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    Smarthome, Lower Voltage

    Unless construction is a hobby of yours (or your career), chances are pretty good you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the voltage built into your home’s electricity system. But chances are even better that—no matter who you are—you’ve spent some time looking at your electricity bill thinking, Why does it have to be so high? For decades, that’s just the way it was if you wanted a home filled with modern conveniences, but today’s smart home technology could mean that a smarter, lower voltage home—and lower electric bill—could be yours.

    Most homes in America are constructed using the conventional Edison 240/120 Volt system. Large appliances, like ovens, hot water heaters, and furnaces, often run off 240V outlets, while the rest of your devices use 120V outlets.

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       One other thing about conventional electric home systems in America: AC versus DC. Power plants produce alternating current (AC) power, which alternates direction (in the U.S.) every 60 seconds. Because this power is generated at a distant power plant and then distributed via wiring, a process in which it loses voltage the farther the power has to travel, it must start out at a high voltage in order to ensure that enough power exists to run devices at the other end. Both too much and too little voltage are damaging to electric devices, so a consistent supply is crucial.

    On the other hand, batteries, solar cells and fuel cells all produce power that runs constantly in the same direction between positive and negative poles, which is called direct current, or DC, power. Because the power originates right where it’s being used, the voltage can be much lower, as little as 48V or even lower.

    So what does all this have to do with a lower power bill? It all begins with a new technology: the Tesla Powerwall. The Powerwall, which operates, as batteries do, using DC power, allows home owners to maximize power from solar cells or to draw more power to fill the battery when power grid prices are lowest (low-use times, typically). Batteries and solar systems use lower-voltage systems inherently, which leads us to the possibility of even more savings.

    Lower voltage technology exists, which should also offer you the opportunity to save some electricity and cash, but there’s a catch: those technologies, such as lower-voltage LED lights, have to have technology built into them to allow them to operate in the higher-voltage environment of your home without burning out. That conversion technology also uses energy, minimizing the savings you’re actually achieving. Using a power-storing battery device like the Tesla Powerwall could change all that, though, allowing homeowners to make the switch, really and truly, to a lower-voltage system.

     Low voltage homes—which would be not just cheaper but also safer—are a real possibility thanks to advances in solar panels and, in particular, storage devices like the Tesla Powerwall. It’s even been tried … and it almost worked. Check out our post next week to find out about the low-voltage Smart House experiment that almost made history, and see how that history-making moment might be right around the corner. And for more information about how to start using smarthome technologies to achieve real energy savings in your own home today, contact us, your local smarthome experts, today.