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Why Do We Use Alternating Current (AC) Electricity?

When you think about the electricity you use in your home, you’re probably not going to think about what type it is, where it comes from, and really even how it works. We get that. Electricity isn’t the most exciting of topics, no matter how much we personally love to talk about it…

That being said, there IS a difference in the types of electricity that exist, and if you’ve ever heard anyone say that your home is using Alternating Current (AC) electricity, there’s a pretty significant reason for that. So if you’re here because you’re wondering what the difference between AC and Direct Current (DC) electricity is, or you just want to know what the heck AC current even is, we can help you.

The Beginning of Electricity

Before we can get anywhere, we’ve got to provide you with a brief history of electricity. We know, no one likes a history lesson, but in order to understand where we are today, you need to know how we began. So let’s start with a quick recap:

You’ve all heard of Thomas Edison’s discovery of electricity via the whole lightning and kite experiment, right? Here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve forgotten the details.

From there, Edison went on to invent a lot of different electricity-based machines such as the phonograph and the lightbulb. After Edison’s discovery and continuing study of electricity, things accelerated pretty rapidly. People began using electricity in many different ways, but the main one was to light homes in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The Use of Direct Current Electricity

After Edison’s discovery and invention of electricity in general, it soon became apparent that companies that produced electricity could profit from homeowners using it. Cue Direct Current Electricity. DC was used for about 20 years before Nicola Tesla, a huge proponent of Alternating Current Electricity, invented a machine that could convert DC to AC. He struggled for a few years before people understood that AC was more efficient. In 1896 AC was officially named the type of electricity that would be used in homes and businesses.

But why?

The Difference Between AC & DC

As stated, AC stands for Alternating Current, which means that the electricity travels back and forth, rather than just in one direction like Direct Current. The main factor that went into the choice of AC over DC was that AC is more efficient. Its ability to travel back and forth made gave it the ability to travel over longer distances. Thus making it able to power more homes. Additionally, it was far easier and less dangerous to work with, which was a huge selling point when it was going to be used in the populace’s homes.

“generating and transporting AC across long distances is relatively easy. At high voltages (over 110kV), less energy is lost in electrical power transmission. Higher voltages mean lower currents, and lower currents mean less heat generated in the power line due to resistance. AC can be converted to and from high voltages easily using transformers.” – Sparkfun

Today, in 2018, we’re still using AC electricity for most of our homes and businesses.

Q: Do we ever use DC electricity anymore?

A: Yes, but rarely. DC power is produced by all modern solar panels, though that power is then changed to AC using a transformer so homes and businesses can use it. DC power is used in car batteries, portable solar systems, and any low-current applications.

Hopefully this has answered all of your questions about AC and DC electricity. We’re lucky to have such a manageable way to power our homes and devices. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe or that anyone can do electrical work! That’s why it’s important to have a professional make any changes or maintain your electrical systems within your home or business.

That’s where JP Electrical’s professional electricians come in handy. We can handle any job you have, and we always ensure we’ve done an excellent job. You can find out more about our services here, and you can always give us a call at 801-386-7331.