Low and High-Voltage Electrical Systems: What is the Difference?

You’ve probably heard the terms “Low-Voltage Electrical System” and “High-Voltage Electrical System” before, but what exactly is the difference between the types of electricity systems? 

Both types of systems have distinct functions and forms of electrical input and output, and serve different objectives. High voltage, for example, is ideal for powering large equipment, whilst low voltage is better suited for smaller devices and machinery. This is one of the primary distinctions between the two systems.

That’s why low voltage systems are typically seen in most domestic and commercial applications. Think plugs, sockets, lighting, heating, and general home appliances. High voltage systems on the other hand are utilized in overhead distribution networks or specialized industrial applications. Think X-rays, electrical arcs, generators and transformers. 

Understanding voltage ranges and the differences between low and high-voltage systems are both significant for your safety, as well as for ensuring the effectiveness of your home’s or business’s overall power system. Luckily, we at Lakeview Electric have broken it all down for you below. 

First, Let’s Talk About Low-Voltage Systems

Voltage ranges differ depending on the electrical safety code of the country. However, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) designates voltages from 50V to 1000V alternating currents and 120V to 1500V direct current as low voltage. Low-voltage systems are considered relatively harmless but should still be treated with caution, as they can cause electric shocks and burns.

Low voltage is utilized at home and the office, typically for electrical wiring within a building, or appliances that are plugged into wall sockets. An average household or workspace has a mains voltage of 230V, which is within the range of normal domestic wiring at 100V to 240V AC. Although this is the case, this voltage range is considered by homeowners as high-voltage. To them, low-voltage devices are those ranging from 5V to 24V.

Low-voltage power is easier, more efficient, and less disruptive in terms of installation, maintenance, and usage, and is also much safer. 

Aside from its prominent usage as a mains electricity source in homes or businesses, low-voltage systems can also be found in: 

  • Lightings and smart systems 
  • Outdoor electrical fixtures
  • Fire alarm systems and CCTV
  • Doorbells
  • Thermostats
  • Sensors and access controls 
  • Batteries  

Next, What Are High-Voltage Systems? 

High voltage is defined by the IEC as voltage levels higher than 1000V AC, or more than 1500V DC. Electrical energy at these levels can be lethal to humans and other living things, particularly because high voltage can cause electrical arcing.

The main goal of high-voltage power transmission is to increase efficiency within the system by minimizing losses due to high resistance and Joule (I2R) heating in the conductors. As a result, higher voltage is used in conjunction with lower current (amperage) transmission to allow for the use of thinner and lighter cables. Using thinner conductors helps to reduce the cost of tower and electrical line construction and maintenance. On the other hand, high-voltage power transmissions at higher currents (amperage) require significantly larger conductors, making the process quite costly. 

High-voltage electricity is ideal for supplying adequate electricity to large areas, such as small factories and industries. Furthermore, it can be used in sophisticated industrial, military, and scientific applications such as:

  • Cathode-Ray Tubes (CRTs)
  • Production of X-rays and particle beams
  • Photomultiplier tubes
  • Vacuum tubes for high-power amplifiers
  • Power plants
  • Generators 

What Are The Benefits of Low-Voltage and High-Voltage Transmission?

While high-voltage electricity systems are appropriate for transmission lines and factories that require a lot of power, the majority of the electrical devices in our homes and offices are designed using low-voltage systems.

Both systems are therefore crucial to helping the electrical grid as a whole function correctly in their own way.

Benefits of Low-Voltage Systems:

  1. Using low-voltage electrical systems saves costs while increasing levels of safety – both in set-up, and in general upkeep. Low-voltage power also improves energy efficiency.
  2. The majority of renewable energy sources, including solar power, hydropower, and wind power produce low-voltage, direct current electricity. This makes it an easily-accessible energy type. 
  3. Low-voltage electrical systems are also gaining popularity because they generate less heat than high-voltage electrical systems. As a result, low-voltage systems save energy by reducing the need for additional cooling.
  4. Installing low-voltage wiring is also less stressful and dangerous than installing high-voltage wiring, and can be installed by any skilled electrician. It is also far more secure than high-voltage wiring.
  5. Because low-voltage lighting consumes minimal levels of power, it helps to preserve backup batteries. 

Benefits of High-Voltage Systems:

  1. Only a thin conductor is required for high-voltage electricity transmission, reducing the cost of construction and maintenance for towers and electrical lines.
  2. It transports or transmits large amounts of power over long distances.
  3. It improves voltage regulation and decreases voltage drop.
  4. Transmission at high voltage levels can increase power efficiency.
  5. It lowers the frequency of power losses (especially line losses).

It’s therefore safe to say that voltage levels are not the only key distinction between low and high-voltage systems. Each has its own purposes and benefits, and a variety of their own application areas, and require specialized individuals to effectively design and set up these systems for you. Keep in mind however that these standards may differ across countries, so it may be beneficial to seek professional assistance when in doubt.

When it comes to an electrical installment of any kind, the best recommendation for achieving a safe and efficient installation process is to outsource professional electrical engineering services from the very beginning. 

Here at Lakeview Electric, we are qualified to help you identify the best voltage systems to use for each appliance, piece of equipment, and location. Our team of electricians in Reno, Carson City and the surrounding areas will always implement the necessary electrical safeguards to ensure a safe, professional installation.

Got questions about our electrical services in Nevada? Schedule an appointment with our experts today for an in-depth consultation. 

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