The Difference Between AC and DC Power

There are two different kinds of electricity at your home: AC and DC. For many years, there was a fierce AC vs DC power debate, but eventually engineers determined that both were very useful, but for different purposes. Here is an overview of what each kind is and how it’s used.

DC Power

DC stands for “direct current.” Electric currents travel in one direction from one terminal to the other, retaining a fairly constant value. Thomas Edison tried to make this the standard form of electrical power, but it’s difficult to convert DC power into higher or lower voltages, or to make it travel long distances. Batteries are a common DC power supply.

AC Power

AC stands for “alternating current.” With AC power, electric currents reverse their direction at regularly recurring intervals. While Thomas Edison was promoting DC power, Nikolai Tesla was promoting AC power. This was known as the “war of the currents,” with royalties and relevance on the line. Eventually, George Westinghouse was swayed by Tesla, and partnered with him to bring AC power to homes and businesses. AC is still the most common form of electrical power.


In the context of this blog post at least, AC/DC refers not to electric guitars but to a hybrid power arrangement using both alternating current and direct current. A common example is the power adapter to your laptop, which converts the AC power from your wall into DC power.

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