Electricity (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Each time you plug an appliance into one of your receptacles at home, you take for granted that it’s going to work. Do you ever take the time to consider what it takes to keep the outlet at your beckoned call?

The first thing you need is an electrically conductive material…we’ll call it “wire.” This “wire” needs to be able to carry electricity with the least amount of resistance. As far as metals go, gold is the best choice. The “gold-standard,” if you will. However, the price of gold being what it is, this option is hardly cost-effective.

The next best choice would be silver. But then again, there’s that pesky problem of cost. So back to the drawing board. We need conductivity, flexibility, and affordability…

After a judicious search, we must settle upon copper. It contains the properties we require while remaining relatively cheap.

Or does it?

If the price of copper continues on its upward trend, it will soon surpass gold and we will again have to search for another material.

Or will we?

It seems that there is another metal out there with similar properties, although it does not occur naturally. It comes from our friend, the rock known as Bauxite. We know this mystery metal better as aluminum.

Hold the phones! This was tried in the 70s with substandard results. It seems the aluminum wire would shrink and expand, loosening the connection and causing a sparking problem, and we all know where that can lead.

At one point, the aluminum wire was clad (or covered) with copper…I don’t have a clue where this led, only that you no longer see this type of wire for sale, so I can only assume the worst.

To summarize, power plants send electricity to sub-stations, who drop the voltage and amperage, sending it through overhead power lines, pausing at transformers that once again drop the intensity of the power, making it usable for our homes.

This energy enters our home via the electrical meter and travels into our breaker box. This box contains buss bars (which used to be coated with silver), anchoring the wires that enter our walls, ending at light switches and outlets.

Unfortunately, this process is occasionally interrupted. Most often, the culprit is the summertime thunderstorm. My advice to you is to keep a supply of candles, pencils and paper. Computers don’t work when the power is out and you can’t write in the dark.

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