Discharging a Capacitor: Electrical Currents

Learn About the Methods to Discharge a Capacitor

A capacitor is an essential component of any and all electronic devices. Capacitors have various types and uses. A very good example would be a capacitor used on audio electrical devices such as in a car sound system setup. The capacitor is the one responsible for storing sufficient energy into the amplifier so that it won't have to steal for electrical currents from the car battery to be able to output energy-consuming low frequency bass sounds. Since capacitors can store electrical currents for an indefinite period of time even Close up of a circuit boardif it is not hooked up to any power source, then a capacitor can be extremely dangerous when not discharged correctly. If you need to have the capacitor uninstalled or removed, it has to be discharged properly and completely. This is so accidental electrocution which could be potentially fatal to you can be avoided. Also, damaging power surges that can burn up or cause short circuits on the components of the electrical device can be prevented. Use these tips to safely discharge a capacitor:

Observe the important safety measures prior to discharging the capacitor. As was earlier said, capacitors hold electric currents even when not connected to any power source. This being said, capacitors, especially those with high capacitances, can hold substantial loads of electric currents for days. These could go off and spark, causing electrocution and short circuits when discharging is not properly done. This is why it is important to arm yourself with the necessary safety gear -- especially if you'll be discharging a high-voltage capacitor. Never attempt to discharge a capacitor without protective goggles shielding your eyes. There have been cases where fragments of the tools used to discharge the capacitor flew off in sparks. Also, it would be advisable to wear a pair of highly insulated utility gloves for added safety as this will help minimize the electrical current that will course through your body if the charge goes astray. And of course, using the right tools and materials for discharging the capacitor is very crucial. While you can always improvise on these, you increase the odds of getting into accidents.

Discharging a capacitor simply means giving the stored electrical currents a path out of the apparatus. To discharge a small capacitor, touching the two lead terminals with the tips of two screwdrivers with insulated handles should do the trick. However, this is not recommended unless you are a mechanic or electrician with years of experience in the said matter. Handling high-voltage capacitors, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. You have to attach the supplied resistor or test light onto the capacitor's terminals to safely dissipate the stored electrical currents.

To make sure that you completely discharged the capacitor, after following the aforementioned steps you can touch the terminals with the tips of the screwdriver once more. Alternatively, have a light bulb handy for the purpose. Simply touch its threaded base onto one of the capacitor's terminals. If it still contains electrical charges, the bulb will light. 


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