Understanding Electric Readings-Watts, Amps, Volts, & Ohms

Watts, amps, volts, and ohms; what does it all mean? You don’t have to be an electrician to understand these terms. Electrical readings often mirror that of a simple comparison to your garden hose. How is that? Like a garden hose, electrical wiring has something running through it but instead, the substance is electricity instead of water.

Understanding basic electrical readings will help you comprehend how much heating capacity your electric fireplace will actually provide. Each of these readings is directly related to heating capacity.

Electric Readings - Watts, volts, amps, and Ohms

Source: E of Dreams

Editors Note: You can skip down to the bottom if you want sift through the technical jargon for a simple answer.

Basic Electric Formulas

Basic Electric Formulas

Here are the Basic Electric Formulas.


Watts means power.  An easy way to understand wattage is by plugging your finger into the end of a garden hose. You didn’t increase the amount of water flowing through the hose so why then, would the water flow at a higher rate and have a higher force? Since you reduced the size of the hole (gauge of the electrical wire), you increased the pressure (or voltage). This action propagates the substance at higher rates.

An increase in power is attributed to an increase in wattage. You’ll often see this reading on stereo systems, fans, microwaves, and just about anything that uses electricity. Watts are a measurement of electrical power (P). Power is equivalent to voltage times current. For the mathematicians out there: P = V x I


Current is a quantity that measures the volume of electrical flow between two points and is measured using amperage. Current is measured in amperage or “amps” for short. Amps measure the amount of electricity being used. Referring back to the garden hose analogy, amperage would be akin to the number of gallons of water was pumped through the water spout.

Current is abbreviated with the letter “I” not to be confused with “L.” Current is calculated using the formula created by Ohm’s Law: I = V/r. This can be read, “current is equal to voltage divided by resistance.”


Using our garden hose analogy, the voltage of electricity is akin to the pressure in a garden hose. Imagine a 1 inch hose with a little bit of water flowing through it. Twist the faucet open and you have a stream of water that creates pressure inside the hose. Similarly, the voltage of an electrical wire is determined by factors such as the size of the wire (gauge) and resistance (covered in the next section). Simply put, voltage tells you how much force is being exerted relevant to the wire.

Voltage Meter or Voltometer

A voltage meter or voltmeter is an instrument used for measuring electrical potential difference between two points in an electric circuit.

Voltage is important because an overload (sending too much power through an undersized wire) can lead to blown fuses and tripped fuse panels. This is one of the trouble spots that can cause electric fireplaces to fail. Voltage is an actual measurement. Voltage is equal to current times resistance. V = I x r

Ohm’s ?

Watts, amps, and voltage all culminate into Ohm’s, a measure of resistance. Ohm’s Law uses these 3 mathematical equations to demonstrate the relationship between electric voltage, current, and resistance. Resistance is measured in Ohm’s using the formula R = V/I. This is read as Resistance = Voltage divided by Current. Ohm’s law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the potential difference across the two points.

This is important because different types of metal carry different types of resistance because of their inherent physical properties. For this reason, certain metals prove to be better conductors and transmit electricity easily.

Most Conductive Metals

Here you can see the inside of different types of metal. Silver offers the least resistance but copper is a close second and is the most popular choice. Source: ntd-ed.org

Generally speaking, silver is the least resistive metal however, it has a high density. For this reason, most wiring uses copper or gold which has a lower density-resistivity level. If you’re really bored, you can check out tis table for a full list of resistivity of different types of metals.

Simplified Version for those Who are too Lazy to Read or Want the Short Answer

  • Amps measure the amount of electricity being used.
  • Voltage measure the pressure (or force) of electricity.
  • Wattage is a measure of electrical power.
  • Ohm’s measures the resistance between two points. The thicker the gauge of wire is, the more electrical current flow through from point A to point B.

Applying it in Real Life

So how does all of this translate into the warm air coming from your electric fireplace? Electricity is used to generate heat from an electric unit. The amount of electricity that can flow through your electric fireplace is directly relevant to BTU output. BTU is an abbreviation for British Thermal Units and is used to measure heat and cooling output for heaters and air conditioning units. Check out this post to learn how BTU’s work. Likewise, you can use this BTU calculator to determine how many BTU’s your home needs.

When it comes to electric fireplaces, the saying holds true; looks don’t mean everything. It’s important to understand how electric readings translate to heating efficiency. You can find details and specifications on all of the latest models from top brands like Dimplex, Holly & Martin, and Real Flame right here on Portable Fireplace.com.