It’s very rare that when we turn an electrical appliance on from the wall socket, we spare a thought to the process in which electricity is created.
Large scale electricity production in power plants across the UK relies on the process of induction. In Layman’s terms, this is when a voltage is produced when a magnet is moved into a coil of wire, the voltage is then lost when the magnet is removed. This means if you have a coil of wire and a magnet at home, it’s pretty easy to make your own electricity.
Obviously, creating electricity on a large scale is not done on such a small scale. Inside power plants, the first step of creating electricity is heating water. The water is usually heated by burning fossil fuels such as coal, as the water heats up; high pressure steam is created which in turn drives a turbine. This turbine is then used to spin a magnet inside a coil of wire; this creates a varying magnetic field, creating a current in the wire. Mechanical energy is thus converted into electrical energy.
Once the electricity has been created at the power stations, it is then distributed by the national ‘grid’ Electric currents once created are sent through step up transformers, these transformers increase the currents voltage to 400,000V , allowing the currents to be sent over far distances. Once this process is complete, the currents travel along aluminium or copper transmission lines from pylon to pylon. The current will then make it to a substation on entering a town or a city; these substation transformers reduce the currents voltage to the levels required for industrial applications, usually around 35,000V. At this point, in towns and cities the transmission lines are often taken underground as a safety precaution. In the countryside, often electricity continues along transmission lines. After yet another journey, the current arrives at a step down transformer before entering your home. Here the current is reduced to around 230V, the right voltage for safe use in the home.
Once the electricity has arrived at your home, it’s time for your house to distribute it to where it is needed by the following equipment:
- Outside Socket: Sockets located outdoors are generally waterproof and also feature a high sensitivity circuit breaker to prevent electric shocks
- Fused connection unit: This wall mounted fitting enables devices like extractor fans to be connected directly into the power circuit, saving the need for a plug and a socket. This unit works off a switch
- Inside Socket: Something we are all familiar with. These can be used to plug in portable items such as lamps and televisions. Each of these outlets usually has an on/off switch.
In your workplace, all portable electrical items need regularly PAT testing and marking with a PAT Label. This is an essential element of any company’s health & safety policy.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post ‘ Electricity from Renewable Sources’