Fixed vs. Portable mindset

This topic is about two different ways in which the positioning of items has led to changes of mindsets. Today’s society has become comfortable with the ability to walk up to a switch and have a device activated, having multiple instances of such placed throughout the structure they are occupying. A century ago, no home had fixed light fixtures. This came into being when cities approved the running of natural gas lines and companies saw the manufacture of gas boilers, stoves, and lighting fixtures became a profitable enterprise. It was only several decades ago that to have any type of electrical device in the home such as a radio or television began to be common place. Radios were the first such devices to be used as they could be either battery operated or recharged via a hand cranked generator. Televisions did not begin to be put into homes until the development of a national alternating current power grid. Its arrival caused older product types to be considered obsolete and to be replaced with new electrical devices.

Structural design for homes currently has the electric circuitry designed to have every outlet wired back to a central power distribution center (panel box). The gauge of the wire is set by NEC compliance codes to provide the minimum wire size required to handle the Voltage and Amperage (combining to provide Wattage [V*A=W]) required by devices. The rule of thumb is the heavier the gauge (thickness) and the longer the run the more expensive the wire will be. Following this line of logic the cost increases as the structure usage type requires devices with a heavy electrical draw demand to use heavier gauge wiring (commercial or residential), the larger the structure and number of outlets and lighting fixtures placed. It becomes understandable that using this design concept is a hefty portion of the construction cost of a structure.

There are items which by nature of their usage and design to be used in the home will remain in fixed positions. These can include: 1) Kitchen items such as the stove or refrigerator; 2) Laundry items such as the washing machine or dryer; 3) Hot water heater; 4) Generator; 5) Toilets, shower/tub units 6) Power storage and control units.

The issue of portability comes down to what items perform the same function that one needs in multiple locations that a person would be willing to actually move instead of having multiple units that perform the same function. Examples include communication, entertainment, and lighting. One purpose in making this determination is to consider how this portability can reduce construction costs by eliminating multiple outlets to power numerous stationary items. Technology allows for multiple mobile devices to be charged, with the proper charging devices, without having to be directly plugged into an outlet. Photovoltaic devices can collect sunlight to convert to electricity to provide power off the grid. These devices will allow for a cell phone to be charged and accounts for communication.

Regarding entertainment, perhaps the same can be done with tablets or laptops. Ideally a cloud based unit that communicates with a server requiring no actual physical memory and acts as a mobile monitor and input device would reduce its power needs and allow for longer periods between charge times. To carry this further if the item could be charged thru an induction field meeting its power requirements while in use this would be better. The cell being able to receive current in the same manner would allow more freedom as well.

The running of larger gauged wiring across the entire length of a structure to handle the demand and line drop to power devices on the other side of a home can easily be substituted by the decision to switch to devices that utilize direct current. Consider the fact that most building codes today require that outlets be placed every four feet along a wall. This says a lot about just how much power the typical home is expected to draw. My thoughts are the change of mindset, moving away from having the power system of a home using a central distribution center (panel box) to having most rooms wired independently. This idea is dependent on the usage of a portable direct current power supply. Items that use direct current are substantially more efficient than those that use alternating current. Direct current motors and LED lights are great examples. Any device that uses alternating current that can be replaced with one that uses direct current should be. Typically the DC devices are set up to be battery powered which is great as it is possible to get rechargeable batteries to do so with. The ability to recharge these batteries utilizing a solar powered system gives greater flexibility in controlling the footprint we leave on this world by controlling how we live in it.

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