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Electricity lingo: The lowdown

So, what do they actually mean anyway? For those of us who could use a refresher on high school science classes, here’s a quick guide.

What exactly does kWh mean?

This is a frequently used term of measurement in the electricity business, but what does it actually mean? Well, kWh stands for kilowatt hour, which measures energy, not time. It’s the amount of energy used in an hour by a kilowatt (kW). A kilowatt is 1,000 watts, so it’s the energy used to run a 1,000 watt appliance for 1 hour. A cent per kWh rate tells you how much you will be charged for using that amount of energy. It’s kind of like cents per litre when you’re buying petrol. Generally, using kWh is the best way to find the electricity company with the cheapest rate, so now you know, you can select that option the next time you use a comparison site!

What’s the difference between direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC)?

In DC, the electrons in the current all flow in one direction – let’s call it forward. But in AC, they alternate between moving forward, and moving backwards. AC is better for travelling long distances, because DC loses energy quickly. AC comes from a mains electricity supply or from an AC generator while DC comes from batteries. AC is the type of current used in your house, so energy stored up in solar batteries needs to be changed from DC to AC. That’s what an inverter in solar panels does!

So when you install solar, the solar panels produce high voltage direct current (DC) that is turned into standard household 240V alternating current (AC) by the inverter.

What’s a photovoltaic (PV) panel?

This is basically just a fancy name for a solar panel! There is plenty of information out there about how solar panels work, but all you really need to know is that PV panels can turn the energy from the sun into electricity, and they are different to thermal solar panels, which are used to produce hot water. They also don’t need direct sunlight to work – you can still get energy from the sun on a cloudy day!

What’s an embedded network?

Embedded networks are basically the result of a contract between building owners and an electricity supplier, where there is a single meter installed to add up all the energy used by everyone in a building such as a block of apartments. Then, sub meters are used to measure each individual home’s energy use, so that everyone is paying their fair share. By putting all their energy into one big purchasing block, occupants can get a cheaper price than if they all bought it separately. It’s basically like bulk buying for electricity! You can learn more about embedded networks here.

What’s the National Electricity Network?

The National Electricity Network (NEM) is a large transmission network that generates and supplies wholesale electricity along the east coast of Australia. It delivers the electricity to large industry users and to local suppliers such as LPE. It’s one of the biggest ones in the world!

If you run into any jargon you don’t understand, or you have any questions about how to interpret your energy bill, then please give us a call on 1800 040 168 and we’ll be happy to explain it. Our mission is to make energy more accessible and understandable.