Smart Buildings

Edison’s Dream Reawakened: Direct Current may Edge Out Alternating Current in Smart Buildings

Electricity in power grids and buildings is distributed as alternating current (AC) today. This is due to a historical decision based on AC’s better capability for transmitting power over long distances. This decision, taken in the late 19th century, lives on in the 21st century as a disadvantageous requirement for a high number of AC/DC (direct current) rectifiers and DC/AC inverters in modern smart buildings. In 1903, as a last-ditch effort to maintain DC as the standard for distributing electricity around the United States, Thomas Edison presided over a notorious event meant in part to demonstrate the danger of alternating current: the electrocution of Topsy, a circus elephant deemed a threat to humans, by a 6,600-volt AC charge. Edison’s stunt was pure fear mongering (DC being equally dangerous at high voltage), and it failed, hence our grid today is primarily AC. However, the current combination of AC and DC reduces energy efficiency, increases investment cost […]

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