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In less than a century, electricity has become an energy available to everyone, no matter where you are. A product that has become so commonplace that one can not imagine asking a lessor or a seller if the house or apartment that is being considered for renting or buying is well supplied with electricity. A simple phone call or the registration of a request on the internet is usually sufficient today for a home to be, in a few hours, fed again, when a facility, in compliance with standards, is ready to be powered.

Steps

  1. Electricity production
  2. Provision of electric current
  3. Appraisal of the necessary electric power

Electricity production

The transformer on a concrete pole, a safe and compact practice.

The transformer on a concrete pole, a safe and compact practice.

The electricity we consume is produced by very large generators, driven by hydraulic structures, nuclear power plants gas or fuel, and in recent years, by wind turbines. Individual and industrial needs have imposed the commissioning of huge hydraulic power stations (dam) or thermal (coal, fuel, atom). The operation of small individual installations (waterfalls, wind turbines, photovoltaic panels) that can suffice the needs of a home is anecdotal. In France, EDF has long had a monopoly for the production and distribution of electricity for both individuals and professionals, this production being provided for a very large part of its large production units, and for a very small part small individual installations, in particular photovoltaic, whose current is directed towards the common network.
European unification obliges, EDF no longer has this monopoly since 2000 with the opening of the market to competition, completed in 2007. The distribution of electricity remains the monopoly of ERDF.

Contracts and subscriptions

The external box containing the meter greatly simplifies reading problems.

The external box containing the meter greatly simplifies reading problems.

If EDF remains the "historic" operator in terms of electricity supply (with more than 90% of market share), many other operators (8 in total) now offer competitive offers in terms of consumer tariffs as subscriptions. EDF benefits from the privileged supply of its fleet of nuclear power plants. It remains in charge of the power supply public service mission at a regulated tariff. It is now possible to change supplier and then return to the incumbent, if desired, to benefit from the regulated tariff.

Provision of electric current

The power is generally routed free of charge by the distributor to the place of use, on the property line, but not to the house if it is far from this limit. In some cases (detached house far from a connection point), a financial contribution may be requested from the user for connection charges to a user's private facility. A subsidy system by the local electrification syndicate generally mitigates the impact. Any demand for power greater than that of the ERDF line feeding the subscriber is subject to specific billing.

Branch circuit breaker

Branch circuit breaker

Branch circuit breaker

The current is provided at the output terminals of a branch circuit breaker, normally placed inside the living space. Its acquisition or lease is the responsibility of the subscriber, but its installation can only be done by an electrician approved by ERDF. Its setting is blocked by a sealed case.
Its role is to protect the network against any overload or short-circuit that may occur on the users' home installation. It also protects the network (and devices connected to it) against potential overvoltages in the network, as incidents can occur on the network (usually lightning strikes, for example). It also allows the limitation of the power delivered according to the subscription subscribed.
All installations must be equipped with a modern branch circuit-breaker (in compliance with the current standard), whose role is to protect the installation against overvoltages coming from the network and the latter from incidents that may accidentally occur on the installation. It also allows to control the power supply of the latter.

Electric meter

Linky electric meter

Linky electric meter

Upstream of the branch circuit breaker is the meter, normally accessible to outside callers, without the need to enter the subscriber. In practice, many meters are still located in homes, but all new installations are done according to this rule. To overcome this difficulty, ERDF is gradually implementing (since 1994) electronic meters incorporating a remote control receiver relay and a teleport device for remote reading. The Linky smart meter, which continuously provides subscriber information on its consumption, should replace all current meters (35 million meters) by 2020.

Appraisal of the necessary electric power

Electric heating is a big consumer of energy; it assumes power control in relation to the importance of heating.

Electric heating is a big consumer of energy; it assumes power control in relation to the importance of heating.

It is up to the user to "order" the subscription that corresponds to his needs. The most important notion is that of intensity: it corresponds to the flow of electricity that the meter can provide. The needs depend on the devices to feed. In theory, the needs of all devices should be added. In practice, they never all work simultaneously; hence the ability to request less amperage, so a cheaper subscription.
For example, 30 A represents sufficient intensity for a 4-room apartment occupied by 4 people, not heated with electricity. The installation of an unloader on the board also makes it possible to prioritize certain circuits and thus suspend some of them to reduce a call for power higher than the subscription allows to obtain.

Single-phase and three-phase electric current

The current distribution is ensured, as we have seen, by 2 drivers for normal domestic needs (single phase).
If necessary, it is possible to obtain a power supply with 4 conductors for large powers (use of large appliances - heating - or supply of industrial or agricultural machinery). In the first case, the output of the circuit breaker is 2 terminals: a positive (phase) and a zero (neutral) terminal: this is the single-phase current.
In the other case, there are 3 positive conductor terminals (phases) and one zero (neutral) terminal: this is the three-phase current.
The voltage between phase and neutral of the single-phase was formerly 110 V (stopped at the end of the 1980s) and 220/240 V. With the three-phase, the voltage between each of the phases and the neutral is also 220/240 V. The use of two phases and neutral makes it possible to obtain 380 V between phases, voltage necessary for the operation of some large devices.
In recent years, ERDF has been generalizing the single-phase power supply, even for relatively high power levels. The indoor installation is simpler and therefore less expensive, the current available is easier to use (three-phase devices are rare) and the cost of connection is more advantageous.

(photos / visuals: © DIY-Prod, except special mention)

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