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Electrical Load

You hear electrical engineers talk about electrical loads, but what exactly are they? In this article, we’ll define electrical loads, their various types, and the role they play in power systems.

What is an Electrical Load?

A device that consumes electricity is called an electrical load.

Think of equipment that consumes electricity. It could be a laptop, a lamp, a dryer, your electric car charger, or something else. They have a circuit with a device that consumes power in form of an electrical current. It converts electrical energy into something else, such as heat, light, or motion. More specifically, that electricity-consuming device is an electrical load.

It’s worth noting that an appliance’s electrical load is a measure of power. It refers to how much electricity it takes to keep an appliance or device up and running. It’s not a measure of energy, which is the ability to perform a task. So an energy-efficient appliance and an older, less-efficient appliance might have the same electrical load, but the energy-efficient appliance can probably do significantly more work than its older counterpart.

Types of Electrical Loads

There are different types of electrical loads. Here are three types you need to know:

Resistive Load

Load that only consumes active power convert electrical energy into thermal energy such as heat and light. The power factor of this load is unity, meaning its voltage and current are in phase with each other. Some examples of resistive loads are lamps and heaters.

Inductive Load

Inductive loads consume reactive power. These have coils that create a magnetic field when electrical current passes through them. Examples of inductive load include motors and transformers. The device uses electricity first and the magnetic coil propels the device second. This means that the device's power factor is lagging. An inductive device will stop running soon after it stops receiving energy, whereas resistive devices stop immediately.

Capacitive Load

Capacitive devices consume both active and reactive power. They also cause the current to lead voltage. The power factor of this device is leading. Capacitor banks, cables, and batteries are some of the most common examples of capacitive load.

Importance of Electrical Loads for Backup Power

To properly select backup power solutions, the characteristics of electrical loads must be considered together with the applications that the load equipment will serve. It is critical to be aware of the types of load in a facility because they introduce different requirements that your system must be ready to provide.

The event sequence needed to transfer the resistive load to a backup generator often differs from the sequence needed to transfer power for inductive or motor loads. Transferring inductive loads between power sources without appropriate controls can result in abnormal in-rush currents that may trip overcurrent protection devices and damage equipment. Proper transfer switch selection can mitigate inrush currents. In addition, the sensitivity of the load equipment to interruptions and the requirements of the end-user will also affect design choices for backup power solutions.


Understanding the characteristics of electrical loads is practical knowledge for people who design, manage, and use electrical power in buildings and homes. It gives everyone a chance to be more aware of their electricity usage and the options they have when it comes to choosing backup power solutions.

ASCO Power Technologies is the global leader in critical backup power solutions. For more than 125 years, ASCO Power Technologies has offered the most trusted backup power equipment and power services for mission-critical facilities around the globe. We offer unparalleled technical support for selecting and maintaining transfer switches, paralleling switchgear, and critical power monitoring systems.

Learn more about the solutions ASCO offers for providing backup power to electrical loads.

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