How Does Electricity Get To Your Home?
The first public supply of electricity in the UK was in 1881 when electric street lights first appeared. It started to creep into homes in the early 1900s and in 1920 only 6% of UK homes were connected to public electric supplies. The National Grid was born following the Electricity (Supply) Act in 1926.
Fast forward almost 100 years and the majority of the things we do in our homes use electricity in some way. Do you remember a day when you didn’t use electricity as part of your normal daily life? The majority of us have never known a life without electricity in our homes (apart from the odd power cut!) so have you ever stopped to think where it comes from?
From Plant to Homes
Electricity plants are powered in a number of ways. Steam is generated by the burning of fossil fuels or at a nuclear, hydroelectric plant or wind farm. A turbine is powered by the steam which then spins a huge magnet inside a copper wire. The energy is converted from heat, to mechanical energy and then to electrical energy in the generator.
As the electricity will potentially have to travel long distances, a transformer raises the pressure. The electric current is generated at the power station with a voltage of 25,000 volts and this first transformer raises the voltage to 400,000 volts. The reason for raising it in this way is because as the current is carried through a wire or overhead line, it heats up which leads to energy being wasted. By transmitting the electricity at a much higher voltage, less current is required to transfer the same amount of energy which means much less is wasted.
Next, transmission lines take the electricity to a substation transformer which lowers the pressure to the correct level and allows the electric current to be used safely. This is known as stepping down. Depending on the where the electricity is going to end up, the electric current may pass through several substations on its journey. In our homes we use 230 volts whereas small factories may need 450 – 11,000 volts and large factories or electric trains may need 33,000 volts.
Once the electric current is at the correct level, distribution lines take it to its final destination through a service box via a meter which monitors how much electricity you use. The electricity is then transported via wires around your home to power your lights, plug sockets, heating and all of your other electrical appliances.
You may remember from your physics lessons at school that electricity can only travel around a closed circuit i.e. it must have a complete path from the power station, through the wires and back again. The circuit is closed when we use an appliance or switch on a light for example which allows the electricity to flow. Once the appliance or light is switched off, the circuit is open which stops the electricity from flowing.
If you have any problems with the electricity in your home such as flickering lights, a trip switch that keeps tripping or a plug socket which doesn’t work, please call us at Barton Electrical and we will be happy to help. We can offer simply electrical inspections through to more complex fault finding of complete installations.