How Your Electricity Is Generated


We here at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning are passionate about our craft. Working to serve our neighbors and friends in Seattle and the surrounding area does not stop with us answering service calls. We also love to share our passion and knowledge. Heating and air conditioning, electrical work, and the sales, service, and installation of hot water heaters first depends on you having electricity in your home.

Every time you flip a light switch, enjoy the benefits of climate control or relax with a hot shower, thank Michael Faraday. Faraday may not be a household name, but in large part, we have him to thank for the electricity our households.

A Different Law of Attraction

A little background information always helps to paint a clearer picture. In the case of how electricity generation began, it starts with some wire, a hollow tube, and a magnet. Faraday wrapped the conductive wire around a hollow tube and then moved the magnet through it.

What Faraday discovered in his experiment was that he could create an electrical current by moving the magnet. This small-scale experiment would have huge implications. To keep it simple, the more coils, the stronger the magnet, and the more conductive the wire, the greater the electrical output.

Though technological innovations have certainly come about, the principle of “Faraday’s Law” has held true since the late 1800s.

Electrical Generation Today

Technology has improved, but the process remains essentially the same. The main difference is scale. Powering a city or nation takes much larger machines than what Faraday created in his lab. As we progress in our study, keep the coils, the tube, and the movement required in mind.

For most households in the United States, the electricity that is drawn comes from a turbine-driven generator. This generator produces the electricity at a power plant, which eventually travels along electrical lines that reach your home.

Think Windmills

A turbine generator produces electricity through movement. A simple way to think about it is by picturing a windmill. A windmill has blades that spin as the wind pushes them. Those blades together are a part of the rotor. The blade system is connected to a rotor shaft. The rotor shaft, in turn, is connected to the portion of the rotor that is housed inside a stator. The stator is the stationary housing in which the magnets of the rotor spins.

Putting It Together

The magnets come back into play at this point. In the case of a turbine generator, the rotor needs to be spinning to create electricity. Here is an easy way to demonstrate this: Take a pencil or pen and spin it around by twisting it with your fingers; while spinning that pen or pencil, take your other hand, and make a fist around your spinning “rotor.”

Now, imagine that your pencil is covered with magnets. Each time you complete a rotation of your rotor, those magnets pass over a set of coils that you would have housed inside the fist you made. With each rotation, you would create a volt of electricity.

This poses a problem, though. Once your magnet passes the coil, you stop producing electricity. The way to keep a constant flow of electricity is to add more coils, so there are multiple sets of them inside the stator (fist) so that coils and magnets are constantly passing one another as the rotor spins. The larger the coils, and the more powerful the magnets, the larger the output of electricity. That’s why turbines in a power plant are so large and why there are so many of them.

A second problem exists in how much voltage is generated. Voltage, like pressure, can overload a system. With alternating currents (AC), voltage can be better controlled than with direct current (DC). A direct current has electricity travel in one direction from a positive to a negative terminal. With an alternating current, the current travels back and forth. In most cases, more voltage is needed. Increasing voltage is the job of a transformer.

Stepping It Up

The electricity from a generator moves to a step-up transformer in order to increase voltage exponentially. The step-up transformer continues to employ conductive coils and magnets to transfer energy through it and induce a higher voltage. These transformers are critical in creating the voltage needed to push electricity from power plants to homes. The voltage created initially and traveling along the grid is too high to go into a home.

Just as a step-up transformer works to increase voltage, a step-down transformer works to decrease it. The step-down transformer, still utilizing the same principle and components, will reduce voltage so that too much “pressure” coming from the main grid does not overwhelm your home’s electrical system.

Bringing It Home

When measuring how much energy a generator produces, it is often done by measuring volts. Voltage determines how far electricity will be able to travel. The easiest way to understand a volt is to think of it as pressure.

The more energy required, the greater the voltage needs to be. Generally, a AA battery can produce around 1.5 volts of energy. A windmill turbine might create upwards of 690 volts of energy. That difference of pressure between a battery and a windmill makes a huge difference when a whole city is looking to draw power from a power plant potentially hundreds of miles away.

Once that pressure pushes the electricity to your home, you tend to worry more about the watts. Those watts are the measure of power that anything dependent on electricity needs to draw. If you have a 60-watt light bulb, it means that every hour it would need to draw 60 watts of power to continue to operate.

Wanting for Watts

This information is critical for our experts to understand. Anything depending on electricity relates to all of the terms covered. For instance, we may attempt to diagnose a problem by checking the amps received at a point in your electrical grid. Amps will show us how much energy is flowing to the outlet or appliance giving you trouble.

If there is too little flow of electrical charge, we can work to increase it. If you have the right amount of energy flowing, we may want to see if there is a problem with too much resistance (ohms) of the pressure (volts) you should have. Knowing how electricity is generated helps us to understand where the “clogs” are in slowing the pressure or flow of power in your home.

Expert Help for Expert Level Problems

We here at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning work daily to inform, install, and provide quality services and products throughout the Seattle area. Our knowledge of, and our dedication to, our trade allows us to service your heating and air conditioning needs. We can repair or replace gas and electric-based HVAC systems. If you are experiencing problems with your water heater, or electrical system, we are ready to diagnose and solve those problems as well. We also offer air quality services to ensure that you have the best air and flow at home possible. With our annual maintenance plan, we can maintain your systems and detect problems before they become crises.

So if you are having problems with your HVAC system, your electrical system, or hot water, contact the experts at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning today.