March 26, 2023

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Voltage drop describes how the supplied energy of a voltage source is reduced as electric current moves through the passive elements (elements that do not supply voltage) of an electrical circuit. Voltage drops across internal resistances of the source, across conductors, across contacts, and across connectors are undesired; supplied energy is lost (dissipated). Voltage drops across loads and across other active circuit elements are desired; supplied energy performs useful work. For example, an electric space heater may have a resistance of ten ohms, and the wires which supply it may have a resistance of 0.2 ohms, about 2% of the total circuit resistance. This means that approximately 2% of the supplied voltage is lost in the wire itself. Excessive voltage drop may result in unsatisfactory operation of, and damage to, electrical and electronic equipment. National and local electrical codes may set guidelines for the maximum voltage drop allowed in electrical wiring, to ensure efficiency of distribution and proper operation of electrical equipment. The maximum permitted voltage drop varies from one country to another. In electronic design and power transmission, various techniques are employed to compensate for the effect of voltage drop on long circuits or where voltage levels must be accurately maintained. The simplest way to reduce voltage drop is to increase the diameter of the conductor between the source and the load, which lowers the overall resistance. In power distribution systems, a given amount of power can be transmitted with less voltage drop if a higher voltage is used. More sophisticated techniques use active elements to compensate for the undesired voltage drop.

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