Electricity is a privilege that we cannot live without today; a marvel of scientific endeavor and innovation that provides us with near-limitless freedoms as to how convenient we can make our home lives. The provision of electricity to nearly 150 million homes and businesses has seen us take this power somewhat for granted – a truth that can make things altogether more difficult when things go wrong. The grid is not unilaterally trustworthy, and in some states may be more likely to provide poor-quality power.
The US Power Grid
The national electrical grid is a network in and of itself, but also a series of sub-networks with different administrative authorities. Some areas are harder to service than others, the result sometimes being the provision of unstable power to homes. This means mains outlets are providing significantly more or less than the expected 110VAC at any given moment – with potential issues resulting.
Appliances and Power Problems
One main consideration to bear in mind is the relative sensitivity of modern appliances and electronics to the power they receive. In the earlier days of adopting electricity as a widespread power source, the vast majority of appliances and equipment receiving electricity could receive a variable supply – being simple, analog designs that could respond to spikes in voltage. DC motors are the best example of this, as they simply run at a speed relative to the power they are supplied (below a maximum power rating that far exceeds real-world supply).
Today, though, many appliances are digitally controlled at the very least, with many more being far more complex in design overall. The result is a home full of electrical equipment far more likely to fail with power surges than at any other point in history. This issue is compounded with an increased inability to effect one’s repairs – owing both to the complexity of modern equipment and their purposefully obtuse design.
What, then, can be done to mitigate the risk that poor power quality poses to your at-home appliances? There are numerous ways you can approach the issue, from basic and over-the-counter remedies to significant projects for longevity and efficiency.
Concerning the basics, one of the simplest ways you can provide a regular voltage to appliances is through using a variable transformer. Variable transformers, or ‘variants’, take mains AC voltage and convert it to an AC voltage of your choosing, set via a large control knob on the device’s surface. Basic variacs are fully analog, practically impervious to surge-related failure, and can guarantee your device only receives the voltage it should.
A longer-term solution involves taking your home partially off-grid, through the installation of large battery arrays within your property. These could either be charged directly from the grid or receive power from solar panels. Either way, the energy they supply can be much easier regulated than energy from the grid, especially in more rural areas.