Americans live in power! American electricity companies generated nearly 2.5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first seven months of 2022 alone.
But not all of this electricity is the same. Many people know of AC and DC power, but they don’t know the differences between the two. If you’re looking to study the fundamentals of electricity, you need to study AC vs. DC.
What are AC and DC, and what are the differences between the two? What types of electricity do you use in your appliances? Why is AC vs. DC power important to understand?
Answer these questions and you can harness the power of both types of electricity. Here is your quick guide.
Alternating current (AC) power is electricity that has momentary changes in direction. Electrons create electric currents by flowing upward to create a positive current and then flowing down to generate a negative current.
Alternators make AC power by spinning wire loops inside magnetic fields. When the wire spins from one pole of the field to the other, the current goes in a certain direction. When the wire switches poles, the current moves in the other direction.
The changes in the currents create a wave-like motion that allows the electricity to travel long distances. This makes AC power the best power for cross-country delivery.
Most large appliances use AC power from the electric grid. Your washing machine, refrigerator, and lamps likely use AC electricity.
Direct current (DC) power is linear. The current travels in a straight line, which means it doesn’t travel as far as AC power. Coils in many power systems can interfere with DC transmission, decreasing the number of volts.
However, DC power has a consistent voltage. If a device needs a higher or lower voltage, you can attach it to a transformer that can change the voltage level.
Many electronics can use direct currents without receiving too much electricity. DC power is also easy to store in batteries.
Battery-powered devices like flashlights use DC power as well as many small appliances. Computers, cell phones, and video cameras rely on DC power.
It is possible to change AC power to DC power with a rectifier. It is also possible to convert DC to AC, but several tools must be used to manipulate the current in DC electricity. One tool is an insulator that can prevent electrical charges from moving around, allowing electrical workers to change the current.
AC vs. DC
AC vs. DC is the leading debate in electric production. AC power has a changing current that allows for long-distance transmission of electricity. DC power has one constant current and a reliable voltage.
AC power is the best power to send across the electrical grid while DC power is great for batteries. You use both types of power in your daily life, though most large devices rely on AC power.