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DC to AC Power: Why is AC Used Instead of DC?

Two types of electrical current can be used to power electrical equipment: Direct Current (DC), which is characterized by the unidirectional flow of an electrical charge; and Alternating Current (AC), which is characterized by an electrical charge that can reverse directions. In Thomas Edison’s day, the power grid delivered DC to businesses and residences, whereas today, the worldwide power grid is largely designed to deliver AC.

Why Did the Changeover Occur?

Initially, the main reason for switching the power grid from DC to AC power was that DC couldn’t travel long distances across power lines without degrading in intensity. This meant that an electricity generation station was needed to serve a relatively small number of users, which ultimately meant that the DC operating system contained far more power stations than would have been necessary had an AC operating system been in place.

With the invention of electricity transformers that could be implemented in the power grid, AC became the prefered form of electrical current, not only because it could travel long distance across power lines without degrading, but also because it eliminated the corollary problem of power users receiving increasingly weaker current the farther they were located away from a DC power hub. If you lived in a house located at the end of a DC power line, your lights would burn dimmer than lights in a residence that was located near the beginning of the line.

Edison Vs. Westinghouse

Despite the obvious financial and functional drawbacks of using a DC electricity system, Edison remained stringent in his belief that DC was the most preferred current, even in the face of the clear advantages that George Westinghouse’s AC electricity system offered. Westinghouse eventually won out, with his transition of DC to AC power ironically winning him the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) Edison Medal “for meritorious achievement in connection with the development of the alternating current system.”

When the power grid switched from DC to AC power, manufacturers of electrical equipment naturally began developing their products to receive AC instead of DC, creating a permanent shift in how the equipment was designed that still exists today. Although using DC electricity in the power grid still has some proponents, the design of AC-based electrical equipment all but ensures that AC will be used in our electricity system for the foreseeable future.

Who We Are

Exeltech is manufacturer of industrial grade power inverters and power converters that come with the certifications that companies and organizations need to address their unique electricity conduction requirements. For 25 years, we’ve supplied stock equipment and custom equipment to numerous entities in various industries. To inquire about our products, please call us today at (800) 886-4683, or use the contact form on our website.