Parallel Circuits

In a parallel circuit, current can flow through more than one path from and to the power source. The circuit loads are connected in parallel legs, or branches, across a power source. The points where the current paths split and rejoin are called junctions. The separate current paths are called branch circuits or shunt circuits. Each branch operates independent of the others. If one load opens, the others continue operating.

Use of Ohm's Law

Applying Ohm's Law to parallel circuits is a bit more difficult than with series circuits. The reason is that the branch resistances must be combined to find an equivalent resistance. Just remember that the total resistance in a parallel circuit is less than the smallest load resistance. This makes sense because current can flow through more than one path. Also, remember that the voltage drop across each branch will be the same because the source voltage is applied to each branch. For examples of how to calculate parallel resistance, see page 6.

When troubleshooting a parallel circuit, the loss of one or more legs will reduce current because the number of paths is reduced. The addition of one or more legs will increase current because the number of paths is increased. Current can also be reduced by low source voltage or by resistance in the path before the branches. And, current can be increased by high source voltage or by one or more legs being bypassed. High resistance in one leg would affect component operation only in that leg.