Glacial Energy Blog

The Speed of Electricity

The speed of electricity and the speed of light are the same. Light and electricity are able to travel at an amazing 186,000 miles per second. It can be difficult for anyone to wrap one’s head around just how fast this really is.

An Example to Help Illustrate the Speed of Electricity

One good example is to think of the speed of electricity in the following way. Imagine that you have a light bulb on the moon and you have a light switch in your living room down on earth. Now imagine that you have a telescope powerful enough to see that little light bulb that’s 238,857 miles away. Reach over and flip the switch. It’s only going to take 1.26 seconds for that bulb to illuminate. That’s exactly how long it takes for light or electricity to reach the moon from the earth.

Of course, we don’t really have light bulbs on the moon, but it does serve to illustrate the point. Once you know that the speed of light and therefore electricity is a constant (unless there is resistance), it’s easy to calculate just how long it would take electricity to travel anywhere in the world, or universe for that matter.

Knowing just how fast electricity is able to move when unimpeded also helps make it easier to understand just how and why our lamps and other devices are able to work instantaneously.

Is It Fast Enough?

One of the questions that some people have is whether the electricity is moving fast enough, and how might it be possible to make it go faster. If it is moving at the speed of light though, how could it possibly move faster? Most believe that the speed of light is the actual speed limit in the laws of the universe. That might be the case, but when you are talking about electricity in devices, things can get a bit tricky. It’s true that it travels at the speed of light, and in many electric devices such as computers, it does not have to flow very far at all.

However, the wires in the computers are going to create resistance, and this is going to slow the current slightly. This, along with transistors and other components mean that the electricity that we have – even though it has the potential – travels through the devices and the machines at a slightly slower speed.

Engineers and specialists are always trying to find ways to speed things up, but even so, electricity does flow rather quickly today! One should not have to worry that the electricity in their laptop isn’t flowing at light speed! They are generally going to be fast enough, and you are not going to realize that there is a slowdown at all.


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