Resistors, Potentiometers & more!

Potentiometers

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An electrical component that is called a potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage.  If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat. 

There is also a measuring instrument called a potentiomenter, which is basically a voltage divider used for measuring the voltage or electrical potential.

Potentiometers are typically used to control electrical devices such as a volume controls, however they can also be operated by a mechanism allowing them to be used as a position transducer as in a gaming joystick.  Potentiometers are rarely used to directly control more than a watt of power, since the power dissipated in the potentiometer would be comparable to the power in the controlled load.

Normally the potentiometer will have its value marked on it, with the maximum value in ohms. Smaller trimpots may use a 3-digit code where the first 2 digits are significant, and the 3rd is the multiplier.  For example, code 204 = 20 followed by four 0’s = 200000 ohms = 200K ohms. They may also have a letter code on them indicating the taper.  This indicates how resistance changes in relation to how far the potentiometer is turned. Check out our RESOURCES page for more helpful info!


Resistors

Click on the photo to see all the
Resistors
we  have available

Click here to access all Resistors & Potentiometers we have available

Resistors are electronic components which have a specific, never-changing electrical resistance and they are one of the most used components in a circuit. The resistor’s resistance limits the flow of electrons through a circuit.  They are passive components, only consuming power and cannot generate it.  Resistors can be used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, divide voltages, establish predetermined voltages for active elements, and terminate transmission lines, among other uses. 

High-power resistors that can dissipate many watts of electrical power as heat may be used as part of motor controls, in power distribution systems, or as test loads for generators.  Fixed resistors have resistances that only change slightly with operating voltage, temperature, or time. Variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements (such as a volume control or a light dimmer), or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.

Small Resistors, typically used on computer or electrical boards, are often color coded,  but some have their value (in Ohms) and their tolerance printed on them.  There are also meter devices that can check resistance if the resistor has been removed from a board.  Do not attempt to measure a  resistor while it is still soldered in to a board as your results may be inaccurate, due to connections with the rest of the circuit.   Check out our RESOURCES page for more helpful info!