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What is the Difference Between 120V and 240V Power?

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This week we will be discussing voltage differences, common uses and why it's important to understand these ratings. Here in the United States we are most familiar with standard 120 Volt power and 240V connections for certain larger home appliances. However, many international locations utilize 240V almost exclusively. Today we will take a more in-depth look at hardwired voltages, the history behind these ratings, and the benefits of each.

History of Hardwired Power

As early as the 1870’s, small DC power systems were found in factories and populated downtown areas. At this point in time, 95% of residents did not have access to electric based power. This was a luxury seen only in mansions, high-end hotels and businesses. Then finally in 1891, the Electro-Technical Exposition in Frankfurt Germany marked the end of the DC era of power when three-phase current was born.

Originally 120V power was established. However, after World War II, Europe made the change to 240V power to improve power transmission efficiency and to adjust for available materials. The US would have likely made this change as well, however, this would have proven too costly.

AC Power

AC or Alternating Current describes the flow of charge that changes direction periodically. As a result, the voltage level also reverses along with the current. Power companies convert alternating current to higher voltages for transmission, then drop it back down to lower voltages for distribution, and finally down to 120/240V inside of the living space for safety purposes.

Below you will find a map of the planet showing each location's corresponding standard Voltage and Hertz.

110V/115V/120V Power

While North American homes mostly utilize 120V power, they are connected to two live wires, not just one. Normal appliances get 120V from either of the live wires, while power-heavy appliances such as Washer/Dryer, Electric Stoves, Etc. get 240V by using both live wires.

Historically speaking, one of the main reasons why the US retained 120V as its standard power supply was due to the power grid already being largely established, making it too costly to switch over. The main benefits of 120V power are quite limited. 120V AC Power has a reduced chance of producing a terminal electrocution should one occur.

220V/240V Power

240V power divides the single-phase electricity into two separate 110V conductors that share a common neutral wire or ground. This allows for a more efficient transfer of power. Power is equal to voltage times current. Twice the voltage will transfer twice the power. When 240V wiring is used, less current is required. This is why you find 240V power being used even in the United States when running power-hungry appliances.
After all is said and done there really aren’t any game changing benefits to using 120V or 240V. 240V is a more efficient means of transporting power, however, it can prove more harmful if exposed to human contact. Please let us know if you have any questions relating to this topic by commenting down below. As always, we are just a phone call away (877-548-3387) and are happy to offer our expertise on all of your Power based needs!
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