Real-Life Examples of Alternating Current (AC)

Alternating current (AC) is used by all of us on a daily basis when it comes to powering our homes and workplaces. In this blog, we take a look at some alternating current examples and how it works in practice.

What is alternating current?

Alternating current (AC) is a type of electric current which, unlike direct current (DC), periodically reverses the direction it travels in. The waveform of alternating current in most electrical power circuits is known as a sine wave.

AC is used for the distribution of electrical power to households and offices.

What are real-life alternating current examples?

Almost every household and office will be powered by AC because it loses less power than DC and has fewer issues relating to converting high voltage to low voltage using transformers. In other words, transporting AC across long distances is comparatively easy.

We rely on AC to power electric motors and these are used in a number of household appliances, such as fridges, dishwashers and toasters. They are also used to power anything from the mains – such as the TV and any chargers you are using for your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The role of transformers

Transformers play an important role when it comes to AC. A transformer is a passive electrical device which transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another.

There are two types of transformers that are currently used in electric power applications: step-up transformers and step-down transformers. Step-up transformers are used to convert low-voltage, high-current power into high-voltage, low current power. Step-down transformers are used to convert high-voltage, low-current power into low-voltage, high-current power.

These transformers are what makes it possible to rely on an alternating current source for powering our households and offices as they make the long-distance transmission of electric power a practical reality. They allow the electricity from power plants, at an extremely high voltage, to be used for our household appliances.

Electronics devices in your home

The electronic devices in your home will have their own transformers to ensure that they receive the correct voltage to power them. While larger electric appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and fridges use a relatively high voltage (between 110-240 volts), small electronic devices use a much lower voltage.

This includes devices such as laptops, tablets and mobile phones, and you will notice that their chargers include a transformer built into them which is why they are often chunkier.

So there we have it, a brief overview of the real-life examples of alternating current and how it works in practice in our homes and offices.

If you require a transformer or other electronic components, you are welcome to browse our catalogue.

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