The AC and DC debate has been raging ever since the invention of electricity, and it is a debate that shows no signs of dying down. But it concerns everyone. AC and DC are both types of current in an electric circuit. Every power supplier converts the electricity they produce to either AC or DC.

This article defines AC and DC power and how they differ from each other. You will also learn the type of current used in households.

What is AC Power?

AC stands for Alternating Current. It is a type of current that changes direction at regular intervals. As the current changes direction, they create wave-like patterns (or wavelengths).

The wavelengths of AC are powerful. It also helps them to travel farther than other types of current. Due to this fact, Power Companies use AC to transmit electricity over long distances.

They are used to power houses, warehouses, and other extensive facilities. Some household items also use AC power.

Source of AC Power

Alternators are special generators that produce Alternating current. They use a wire loop inside a magnetic field. The rotating wires of the loop conduct electricity in a wave-like manner.

Examples of AC Powered Devices

The powerful nature of Alternating Current makes it primarily unsuitable for many devices. Some do use it, however. Devices such as the electric motor make use of AC power. Car engines and Generators use electric motors to convert energy.

Household AC-powered devices include refrigerators, dishwashers, toasters, and garbage disposers.

Note: Energy distribution companies supply their electricity in AC power. Transformers step down the high voltage of AC to useable energy.

What is DC Power?

DC stands for Direct Current. This type of current moves in a straight line, not a wave-like one. Unlike AC power, DC power produces consistent voltage. Direct Current cannot travel over long distances. It is best suited for those devices that require an uninterrupted supply of electricity.

Sources of DC Power

Most Direct Current comes from batteries, solar panels, and fuel cells. Devices called rectifiers can also produce DC. The rectifiers do this by converting AC to DC.

Examples of DC Powered Devices

Nearly all household electronics use DC power. Cell phones, televisions, laptops, and flashlights, are a few of many examples.

Because home outlets are often AC, they often come with an AC adaptor. The AC adaptor converts AC to DC.

Is Household Electricity AC or DC?

Many Electricity companies produce power in AC format. The electricity companies also distribute power in AC format. This preference is because Alternating Current is the easiest to transport over long distances. AC is also easier to transform between voltage levels.

Because AC is powerful, Power suppliers must reduce its voltage before devices can use it. Power suppliers do this in two ways. They may use a transformer to step down the voltage of the Alternating Current. Household outlets will receive a reduced voltage in AC format.

However, most devices at home can only use Direct Current. These devices convert AC power to DC power using an AC-DC power supply.

The parts of the AC-DC power supplies enable it to convert AC power to DC. It contains a transformer, a rectifier, and a filter.

The transformer controls the voltage of AC, while the Rectifier converts AC to DC. The filter removes the electronic noise produced during the switching of currents. Current switching also creates voltage ripple that can damage some devices. Using regulated power supplies ensures that the converted current does not overload the device.

What Does a Surge Protector Do?

Sometimes, the current transferred to devices can exceed their operating range. When this happens, it is called a Power Surge. Power surges can happen when you switch on high-powered devices. Air conditioners and refrigerators are the usual suspects. They can also happen because of faulty wiring.

Soft power Surges can damage equipment over time. However, strong power surges can damage or even destroy electronic devices faster.

Power Surge Protectors are devices that protect electronic devices from electrical surges.

How Do Power Surge Protectors Work?

Power surge protectors have a threshold voltage capacity. Manufacturers often pin this threshold at 120V. If voltage crosses 120, the surge protector blocks the excess current. It can also divert the current to the ground (known as ground voltage).

These types of surge protectors often have an indicator that blinks when damaged. They are only able to handle small power surges.

Whole House Surge Protectors safeguard the entire house from higher voltage surges. Electricians mount them near the main electrical service panel. They also protect components that cannot connect to point-of-use devices. An example of this is the light switch.
Advantages Of AC over DC in Power Transmission

Although AC and DC power remains essential today, AC dominates the electricity sphere. This dominance is because AC possesses specific properties that make them ideal. Power distribution companies prefer AC Power for the following reasons:

  1. Alternating Current can be easily transferred over long distances. Easy transmission is essential in getting a power supply to remote locations. Direct Current can only travel over short distances.
  2. AC usually travels at high voltage. But it is easier to step down AC into smaller units. DC travels at a lower voltage, making it extremely difficult to step up.
  3. AC losses very little energy during transmission. Energy loss is minimal because AC travels at a higher voltage. DC travels at lower voltage and loses more energy.
  4. Alternating Current is easier and cheaper to generate than Direct Current.
  5. Alternating Current can be easily converted into Direct Current. Trying to convert DC to AC is much more difficult.
  6. Power Companies can reduce the magnitude of AC without excessive loss of energy. One way to do this is by using Choke Oil. Direct Current cannot be easily reduced or regulated.

Final Thoughts

The AC and DC debate will probably never end. But both current types will remain essential in power distribution and usage. While power distribution utilizes AC power, many household devices use DC power and AC-DC power supplies. Understanding how the current types work will help us. We will be better able to protect our devices from power surges.

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