10 Pros and Cons of Alternating Current

Alternating Current (AC) is a form of electric current commonly used in homes and businesses. As opposed to Direct Current (DC), AC is supplied as a result of the movement of electrical charge in a direction that changes over a period through a medium. DC, on the other hand, moves in one direction only.

History of Alternating Current

It was in 1835, in France when the first alternator was built by Hippolyte Pixii. This device was used to produce Alternating Current (AC) with the utilization of a magnet rotated by a hand crank. It was during the 1880s when the war of the currents started. Although in 1835, DC was more popular among scientists, they started to discover the benefits of AC power. Several decades after, Thomas Edison came up with a DC power system to be used for street lights. Conversely, George Westinghouse bought patents of the AC power from Tesla and built his AC power system. Alternating Current emerged as the winner and up to now it is still the most popular source of electric current. It also led to the installation of an AC system by the company owned by Westinghouse at the then new hydroelectric facility located at the Niagara Falls. It also started made a name for AC electricity among consumers.

List of Pros of Alternating Current

1. Efficient Power Transmission
Although in the beginning, AC and DC electric currents used to lose transmission when long lines are used, Westinghouse and Tesla made use of high voltage transmission lines to address this problem. Before, power is compromised to achieve steady transmission. This is because of the resistance in the wires used. Whenever long line transmissions are used, power is lost. Since high voltage used to have a steady supply of electric power and lower current passes through the power line, this also results to lower power loss.

2. Gives Power Generation
After the invention of Alternating Current (AC), the AC generator was invented as well. This led to the invention of hydroelectric AC generators that are still used up to this day. Compared to the mechanical generation from DC, it is simpler.

3. Made Power Consumption Possible
With the absence of commutators and brushes that DC machines use to generate electricity, power consumption is also one of the advantages of Alternating Current. The first AC induction motor was patented by Tesla in the late 1800s and which was used alongside AC power. This innovation made its way to factories in the United States. Now, this contribution to engineering is still being used by households and is used to power electric fans, garbage disposers, and compressors for air-conditioners. It is also preferable to use than its counterpart.

4. Supplies Better Lighting
Incandescent bulbs or lights that are made practical by Thomas Edison can run using both AC and DC but the more practical fluorescent lights uses high voltage. These lights use gas like mercury vapor and argon and high voltage makes it possible to produce ultraviolet spectrum. AC is the more practical form of electric power to use, especially that more compact fluorescent lights are becoming popular.

5. Lower in Cost and Available
Alternating current is also available in abundance and is said to be less expensive. Compared to DC current, availability of AC is better and is lesser in cost than DC, which also supplies lower current. These two features make it more practical and preferable than its counterpart.

List of Cons of Alternating Current

1. Expensive in Cars
Critics posit that AC, when used in cars, can be impractical in terms of costs. Today, Tesla Model S cars give potential car buyers the option to convert AC to DC when charging. It offers more charging speed but it is only limited. Moreover, it can be expensive because car owners have to pay an additional $1,500 for this.

2. Need for Insulation
People who are not in favor of Alternating Current argue that high voltages that are essential to supply fixed power supply from AC require increased insulation, which in turn, increase the difficulty of handling it safely. This makes it more dangerous to work with AC than DC.

3. AC Generator Issues
For the easy conversion of AC into varied voltages, AC needs to run electrons back and forth. This causes the rising and falling of magnetic fields and in order to achieve this, much power is needed. However, AC generators generate the wrong kind of electricity. This is why some users prefer other techniques to transmit DC over the use of AC that needs boosting of substations every 400 miles, something critics find impractical when used in undersea cables.

4. Causes Heat and Spark
Opponents of the of AC power say that it is prone to heating and sparking that can potential fires and electric shock. This is because AC generators need to produce high currents. This also makes the AC generator less durable than the DC generator. Apart from the wasted power lost when an AC generator starts and goes on each time it is transformed and up to the final transmission from AC to DC, just as what happens in electronic devices, the transmission in lines can be dangerous, especially when used irresponsibly like mobile phone users who use inferior-made charges while using the phone. When the charger heats up, it sometimes results to explosion and even death.

5. Need for Inverters
Critics of AC power comment on the use of inverters to transform electricity from batteries into AC when used in home power systems. They say that this is added expense and can be costly. Apart from this, there are also the wastes associated with converted energy that can be between 5% and 15%. Also, most of the appliances designed for AC use are wasteful in terms of consumption.

Alternating Current (AC) still remains to be popular in most applications despite the cons attributed to it. Just like its counterpart, Direct Current (DC), it has both its advantages and disadvantages but still, the benefits offered by AC outweigh its drawbacks.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.