Resistors Wattage

Discussion in 'Homework Help' started by Cerkit, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Cerkit

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Jan 4, 2009
    What is physically different between two resistors with the same resistance but different wattage rating??
    And if it is thickness then how do you still get the same resistance rating??
    Don't understand what the different factors are that allow the wattage rating to be independantly altered with regards to the resistance.

    Thank you
  2. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
    It has to do with how the resistor, or any power dissipating component, dissipates heat.

    A higher wattage part is designed to either dissipate more heat into the environment, or to operate normally at a higher temperature, or both.

    Generally, the higher the power handling capability, the larger the surface area.
  3. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    You determine the value by the current going through it, adding a little bit of wiggle room.

  4. crutschow


    Mar 14, 2008
    Generally the higher the wattage, the physically bigger the resistor substrate. How the correct resistance value is generated depends upon the type of resistor. If it's a film type resistor, the resistance material goes in a narrow spiral path on the substrate from one end of the resistor to the other. The resistance value is determined by the resistance of the material, the thickness of the material, and the length and width of the path.
  5. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    Higher wattage resistors will also have an aluminum anodized casing with integral heatsink fins.

    Some high wattage, low value resistors are formed by wrapping resistive wire around a core. These wirewound types have the drawback of adding parasitic inductance and capacitance to the resistance.
  6. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    In general a resistors wattage should be 2 times required. So if your calculations show your resistor should be 1W you would pick a 2W resistor.
  7. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    For a given choice of materials, wattage is mainly a matter of surface area. The resistor needs to have sufficient area so that the heat produced can be lost to the surroundings without the temperature rising too much.

    The resistance is given by the material resistivity, multiplied by the resistor element length, and divided by its cross-sectional area. Thus the thickness of a resistive surface coating such as a metal film can be chosen to set the resistance, without changing the power rating.

    Other methods of changing the resistance include cutting spirals in cylindrical film resistors, and L-cuts for rectangular ones. These may slightly reduce the power rating, but mainly affect the resistance value.
  8. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    You can't always guess wattage by overall size. A 3W metal oxide resistor would be about 5 times the size of a 3W wirewound resistor. It all depends on how the resistor dissipates heat and how hot it can safely operate.
  9. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
    True, but for any given construction, material choice, and reliability specification, the higher rated devices will be bigger.

    The reason for mentioning reliability is that running devices hotter leads to them wearing out faster. Sometimes manufacturers offer very highly rated devices for a given size and construction, which therefore run very hot.

    Although reliability may have generally improved compared to what it was some years ago, very high temperatures don't help matters. It has been suggested that some Chinese manufacturers in particular may be "inflating" the ratings, that is, cheating.