Do you have a solar system at the home? An electric car in your drive way? Smart phones, tablets, game consoles and other electronics proliferating in your home?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, it’s time to take a minute to learn about the difference between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) electricity and what it means for your household energy use.
As Doug Houseman explains at IEEE Smart Grid, “According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), the fastest growing portion of residential electricity use is consumer electronics and small appliances. These devices primarily run on DC power.”
Mr. Houseman is talking about any of your electronics that plug in to the wall through one of those AC rectifiers or adapters, (known as “power bricks,” “wall warts,” etc.) including your smart phone, computer, gaming consoles, many flatscreen TVs, LED lights, and a growing range of other electronic devices.
These digital devices now consume anywhere between 15 and 30 percent of a typical household’s electricity, up from a negligible share just a couple decades ago.
“Within the next 20 years we could definitely see as much as 50 percent of our total [electricity consumption] be made up of DC consumption,” according to Greg Reed, director of the Power & Energy Initiative at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s accelerating even more than we’d expected,” Reed told MIT Technology Review in April 2012.
- “Is DC’s Place in the Home?,” IEEE Smart Grid, by Doug Houseman
- “Was Edison Right After All? Reconsidering DC Power,” TheEnergyCollective.com, by Steven Collier
- “DC Power Microgrids: Self-Sufficiency for Utility Customers,” TheEnergyCollective.com, by Steven Collier
- “Edison’s Revenge: the Rise of DC Power,” MIT Technology Review, by Peter Fairley