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The implementation of the main technological standards has always followed two main lines of two large blocks during the 20th century: the American and the European.

In terms of voltage for the use of devices and appliances that work with electricity, there is a clearly drawn distinction between two continents that have set trends, the old world and the new world. While Europe uses 220V, North America uses 110V. Asia and Africa, due to recent colonial influence, have chosen to follow the Europeans.

To begin to understand the reason for this difference, we must first take into account that electricity is defined by two measurable factors: the first is the voltage, which is measured in volts, the second is the current, rated in amps. They are different, one has much more to do with the “pressure” in the passage of electricity, the other with the “flow” or “quantity”. The multiplication of volts (pressure) by amps (flow) is what gives us power, which is measured in watts.

In a country with a voltage of 110, a 60-watt light bulb requires 0.54 amps; while in a country that uses 220V, the same bulb needs 0.27 amps.

The cost factor

The difference is not in how much electricity is needed: what you have to look at is the power, which is what you pay for. This power is expressed in the unit kilowatts/hour.

Now, the biggest difference is in the wiring, the 220V voltage is “less refined”, so it can go through a thinner cable. Wiring a house or building for 110 voltage is more expensive. That could have been the first reason why a country would have decided on the use of one or another voltage. However, there is another factor to take into account: security. Obviously getting electrocuted with 110V is not as dangerous as with 220V.

The safety factor

At the end of the 19th century, the industrialized countries implemented their energy transmission systems, Thomas Edison had a vision of it and Nikola Tesla a different one. Edison advocated the use of Direct Current (DC), which operated at a power of 100V and was difficult to convert to other voltages. Tesla claimed that Alternating Current (AC) was superior because its voltage could be easily changed, reducing costs and being able to be transported over great distances.

Edison tried to discredit Tesla’s version by electrocuting animals to death, but Tesla prevailed by putting himself as a guinea pig, demonstrating during a fair that 220V current could pass through his body without harming him. I would have used rubber shoes and a high frequency to get it.

Due to the issue of costs and the ease of transportation of electrical energy, Europe and the vast majority of the countries of the world adopted a 220V current, while the United States and the aligned countries of the area stayed with 110V. Thomas Edison’s light bulbs, which ran on 110V, were already widely available by then.

In addition to the differences in voltages and amperages that are used, the world is also divided in terms of outlets (light contacts), but this is something that we will see in a future article.

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