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Nominal System and Utilization Voltages

Jeff Glaspie Department of Electrical Engineering, Hixson, Cincinnati, OH Abstract- The correlation between ratings for nominal system voltage and nominal utilization voltage can be confusing. It is not obvious why a 480V circuit is used to power a 460V motor. This paper explains standard nominal system and utilization voltages, common nonstandard voltages, and applications in low voltage systems. I. Introduction The national standard in the United States that defines nominal system voltages is American National Standards Institute (ANSI) C84.1, National Standard for Electric Power Systems and Equipment Voltage Ratings (60 Hertz). First adopted in 1954, ANSI C84.1 is based on the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) MG1 standard, which establishes the voltage tolerance limits of a standard induction motor to be within 10% of its nameplate value. The significance of ANSI C84.1 is that it establishes nominal voltages and tolerance limits by which utility companies should regulate service, and it defines complementary voltages for manufacturers and operators of utilization equipment. ANSI C84.1 provides the following nomenclature to classify voltages at specific points on a system and voltage ratings for portions of a system: Nominal System Voltage: the voltage rating by which a portion of the system is designated, the portion being bounded by transformers or utilization equipment. Service Voltage: the measured voltage at the electrical point of connection between supplier and user systems. The goal of the utility company is to maintain this voltage at the nominal system voltage. Utilization Voltage: the measured voltage at the line terminals of a particular piece of utilization equipment. Nominal Utilization Voltage: the voltage rating for utilization equipment on a particular system, usually listed on the nameplate. Manufacturers should design the equipment to operate at this voltage. Likewise, end users should operate equipment at this voltage. ANSI C84.1 supplies definitions for low voltages (less than 1000V), medium voltages (greater than or equal to 1000V, but less than 100kV) and high voltages (greater than or equal to 100kV, but less than 230kV). This paper focuses specifically on low voltage systems that supply utilization equipment. II. Standard Nominal System Voltages And Ranges ANSI C84.1 provides a tabulated set of ranges for all nominal system voltages. Table 1 lists the low voltage nominal system voltage values and the corresponding nominal utilization values.
Nominal System Voltage 2-Wire 120 3-Wire 120/240 208Y/120 240/120 240 480Y/277 480 600 4-Wire Nominal Utilization Voltage 2, 3, or 4-Wire 115 115/220 200 230/115 230 460 460 575

Table 1: Standard Low Voltage Nominal System Voltages (preferred voltages shown in italics)

Table 2 profiles the range of values for a nominal 120V base system. Although the service voltage should be at the nominal system voltage and utilization equipment should operate at the nominal utilization voltage, the actual voltages will vary over time. There are two designated ranges specified to cover both service voltage and utilization voltage limits.

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Range A denotes the normal operating conditions, while Range B denotes the overshoot and sag permissible in system regulation.
Range A (V) Range B (V) Maximum Voltage (Service and 126 (125*) 127 Utilization) Minimum Service 114 110 Voltage Minimum Utilization 108 (110) 104 (106) Voltage *For utilization voltages of 120-600V For circuits supplying discharge lighting Table 2: System Voltage Ranges Nominal 120V Base (Nom. Utilization Voltage =115V)

120V base. In addition, the allowable voltage drop is reduced from the 5% value of 6V to 4V for discharge lighting loads, since fluorescent or high-intensity discharge lights would not perform satisfactorily at minimum voltages. Using Equation 1, any nominal system voltage range can be found using ratios proportional to the corresponding actual value on a 120V per unit base.

Vactual 2 Vactual1 = Vbase 2 Vbase1


Service voltages outside Range A should be infrequent. Utilization equipment should be designed to run at a fully satisfactory performance level in Range A. Range B provides extended limits due to temporary operating conditions seen by either the utility or user systems. However, while equipment should perform at an acceptable level in Range B, measures should be taken to return voltages within Range A limits. Moreover, rare situations occur where voltages exceed Range B restrictions and immediate corrective action should be taken to safeguard equipment operation. In all cases, the utilization voltage values are lower than the service voltages. Load current between the service entrance and utilization equipment terminals produces a voltage drop due to resistive and inductive losses in the conductors. The National Electric Code (NEC) Article 210.19(A)(1) FPN No. 4 and NEC Article 215.2(A)(4) FPN No. 2 recommend a maximum voltage drop of 5% in the building distribution system. Typically, utilization equipment is nominally rated to operate at a voltage slightly above the recommended voltage drop (e.g., for 480V systems, motors have a nominal utilization voltage of 460V, amounting to a difference of 4.2%). There are exceptions made in the C84.1 standard for specific applications. First, the Range A maximum utilization voltage is reduced for 120-600V systems. This value is reduced because there is usually a sufficient load on the distribution system to cause a 1V drop on a

For example, to find the minimum voltage at which a 460V motor could operate in Range B on a 480V nominal system voltage, the 120V base voltage of 104V would be used. As seen in Equation 2, the minimum voltage at which the motor could function would be 416V.

104V 480V = 416V 120V

Where: Vactual1 = 104V Vbase1 = 120V Vbase2 = 480V


III. Nonstandard Nominal System Voltages While ANSI C84.1 lists standard nominal system voltages currently used in the United States, it is not uncommon to encounter older systems with nonstandard nominal system voltages. Most nonstandard systems differ from standard systems by only a few percent. Table 3 illustrates standard nominal system voltages and their associated nonstandard systems.
Standard Nominal System Voltages 120 120/240 208Y/120 240/120 240 480Y/277 480 600 Associated Nonstandard Nominal System Voltages 110, 115, 125 110/220, 115/230, 125/250 216Y/125 230, 250 460Y/265 440 550, 575

Table 3: Standard Nominal System Voltages and Associated Nonstandard Nominal System Voltages

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Most nonstandard system values originated in the development of early power distribution systems. The first nominal utilization voltage was 100V, and the corresponding service voltage was 110V to compensate for voltage drop. However, there was often over-voltage on equipment connected close to the service, and the utilization voltage was raised to 110V. Advances in generation and distribution technology led to utilization voltages of 110, 220, 440, and 550V (the multiples kept transformer ratios rounded to whole numbers). Once again, to counteract voltage drop, service voltages were raised to multiples of 115V. A new series of utilization voltages resulted, and utilization voltages increased to 115, 230, 460, and 575V. As discharge lighting developed, the voltagesensitive lighting could not be used on the same system as voltage-insensitive motors. To alleviate the problem, the 208Y/120V system was created. As a result, service voltages increased to multiples of 120V. The nonstandard values in Table 3 are obsolete, and equipment should be designed to operate properly according to the standard values. Some equipment may list rating values found in the nonstandard column, but these should not be confused with the nominal standard system voltage value. Additionally, the ANSI C84.1 standard applies only to the United States. Other countries (including Canada) have different voltage standards and different system operating frequencies. IV. Nameplate Ratings and Applications In some cases, the rated voltage listed on a nameplate may vary for each piece of equipment connected to the same voltage system. For example, on a 480V system, a metal-clad switchgear nameplate may denote a maximum system voltage of 508V, while a motor will designate a utilization voltage of 460V. The ANSI C37.12 and NEMA MG1 standards, respectively, require these nameplate ratings. The apparent conflict between standards is derived from the employment of each particular piece in a system; switchgear connected to a transformer is usually run at maximum voltage in order to maintain a high utilization voltage for increased motor torque. Furthermore, caution should be applied when sizing utilization equipment to a nominal voltage system different from the rating on the

equipment nameplate. For example, a 230/460V motor can operate within its -10% NEMA standard value of 207V. From this, one might assume that it could be connected to a 208V system. However, due to voltage drop and service variation, the utilization voltage at the motor would be at a voltage lower than it was designed for. For a properly sized motor, this results in longer acceleration for starting, elevated line currents, and heating, thus reducing the motor life. V. Conclusions ANSI Standard C84.1 provides standard nominal system and utilization voltages. Equipment should be designed and operated based on these standard values, although nonstandard systems may be encountered. It is important that utilization equipment is used only on the system for which it is designed. References IEEE Recommended Practice for Electric Power Distribution for Industrial Plants. IEEE Std. 1411993, Red Book. National Electric Code, 2002. National Fire Protection Association, Inc. Quincy, MA, 2002. Standard Voltage Ranges and Ratings, Powell Electric internet publication, Voltage Tolerance Boundary. PG&E internet publication, df/voltage_tolerance.pdf Current Affairs: Ratings and Reality, Engineered Systems internet publication, ation/features/bnp__features__item/0,2503,1486 2,00.html Contact Information Hixson Incorporated 659 Van Meter Street Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) 241-1230

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