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Difference Between Series and Parallel Circuits

circuitSeries vs Parallel Circuits

An electrical circuit can be set up in many ways. Electronic devices such as resistors, diode, switches, and so on, are components placed and positioned in a circuit structure. The placement of such components is crucial to the operation of the circuit, as different kinds of setups create a different kind of output, result, or purpose. Two of the simplest electronic or electrical connections are called the series and parallel circuits. These two are actually the most basic setup of all electrical circuits, but are significantly different from each other.

Fundamentally, a series circuit aims to have the same amount of current flow through all the components placed inline. It is called a ‘series’ because of the fact that the components are in the same single path of the current flow. For instance, when components such as resistors are put in a series circuit connection, the same current flows through these resistors, but each will have different voltages, assuming that the amount of resistance is dissimilar. The voltage of the whole circuit will be sum of the voltages in every component or resistor.

In series circuits:

Vt = V1 + V2 + V3…
It = I1 = I2 = I3…
Rt = R1 + R2 + R3…


Vt = total circuit voltage
V1, V2, V3, and so on = voltage in each component
It = total current
I1, I2, I3, and so on = current across each component
Rt = total resistance from components/resistors
R1, R2, R3, and so on = resistance values of each component

The other type of connection is called ‘parallel’. Components of such a circuit are not inline, or in series, but parallel to each other. In other words, the components are wired in separate loops. This circuit splits the current flow, and the current flowing through each component will ultimately combine to form the current flowing in the source. The voltages across the ends of the components are the same; the polarities are also identical. Let’s draw out the same example given in the series circuit, and assume that the resistors are connected in parallel. The other term for ‘parallel’ circuits is ‘multiple’, because of the multiple connections.

In parallel circuits:

Vt = V1 = V2 = V3
It = V (1/R1 + 1/R2 + 1/R3) since,
1/Rt = (1/R1 + 1/R2 + 1/R3)

One of the major differences – besides from the voltage, current, and resistance formulas ‘“ is the fact that series circuits will break if one component, such as a resistor, burns out; thus, the circuit won’t be complete. In parallel circuits however, the functioning of other components will still continue, as each component has its own circuit, and is independent.


1. Series circuits are basic types of electrical circuits in which all components are joined in a sequence so that the same current flows through all of them.

2. Parallel circuits are types of circuits in which the identical voltage occurs in all components, with the current dividing among the components based on their resistances, or the impedances.

3. In series circuits, the connection or circuit will not be complete if one component in the series burns out.

4. Parallel circuits will still continue to operate, at least with other components, if one parallel-connected component burns out.

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  3. Hello,
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    • In a series circuit, the downstream wire of the first device is connected to the upstream wire of the second device. So the current has to flow through device one, then device two. In this case, total resistance is increased because it is harder for the current to flow through two devices.

      In a parallel circuit, the upstream wires of the two devices are connected to each other, and the downstream wires of the two devices are connected. So, part of the current will flow through device one, and the rest of the current will flow through device two. In this case, total resistance is decreased because the current can flow more easily through the resistors (this takes a little math to really prove, but the conclusion still holds).

      Some circuits can have some devices wired in series, and others in parallel, but these circuits should not be confused with simple series and parallel circuits.

      Series Circuit ~ There is only one path from one end of the battery back to the other end.

      Parallel Circuit ~ There are at least two different paths from end of the battery back to the other end.

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  7. your very good in explaining bro. two thumbs up. just add more illustrations(^^)

  8. I finally got it!

  9. This helped REALLY well.
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  10. It really does not help me at all.

  11. What actually the effect of the RC circuit if the resistance increases? And give a brief knowledge about the resistor in various methods of applying

  12. Thanks for the explanation ^^ It helped me a lot

  13. It really helped me, thank you.
    I’m writing physics in two days and I still didn’t know the entire difference!

  14. Highly impressed with the above explanation given… It help me a lots.

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