How does power get from the plant to my house? Where do the voltages go up and d…

How does power get from the plant to my house? Where do the voltages go up and down?

The voltage is stepped up at the power plant so that a small current of very high voltage charges (high energy per charge) can carry enormous power across the countryside. When this current arrives at your city, its voltage is stepped down so that a medium current of medium high voltage charges can carry that same enormous power through your city. Finally, near your house, its voltage is again stepped down so that a large current of low voltage charges can carry this power into your house. Naturally, you do not use all of the power from the power plant yourself, so it is distributed among all of the buildings in the city.

What is the difference between single-phase and three-phase electric power?

What is the difference between single-phase and three-phase electric power?

In single-phase power, current flows to and from a device through a pair of wires. The direction of the current flow changes with time, reversing smoothly 120 times a second in the US or 100 times a second in Europe (60 or 50 full cycles of reversal, over and back, each second respectively). In its simplest form, one of the two wires is called “neutral” and its voltage is always close to 0 volts (meaning that it has essentially no net electric charge on it). The other wire is called “power” and its voltage fluctuates from positive to negative to positive many times a second (meaning that its net electric charge varies from positive to negative to positive). The difference in voltage between “neutral” and “power” propels current through the device.

In three-phase power, current flows to and from a device through a group of three wires. These three wires are often called “X”, “Y”, and “Z”, and each one is a power wire with a voltage that fluctuates from positive to negative to positive many times a second. (A fourth wire, “neutral”, with a voltage of approximately 0 volts, may also be used.) But while the voltages of the three power wires fluctuate up and down the same number of times each second, they do not reach their maximum or minimum voltages at the same time. They reach their peaks one after the next in an equally spaced sequence: first “X”, then “Y”, then “Z”, and then “X” again and so on. Because these three wires or “phases” rarely have the same voltages, currents can and do flow between any pair of them. It is such current flows that power the devices that use three-phase electric power. The natural sequencing of the three phases is particularly useful for devices that perform rhythmic tasks. For example, three-phase electric motors often turn in near synchrony with the rising and falling voltages of the phases.

Another advantage of three-phase electric power is that there is never a time when all three phases are at the same voltage. In single-phase power, whenever the two phases have the same voltage there is temporarily no electric power available. That’s why single-phase electric devices must store energy to carry them over those dry spells. However, in three-phase power, a device can always obtain power from at least one pair of phases.

Why does less current flow through a longer wire?

Why does less current flow through a longer wire?

Wires obey Ohm’s law: the current flowing through them is proportional to the voltage drop across them. But the precise relationship depends on the wire’s length. A short wire will carry a large current even when the voltage drop across it is small because that wire has a small electrical resistance; it does not impede the flow of electricity very much. But a long wire has a large electrical resistance and will only carry a large current if the voltage drop across it is large. If you do not change the source of electrical power (e.g. a battery) and replace short wires with long wires, those wires will not be able to carry as much current.

How is AC converted in certain items to DC?

How is AC converted in certain items to DC?

These devices use diodes, which are one-way devices for current. They only allow the current to flow a certain direction and block its flow the other way. With the help of some charge storage devices called capacitors, these diodes can stop the reversals of AC and turn it into DC. Those little black battery eliminators that you use for household electronic devices contain a transformer, a few diodes and a capacitor or two.

A step-up transformer has a secondary coil with many, many turns. As the current in the primary circuit flows back and forth, it creates a reversing electric field around the iron core of the transformer. This electric field pushes charges through the secondary coil so that it travels around and around the core. Each charge goes around many times, picking up more energy with each passage. By the time the charge leaves the transformer, it has lots of energy so its voltage is very high.

What is the difference, if any, between appliances with a 2 prong plug and a 3 p…

What is the difference, if any, between appliances with a 2 prong plug and a 3 prong plug?

In the 2 prong system, current travels to the appliance through one prong and leaves through the other prong. The roles of the two prongs interchange every 120th of a second. In the 3-prong system, there is one extra prong and that connects the frame of the appliance to the ground (the earth). This extra connection is a safety feature. If a wire comes loose inside the appliance and touches the frame, the frame can deliver charge and current to you through your hand and you can deliver it to the ground through your feet or your other hand. The earth is very large and a large amount of charge can flow into it without repelling further charge. Moreover most electrical systems are actually connected to the ground at some point. So if current can travel out of the circuit feeding power to the appliance and travel through you and into the ground, it will. You’ll get a shock. The ground connection (the extra prong) allows this extra current to flow to ground so easily that a huge current is drawn out of the power source, causing the fuse or circuit breaker in that power source to break the connection. When that power connection is broken, no power can flow to the appliance at all and you can’t get a shock from it. Plastic appliances often omit the extra prong because they have nothing dangerous to touch on their exteriors.

Why is direct current so much better than alternating current?

Why is direct current so much better than alternating current?

It depends on the situation. You cannot use a transformer with direct current, so in that sense, alternating current is better. But many electronic devices need direct current because they require a steady flow of charges that always head in the same direction. So there are times when you need DC and times when you need AC.