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Basic Circuit Analysis
Parallel Circuits

Section 2-3 Kirchhoff's Current Law




Important Fact

The voltage in a parallel circuit is the same across component and equal to the source voltage.

VT = V1 = V2 = V3 = ... = Vn


Circuit 1


Circuit 2



This is an example of a very general type of parallel circuitnot just a battery and three resistors connected in series. We don't know exactly what the Source is. It might be a battery, an electrical generator, or any other source of electrical energy. Likewise the loads aren't necessarily resistors. They might be lamps, electronic equipment, or any other appliance that presents a fixed resistive load.

The important point is that the Source is providing 24V. This is a parallel circuit, so you can be confident that the source is providing 24V to each of the loads.




Important Facts

The sum of currents through each resistor in a parallel circuit is equal to the total total.

IT = I1 + I2 +I3 + ... + In


The source voltage in this example is 24V. You can see that the same 24-volt level appears across all the resistors that are connected in parallel with it.

The source current happens to be 70mA. That is also the circuit's total current. The important thing to see here is that the branch currents add up to the source, or total, current.


Finding the Total Current of a Parallel Resistor Circuit



Here is a simple 2-resistor parallel circuit. Let:
VT = 24V
R1 = 100W
R2 = 300W

Given those values for total voltage and each resistor:

  1. Determine the total resistance -- RT
  2. Determine the total current -- IT
  3. Determine the voltage across each resistor -- VR1, VR2
  4. Determine the current through each resistor -- IR1, IR2




When solving parallel resistor circuits, you are most often given the voltage of the source (VT) and the value of each resistor.

Given that information, you can use the equations for parallel resistance to calculate the total resistance (RT) of the circuit.

Knowing the total voltage and resistance, you can use Ohm's Law to find the total current:  IT = VT/RT



Given the source voltage (VT) and values of all


Find the total resistance (RT)

Calculate the total current IT = VT/RT







David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015