So you plugged in your toaster and it can draw electricity from your outlet. Now what?
When you press down the lever on your toaster to start toasting, there are two metal contacts that are pushed together to touch and allow electrons to flow between them. This creates a closed circuit which does two things:
1. It turns on an electromagnet, which is magnetic force that can be created using electricity. This electromagnet holds down that toast lever (and your bread).
2. It enables electrons to flow in the toaster heating wires. This movement of electrons in the wires causes them to glow red and produce heat.
Let’s use the analogy of water in a hose to understand the circuit and electrical system a little better. When you press down this lever and make a closed circuit, it’s like hooking up a hose to a water spigot. The water can start flowing in the hose. The characteristics of the spigot and hose affect the flow of water, just like the characteristics of the toaster wire affect the flow of electrons.
The analogy can help us visualize what is happening, but it breaks down when comparing water flowing one way through a hose to AC (alternating current) which is what you find in your normal kitchen outlet. This is because with AC, the electrons switch their direction of flow at a certain frequency. This would be like water flowing in and out from your spigot and forwards and backwards in the hose at short time intervals. Nevertheless, the key is that with a closed circuit in your toaster, the electrons are moving in the toaster heating wires and creating heat as they move.
Now that you’ve got toaster operating (water flowing in your hose), how do we calculate how much energy the toaster uses to toast your bread? We’ll discuss that next and wrap up our mini series on toasters.