Sometimes when working on a righteous hack, we get goosebumps while watching our code execute faster than we could ever possibly comprehend. Seeing the pixels of the LCD come alive, hearing the chatter of relays and the hum of fans…it’s an amazing thing what electricity can do. And it is equally amazing when you realize that it all started one hundred and thirty five years ago, when [Thomas Edison] changed the world forever with the first practical electric light bulb.
That bulb was lit by a Direct Current – the same thing that runs the computer you’re reading this article on. The same thing that runs many of the hacks you read about here on Hack a Day, and almost all electronic devices in your house. But somewhere in the mix must exist a device that changes the Alternating Current from your wall outlet to the needed DC. Why? Why is it that we transport electricity as AC only to convert it to DC in our homes? You might answer:
“This argument was played out in the War of Currents back in the 1880’s.”
Indeed, it was. But that was a long time ago. Technology has changed. Changed so much to the point that the arguments in the War of Currents might no longer be valid. Join us after the break, where we rehash these arguments, and explore the feasibility of an all DC environment.
Let’s see…110 AC in, 5V DC out, 1000ma…this should work. Quick check with the meter to make sure it’s actually 5V and not 50 and you’re up and running. Each and every one of us has done this at some point in our lives. But why do we have to? Is there any reason we can’t have DC outlets? We’ve seen USB ports built into outlets while strolling the isles of our favorite hardware stores, but most are unlikely to be switch mode supplies.
You would still need AC for kitchen appliances and such. But consider changing these over to DC. Imagine a house where everything ran on DC!
Let’s take it further and imagine running DC from the power station to your house. This brings us back to the War of Currents. We all know that it’s relatively easy to step AC voltage up and down. You just need a transformer. But it’s not that easy with DC, so running DC over long distances is just not practical. Indeed, this was true in the late 1800’s. But is it true today? The technology exists to step up DC to higher voltages. But can we do so efficiently?
Lots of questions still remain. Be sure to sound off in the comments on the idea of an all DC house. Good idea? Or not so good idea?