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What Is a DC Power Socket?

Power inverter with DC plug.
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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2014
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A direct current (DC) power socket is a power outlet that is found in automobiles and trucks. The socket is typically used for cigarette lighters, though most modern cars contain multiple outlets. These devices provide low voltage power for cell phones and other small electronic devices that require DC power connections.

DC power is known as direct current because it uses a straight flow electrical pattern. Batteries and solar energy panels produce this type of power, which is significantly different than the alternating current (AC) found in homes. Direct current requires a special DC power socket designed to handle this direct flow of power. The dc power socket is standard equipment in cars, portable generators, and small battery charging packs. This type of power is not recommended for large, long-running electric equipment because it will typically drain the battery.

Most portable generators include DC power socket connections. This is a great option for campers and tailgaters. DC power adaptors work well on small radios and televisions. The socket uses a small male connection that is shaped like a light socket.

A DC power socket can be purchased with multiple head extensions. This is similar to a dual headed extension cord and allows several electronic devices to share the same outlet. Multi-head sockets will use more energy than a standard socket and may drain the battery faster.

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Special converters are available that can switch AC power outlets to DC power outlets. This requires an AC/DC power converter socket. The socket converters allow DC powered electronics to work inside a building or home without changing the wiring of the appliance.

There are also DC-to-AC converters that can make home electronic equipment work in automobiles. This is a convenient option for students and frequent travelers who need to charge computers and other electronic devices while on the road. Using a DC/AC converter makes a DC current switch to a standard plug outlet.

Many small appliances are designed to use a DC power socket. Some examples include coffee makers, refrigerated lunch boxes, and small hot plates. These modern camping accessories bring the convenience of home life into the outdoors.

Special extension cords are also available for DC-powered equipment. These extension cords have DC socket connections, which are good options for camping and tailgating parties. Most extension cords range from 10 feet (3.04 meters) to 12 feet (3.65 meters) in length.

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