Modeling AC Power

I am interested in evolving the systems by incorporating interactive technologies that enable individuals to understand and take active roles. Early in 2014 I began thinking about how an interactive electrical grid might allow individuals to understand how much energy they consume and how to manage that consumption.

A popular tool for those interested in their energy consumption is the Kill-a-Watt, so I ordered one on Amazon. While I waited to receive it, I researched how to hack it and found the Tweet-a-Watt built by Limor Fried (aka Ladyada) that tweeted the energy data captured by the Kill-a-Watt. As I began reading through how to make my own Tweet-a-Watt, I realized alternating current (AC) is scary and that I needed a better understanding how AC is different from DC.

I utilized the findings of my extensive research to build a simple model in Processing that demonstrated the complexities of AC. The mode allows the user to observe the sinusoidal wave form of AC power (voltage and current) with different types of loads in the circuit – inductive, capacitive, or purely resistive. By adding different loads the user can see how the wave form of voltage and current step out of phase to subsequently explore the more complex ideas of power factor and grid balancing.

Get the code here