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Direct current electricity could cut power bills, claims creator

The creator of a home electricity system that uses direct current claims it could cut users’ bills by up to 30 per cent.

Moixa Technology this week unveiled its Smart DC network, which uses solar panels and off-peak grid electricity stored in batteries to power electronic devices in the home such as televisions, laptops, mobile phones and LED lighting.

This reduces energy losses associated with converting alternative current from mains sockets into DC (up to 45 per cent), which most small electronic devices run on, or with converting DC generated by solar panels into AC to sell to the grid (up to 15 per cent).

The network comprises solar panels, DC sockets, an electric vehicle-quality Li-Fe battery — that could power LED lights in a typical house during a power cut for a day — and a hub device that takes information from a smart meter.

This hub manages the flow of electricity according to how much energy it predicts the house will need, how much is available from the solar panels and battery and how much grid power costs according to whether it is a peak or off-peak period.

It can also use weather information to predict how much solar power it will generate the following day and store grid energy in the battery accordingly.

‘People just want cheap and efficient energy,’ Simon Daniel, chief executive officer of Moixa, told The Engineer. ‘Too much information is annoying but people will take good advice if it is specific to their situation.’

Users could save between 10 and 30 per cent on their electricity bills, he added, and an additional 15 to 20 per cent on their gas bills by adding an electronic boiler monitor that predicts gas usage and turns off the heating when it’s not needed.

The company plans to follow a business model similar to that of Sky, making the technology easy to install by local contractors and offering gradual upgrades than can be added easily.

The network will also use data on the changing price of solar panels and LED lighting decreases to tell the homeowner when it becomes cost-effective for them to install more of these products.

Moixa is aiming to make the system available for between £1,000 and £3,000 per home. Daniel estimated this cost could be recouped in three to five years through savings on energy bills.

The firm expects the system to be of particular interest to those who work from home and operate electronic devices throughout peak hours, as well as to hotels and student accommodation.

Smart DC was developed following £1.4m of research projects led by Moixa and funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the EU.

Readers' comments (29)

  • At last Edison has the last laugh DC beats AC for home use

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  • Oh and I thought it was going to another smashing 19th Century style contest between AC and DC distribution, with demo electric chair executions to show which is safer.

    How mundane! But sensible, although I do wonder about the £1.4 million on research, go down to any marina and see how 12v is the law of the land (or perhaps sea)!

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  • The small AC to DC chargers are a trivial load compared to heaters, washers and dryers and fridges, many of which would need up conversion to AC to operate.
    So this idea has a green veneer, but will not deliver these savings. Better insulation on houses and fridges, slower dryers and slower washers will save a lot more energy. Why dry in 20 minutes with 3000 watts, when you might dry in 2 hours with 300 watts and through air - the motor does run longer, I agree, but it can also be smaller, and the drum turn slower. Appliances have been made to waste energy to save us time.

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  • I really like this concept. "Keeping Electricity Local"

    Inside the home Low Voltage DC is by far a more sensible option, but be aware that electrical heating devices like kettles will still need higher voltages to deliver enough power without excessive voltage drop across normal wiring. (DC voltage changers?)

    Totally agree that 12 Volt (as in boating environments) should be the appropriate way to go.

    In reference to Peter Edwards comment, Edison had no way to deliver DC over long distance, and that was the value brought by Tesla in proposing AC power.
    With localised power generation, we don't need to transport electricity over huge distances so it makes the need for AC irrelevant, but that was not the case in Edison's time. Tesla also showed how to deliver power via radio waves making the electrical grid system irrelevant, but the high investments already made in the grid meant this was ignored.

    If they paid me £1.4m I could have come up with these results in a lot faster time.

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  • I think we need to promote 12v Products and seperate power supply for them either AC/DC to connect them with battery 12volt Dc and Main. with 12 v output from main in each home

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  • Why do we always start with "could" save. Lets have some numbers. What is the outlay in batteries for a start?
    How many barges/houseboats have we seen with alternators on there roof, going back at least 40 years.
    To actually replace all batteries in TV and Sky box remotes with a solar panel like calculators would be more benificial. That would save how many batteries?

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  • They tend to ignore the fact that the conversion losses in AC to DC for appliances isn't entirely lost as such - it produces heat which contributes to the space heating in the house. Running part of the house on DC also means rewiring and perhaps heavy copper cable. 80 years ago my village had a mill-stream powered system which provided AC during the day for machines, and DC at night for lights.

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  • Edison's system failed commercially because it only worked in local New York precincts and could not be transmitted very far. This led to lots of small, inefficient power stations throughout the city. Now we are looking again at local generation and consumption, the big electricity companies (today's Westinghouses) are not keen to promote this re-localisation. I can see this fulfilling Edison's dream as solar power doesn't have to be shipped in as coal was.

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  • @Peter Edwards
    Er, no he did not.
    After a century of development, largely made possible by Tesla's AC cheap & effective power system, we finally have DC powered gadgets that need DC, and we have cheap silicon devices to perform the conversion.
    Do you really think anyone will go for high power DC for power-to-the-home use? Too much precious metal (low voltage) or problems with circuit breakers (high voltage).

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  • I guess its fine so long as you don't want to do anything serious like run a cooker or boil a kettle. The power saved by running LEDS from 12 v rather than from the mains is insignificant.

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