Power grid experiment may disrupt clocks

    Come July, if you’re late to work, you might be able to blame it the electric company. The Associated Press reported today that the group that oversees the U.S. power grid is proposing an experiment that might mess with your clocks.

    Currently power companies correct for fluctuations in the rate of the current that flows through the grid, keeping the frequency as precise and steady as possible. However, apparently, no one knows if this is really necessary anymore. So, in mid-July, we might see power companies effectively turning off those controls and allowing more frequency variation in the current they produce.Officials say it could save money and make the power supply more reliable.

    Unfortunately, electric clocks are built to keep time based on that rate of current. If it slips, clocks plugged in to the grid will run a little fast or slow, throwing the devices off a little bit each second, and adding up to big errors over time.

    Bedside alarm clocks, ovens, coffeemakers, DVD players, all could be affected–as well as traffic lights, security systems, and some computer systems–anything set to a timer. No one is quite sure what will be affected or to what degree.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal