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Electrical Glossary (L-P)

Technical reference from www.Bluesea.com


line see also Load
The conductors that are at the supply of energy to a circuit. Line normally refers to the current carrying non-grounded conductors in an AC system.

line loss see Voltage Drop
The power loss that occurs due to amperage flowing through the resistance of conductors over their length.

listed (UL Listed)
Indicates that a device or component has met certain specifications as set forth by Underwriters Laboratory. Further, it means that the device or component has been tested for conformance and 'listed' with UL so it can use the UL logo and claim conformance to the specification.

load see also Line
A device that consumes power and does work.

load group
A collection of loads, which normally have similar characteristics. For example the lighting circuits might be considered a load group. Also implies that the loads are supplied by a common bus.

lockouts (AC)
Mechanical or electrical devices or protection systems, that prevent the application of more than one source of power to a bus at the same time.


Displaying the characteristics of a magnet, including being able to induce current flow in a conductor when relative motion exists between them and being able to attract ferrous materials.

main see also Branch
Refers to the main circuit breaker or bus in a power distribution system. This is the input power source for the system.

make (rating)
The current that a breaker, switch, or relay can connect without damaging the device.

make before break
Describes a switch action that connects the new circuit before disconnecting the old. This type of switch action is required for battery switches in order to avoid an open circuit for the engine alternator, which can cause extreme voltages that can damage the alternator and accessory electronics.

Marine Cranking Amperes (MCA)
MCA is the discharge load in amps, which a battery can sustain for 30 seconds at 32° F. and not fall below 1.2 volts per cell (7.2V on 12V battery). This battery rating measures a burst of energy that an engine needs to start in a cold environment.

modified sine wave
A marketing term to describe an AC waveform, created by an inverter that is a pulse width controlled square wave. While an improvement on the classic square wave inverter, it is not actually a sine wave or a close approximation.

momentary switch rating (UL)
There are two ratings in the UL marine battery switch standard, Intermittent and Continuous. Intermittent is a 5 minute rating and is based on temperature rise of various sections of the switch as the rated current is applied over a 5 minute period. The Continuous rating is the same, but the time period is 1 hour. As confusing as it may seem to equate "Continuous" with "1 hour", devices generally reach thermal equalibrium by this time and further testing is pointless.

motor circuit protection
Motors require circuit breakers or fuses that are specifically designed for their current requirements. This is because motors require a high initial surge of current to get them started.


see National Electrical Code

National Electrical Manufacturers Association

N-type (alternator)
An N-type alternator has a set of diodes, called the diode trio, which supply the positive DC potential required for the rotating field current. The actual regulator switches the negative to achieve the proper field strength to create the desired correct alternator output.

National Electrical Code NEC
The NEC is developed and maintained by the National Fire Protection Association which describes how residential, commercial, and RV electrical systems must be installed. The NEC is adopted, sometimes with revision, by states that also adopt the Uniform Building Code. Electrical inspections required by most building permits follow the NEC. While not required aboard boats, the NEC is a valuable guide to safe electrical systems. The goal of the NEC is personal safety and fire prevention.

neutral (ground) see also Single Phase
The neutral is the grounded current carrying conductor in a single phase, four wire, 120/240V AC system.

neutral-to-ground bonding
Connecting the ground and the neutral together via an electrical conductor.

neutral-to-ground switching
In the US, inverter/charger installations that are used in marine applications must have neutral-to-ground switching. This guarantees that the neutral and the green wire are common after the green wire connection to neutral that is achieved through the shore power cord no onger exists after the cord is disconnected and shore AC is no longer serving as the boat's AC source. There must also be only a single ground point in the AC system. This prevents a voltage differential from developing between the boat's AC neutral and the shore or genset AC neutral, which may cause an electric shock or nuisance tripping of GFI's.

non-inverter loads
Non-inverter loads are heavy loads that are not appropriate to run from an inverter because the load on the batteries would be excessive or illogical. They include hot water heater, electric space heat, air conditioning, heavy pumping loads, etc. A battery charger that supplies the same battery as is being used by the inverter would also be a non-inverter load.

nuisance trip
A circuit breaker or fuse, which trips or blows without the circuit actually being overloaded. This may be due to weak breaker or a surge current which requires a slow tripping breaker or a slow blow fuse.


The unit for resistance equals V/I = volt/amp. The unit of resistance is the ohm, symbol , the Greek letter Omega.

Ohm's law
States that the ratio of the EMF (Electromotive Force) applied to a closed circuit to the current in the circuit is a constant. That constant is the resistance of the circuit. It may be stated as V= IR (or E=IR, using E as the abbreviation of EMF whose units are volts). The unit of resistance is the ohm.

Indicates a condition in an electric circuit in which there is a break in the conductive path. The break may be intentional such as an open switch or relay or it may be unintentional such as a broken wire or a blown fuse. In any case, the continuous conductive path required for an electric circuit is not available.

open circuit voltage
Generally, the voltage of a source when it is not connected to a load through an electrical circuit. Specifically, the voltage of a battery when it is not delivering or receiving power. A typical value for a liquid lead acid battery is 12.8V for a fully charged battery which has not been charged or used for 24 hours. Open circuit voltage is sometimes used as an indicator of the state-of-charge of a battery.
The table below gives typical open circuit voltages for both liquid and gelled electrolyte lead-acid batteries at various states-of-charge. These voltages should be considered approximations and may vary according to manufacturer and the specific gravity of the electrolyte the battery is initially filled with.
Typical Open Circuit Voltage After 24 Hours for Liquid and Gelled Electrolyte Batteries

When the current in a circuit exceeds the rating of the devices or conductors in it. Fuses and circuit breakers protect from overcurrent by opening the circuit if such a condition exists and persists.


PE see Protective Earth

P-type (alternator)
A P-type alternator is one which one end of the coil which supplies the rotating magnetic field is connected to the negative and the regulator controls the positive side of the coil to regulate the alternator output.

A collection of circuit breakers, switches, and instrumentation installed into a panel which provides the central point for power distribution and monitoring for the electrical system. May also refer to a smaller panel which is located remotely from the main panel which is used to supply loads in the adjacent area. "Panelboard" is a term generally used only by ABYC. In the marine industry they are usually called "panels", or "circuit breaker panels", or "distribution panels".

parallel circuit
An electrical circuit in which the positive connections are all in common and the negative connections are all in common. The voltage of the system appears across each branch of the circuit. The current varies as required by each load or source.

parallel device
A switch, solenoid, relay, or solid state device which is used to connect multiple batteries or busses together.

paralleling switch
Typically refers to a battery switch that allows multiple batteries to be connected together for engine starting. Often used to connect the battery serving the domestic system to the engine starting circuit for emergencies.

percent of charge
An estimate of the remaining charge in a battery. Percent of charge is very difficult to determine accurately without sophisticated microprocessor based calculations.

Peukert's equation
A formula that shows how the available capacity of a lead-acid battery changes according to the rate of discharge. The capacity of a battery is expressed in Amp-Hours, but the simple formula of current times hours does not accurately represent the situation. Peukert found that the equation: C = In T fits the observed behavior of batteries. "C" is the theoretical capacity of the battery, "I" is the current, "T" is time, and "n" is the Peukert number, a constant for the given battery. The equation captures the fact that at higher discharge current, there is less available energy in the battery.

Wires which protrude from a device to connect it to the circuit. Often used in encapsulated products. Sometimes refers to a method of hooking up circuits in which a group of conductors are connected together and then one wire is connected to the circuit. This is done in order to simplify wiring.

plate (battery)
Flat, typically rectangular components that contain the active material, lead or lead compound, and a mechanical support structure called a grid, which also has an electrical function, carrying electrons to and from the active material. Plates are either positive or negative, depending on the active material they hold.

Refers to the electrical charge, which may be positive or negative. It also refers to the positive and negative terminals of a battery or load in a DC system. In AC systems it refers to the connections made to the hot and neutral. There is often a reverse polarity light that indicates if the neutral and hot are reversed.

polarized system
An electrical system in which the positive and negative or the hot and neutral must be connected in a particular way and cannot be switched. Sometimes there are mechanical preventions to insure the correct polarity. For example, in an AC plug the physical configuration of the plug and receptacle force a polarized connection.

pole see also Toggle
Indicates a conductive path in a switch or relay. Switches that are single pole have one conductive path, switches that are two pole have two conductive paths. Also refers to the magnetic poles on an electromagnet or a permanent magnet.

The voltage across a circuit element. Implies the potential to do work.

Electrical power is the rate at which electrical energy is converted to another form, such as motion, heat, or an electromagnetic field. The common symbol for power is the uppercase letter P. The standard unit is the watt, symbolized by W. In utility circuits, the kilowatt (kW) is often specified instead; 1 kW = 1000 W.
Power in a direct current (DC) circuit is equal to the product of the voltage in volts and the current in amperes. This rule also holds for low-frequency alternating current (AC) circuits in which energy is neither stored nor released. At high AC frequencies, in which energy is stored and released (as well as dissipated or converted), the expression for power is more complex.
In a DC circuit, a source of V volts, delivering I amperes, produces P watts according to the formula: P = VI
When a current of I amperes passes through a resistance of R ohms, then the power in watts dissipated or converted by that component is given by: P = I2R
When a potential difference of V volts appears across a component having a resistance of R ohms, then the power in watts dissipated or converted by that component is given by: P = V2/R

power factor
In an AC circuit loads other than resistance shift the phase angle between the voltage and the current. This shift is the result of energy being stored and released in an inductor. To calculate the power consumed one must consider this phase shift. We do so by using the following formula: P=VI cosine (cosine symbol), where (cosine dymbol) is the difference in phase angle between the voltage and current. Cosine (cosine symbol) is called the power factor. For resistive loads the power factor is equal to 1 because the phase angle equals 0. For pure inductive loads the power factor is 0 because the phase angle is +90°.

The transmission of an electrical or electromagnetic signal through a medium such as air or a conductor.

Original article from Blue Sea Systems

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