AC Parallel Resistor-Inductor Circuit Analysis

In this article you’ll learn about behaviour of parallel resistor-inductor circuit analysis. This article is linked with previous article on Series resistor-inductor circuit. You might want to learn ac series resistor-inductor circuits.

Circuit Diagram

Let’s consider a parallel resistor-inductor circuit: (Figure below)

Parallel R-L circuit.

Because the power source has the same frequency as the series example circuit, and the resistor and inductor both have the same values of resistance and inductance, respectively, they must also have the same values of impedance. So, we can begin our analysis table with the same “given” values:

Voltage Calculations

The only difference in our analysis technique this time is that we will apply the rules of parallel circuits instead of the rules for series circuits. The approach is fundamentally the same as for DC. We know that voltage is shared uniformly by all components in a parallel circuit, so we can transfer the figure of total voltage (10 volts ∠ 0o) to all components columns:

Current calculations

Now we can apply Ohm’s Law (I=E/Z) vertically to two columns of the table, calculating current through the resistor and current through the inductor:

Just as with DC circuits, branch currents in a parallel AC circuit add to form the total current (Kirchhoff’s Current Law still holds true for AC as it did for DC):

Impedance Calculations

Finally, total impedance can be calculated by using Ohm’s Law (Z=E/I) vertically in the “Total” column. Incidentally, parallel impedance can also be calculated by using a reciprocal formula identical to that used in calculating parallel resistances.

The only problem with using this formula is that it typically involves a lot of calculator keystrokes to carry out. And if you’re determined to run through a formula like this “longhand,” be prepared for a very large amount of work! But, just as with DC circuits, we often have multiple options in calculating the quantities in our analysis tables, and this example is no different. No matter which way you calculate total impedance (Ohm’s Law or the reciprocal formula), you will arrive at the same figure:


  • Impedances (Z) are managed just like resistances (R) in parallel circuit analysis: parallel impedances diminish to form the total impedance, using the reciprocal formula. Just be sure to perform all calculations in complex (not scalar) form! ZTotal = 1/(1/Z1 + 1/Z2 + . . . 1/Zn)
  • Ohm’s Law for AC circuits: E = IZ ; I = E/Z ; Z = E/I
  • When resistors and inductors are mixed together in parallel circuits (just as in series circuits), the total impedance will have a phase angle somewhere between 0o and +90o. The circuit current will have a phase angle somewhere between 0o and -90o.
  • Parallel AC circuits exhibit the same fundamental properties as parallel DC circuits: voltage is uniform throughout the circuit, branch currents add to form the total current, and impedances diminish (through the reciprocal formula) to form the total impedance

Article extracted from Lesson in Electric Circuits AC Volume Tony R Kuphaldt under Design Science License. Heading and title are modified/added.

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