43Alternating voltage and current vary continuously.The graphic representation for AC is a sine wave. A sine wavecan represent current or voltage. There are two axes. Thevertical axis represents the direction and magnitude of cur-rent or voltage. The horizontal axis represents time.When the waveform is above the time axis, current is flowingin one direction. This is referred to as the positive direction.When the waveform is below the time axis, current is flowingin the opposite direction. This is referred to as the negativedirection. A sine wave moves through a complete rotation of360 degrees, which is referred to as one cycle. Alternatingcurrent goes through many of these cycles each second.The unit of measurement of cycles per second is hertz. In theUnited States alternating current is usually generated at 60hertz.Alternating current is divided into single-phase and three-phase types. Single-phase power is used for small electicaldemands such as found in the home. Three-phase power isused where large blocks of power are required, such as foundin commercial applications and industrial plants. Single-phasepower is shown in the above illustration. Three-phase power,as shown in the following illustration, is a continuous seriesof three overlapping AC cycles. Each wave represents aphase, and is offset by 120 electrical degrees.
AC sine waveSingle-phase andthree-phase AC power