Electricity Runs Through Your Household Power System
Electricity runs through our homes in a series of circuits. It enters the house through service wires that arrive on a utility mast or (older houses) via underground conduit. It passes through a main panel that contains a meter to measure power consumption and switches (called circuit breakers) that distribute electricity to each circuit.
Backup Power Systems
If you’re a homeowner, backup power systems aren’t just a luxury. Depending on where you live, severe weather and other natural events can cause power outages. This can lead to spoiled food, loss of work or health-jeopardizing heat or cold. For these reasons, many homeowners are investing in generators and backup power for their homes.
Backup power systems include devices that detect when the power goes out and provide a clean energy source to keep your appliances running. These gadgets are typically called Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). A UPS can detect a power outage within milliseconds and immediately provide your electronics with a steady supply of electricity. These systems prevent data loss and other financial impacts from unexpected outages.
Other types of backup power systems are legally required, such as emergency standby systems. These are designed to support critical business equipment in the event of an outage, such as communications, heating, ventilation or hospital equipment. They are typically required by code to engage automatically in 60 seconds of a normal power outage.
Whole home backup battery systems are becoming more common and affordable. These devices combine power backup, storage and Household Power System load management into one system. They prioritize your most important electrical circuits, provide smart control, and extend battery life by shedding loads during peak demand. Some backup power systems can even tap into rooftop solar or the grid to keep your battery topped up and ready.
Battery Storage Systems
Home battery storage systems are a popular option for homeowners looking to protect themselves from power price spikes and blackouts. They are usually paired with solar panels, and they work by converting electricity into stored energy. They are usually composed of lithium batteries, which is the same technology used in our cell phones and electric vehicles. These batteries are housed in specially designed enclosures, and they are monitored by a battery management system to ensure their safety.
Unlike uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which are usually connected to the household’s electricity system via a transfer switch, battery storage systems must be connected to a high voltage DC network using special inverters. These inverters convert the battery’s electrochemical energy into alternating current for use in the home.
Energy storage systems can be very effective at offsetting electricity costs, but they are still expensive for most households. Currently, a residential battery system with a lithium-ion battery and hybrid inverter can cost between $8000 and $15,000, depending on capacity. However, as the energy market changes and battery prices improve, it is likely that more households will choose to install a home battery system.
Some energy trading systems also offer rebate schemes that can make a home battery system financially viable for most households. However, these schemes are often limited by number of rebates available over a certain time period and may change periodically.
Energy efficiency is a low-cost way to reduce electricity use and cut climate pollution. It’s cheaper than building a new power plant, and it lowers costs on both household and system-wide levels. It also helps the U.S. electric grid manage peak demand, which avoids price spikes and disruptions.
The electricity you get in your home comes through a single-phase, 120-volt AC wire that oscillates 60 times per second. That power travels to a circuit breaker panel where it’s regulated for safe and reliable delivery to your electrical fixtures. The panel contains a hot wire that powers appliances and a neutral wire that sends energy back to the panel to protect against electric shocks. Some homes also have subpanels that distribute power in specific areas of the house.
Efficient appliances, equipment, and lighting can help you cut your electricity usage and save money. The ENERGY STAR label is an easy way to identify appliances and devices that will deliver significant electricity savings and are safer for the environment. You can also save by turning off or unplugging devices when not in use. And by using efficient washers, dryers, refrigerators, and air conditioners, as well as insulating your home and using ENERGY STAR lighting.
EERE’s four technology offices work to improve energy efficiency in buildings, vehicles, and products through research, development, demonstrations, partnerships, and other activities. The agency’s goal is to promote an advanced clean energy economy that delivers economic, environmental, and security benefits for the nation.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Electric vehicle drivers have several options for charging their battery-powered cars, whether at home or on the Household Power System go. The slowest option, Level 1 equipment, plugs into a standard 120-volt household outlet and takes 40 to 50 hours for a full charge from empty. It’s the kind of charger most new EV owners use with the cable that comes with their car, and it doesn’t require an upgrade to their home electricity service.
Level 2 equipment offers charging through a dedicated 240 V (residential applications) or 208 V (commercial applications) electrical circuit, making it common for workplace and public charging stations. EV owners typically have this type of home charging station “hard-wired” into their garage, though portable Level 2 chargers also exist that are great for the road.
DC fast chargers are a newer technology that can quickly replenish an EV’s range to 100 miles or more in just minutes. NYC DOT and partners are deploying these high-powered units in parking spaces throughout the city.
Consider asking your local electric utility about special EV charging rates that reduce costs by billing less for energy used during off-peak hours. Also look for smart charging features, like load balancing that distributes power among multiple connected chargers to optimize the amount of available electricity at any given time. And don’t forget to take advantage of a federal tax credit that is good through the end of 2021.