that eases the task of doing the dishes. It cleans eating and cooking utensils using pressurized jets of hot water and dries them with hot air. 
  • Vacuum cleaner: This appliance uses suction to remove dust, dirt, and other debris from floors, draperies, upholstery, and other surfaces. There are several types, such as upright, canister, stick, and robotic vacuum cleaners. 
  • Electric fan: Fans are designed to circulate air in a room or building. Their purpose includes cooling the living space, venting dust and toxic fumes, drying materials and products, and cooling motors and electronics. 
  • Clothes washer: This appliance cleans dirty clothes by agitating the garments in soapy suds and water. The action loosens dirt and separates it from the material. Several types of this machine exist in the market. The most common ones are the top and front-loading kinds. 
  • Electric oven: A popular kitchen appliance, an electric oven uses enclosed heat to cook food. Cakes, bread, meat, and casseroles are foods that often go into an electric oven for cooking. 

FAQs

What is a Class 2 Electrical Device?

A Class 2 electrical device uses reinforced protective insulation on top of the primary insulation. In other words, it comes with at least 2 layers of insulation, compared to a Class 1 electrical device that protects users with only basic insulation. Because of the double insulation, Class 2 electrical devices don’t require grounding or earth connection.    

What are Electrical Risks?

The risks associated with electricity are fire, arc flash, and electrical shock. These risks can lead to the following injuries: electrocution, burns, and falls. Electrocution can be fatal because when the electric current travels through the body, it can cause the heart to stop beating. Meanwhile, burns caused by an electric arc or by flames from materials that catch fire can damage tissues. Falls resulting from muscle contractions or getting startled can lead to severe injuries. 

What are 10 Electrical Safety Tips?

Working with electricity poses significant risks to life and limb. Following electrical safety practices can lessen the chances of injuries. Here are some tips.

1. Always cut the electric power at the main source. 
2. Prevent electrical equipment from getting wet. 
3. Watch out for fallen electrical lines, especially after a storm. 
4. If the lights in your home flicker, investigate the reason, as it could be due to a short circuit somewhere in the system. 
5. Don’t work with electricity if you don’t have enough knowledge or training. 
6. Unplug unused appliances to minimize potential risks. 
7. Inspect electrical cords and replace those that show signs of wear and tear. 
8. Disconnect electrical equipment from the socket by gently pulling the plug, not the cord.
9. Pulling the cord can damage the cable and cause an electric shock. 
10. Install protective devices, such as ground fault and arc-fault circuit interrupters. 
11. When in doubt about electrical issues, call a licensed electrician. 

What are Electrical Protective Devices?

Electrical protective devices are equipment designed to detect failures in your electrical system and protect your living space from electricity and fire risks. Examples of these devices are surge protectors, fuses, lightning arresters, relays, circuit breakers, and reclosers. 

Conclusion

Electrical devices help make our lives better. The same applies to electronic devices. It’s hard to imagine a world without various electronics, such as a smart television, microwave oven, light bulb, mobile phone, and the like. These devices ease the way we do business and how perform our daily tasks. However, they consume electric power, and producing electrical energy requires burning fossil fuels. As such, using electrical and electronic devices can accelerate the depletion of the world’s supply of such fuels. 

Knowing that the electronics and electrical devices in our homes consume energy, we must practice conservation measures to ensure they don’t impact the environment. By doing so, we can help mitigate their detrimental effects on nature. 

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