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HDR Engineering
Building C, Suite 200
11225 S.E. 6th St.
Bellevue, W A , 98004 U.S.A.

Abstract-Derivation of the IEEE STD 141-1986 exact

voltage drop formula is presented to correct an existing
error in standard. A updated and more accurate formula
for calculating a voltage drop is then presented as proposed
replacement to the current standard's formula. The two
methods are contrasted with an example from an industrial

Phasor Diagram
IEEE STD 141-1986 (IEEE Recommended Practice for
Electric Power Distribution for Industrial Plants),also known as
the "Red Book," is one of the most popular and widely used
standards for electrical power distribution systems in the world.
The standard provides the latest procedures for a thorough
analysis of electrical power system considerations. This
analysis includes guidance on the design, construction, and "his tells us that the supply voltage must be equal to the
continuity of industrial power systems. Building wiring voltage of the m i v i n g end plus the equivalent voltage drop
designers must have a working knowledge of voltage drop along the path. This may sound simple, but let us not forget
calculations, not only to meet NEC requirements, but also to that if there were no voltage drops, the supply would q u a l the
ensure that the voltage applied to utilization equipment is receiving end and we would have no losses. Rearranging (l),
maintained within proper limits [l]. Because of widespread use the voltage supplied less receiving end voltage is the voltage
and technical significance of this pmticular standard, it is drop we are seeking to calculate, as shown in (2).
hperathe that the standard be as e m r fret and up to date as


VOLTAGE DROP FORMULA Noting that this voltage drop is equal to the load current 0)
multiplied by the equivalent impedance (Z) of the system
A. Phasors between sending and receiving voltages, we may substitute for
In power analysis, a phasor can be described as a line
representing a magnitude (such as voltage or current), with
direction (location in space of one magnitude relative to
another), with respect to time. Phasor relationships are shown
in FIG. 1 for full load amperage (I), sending or supply voltage
Ps), receiver voltage (VR), voltage drop (VD), and phase Substituting (3) into (1) for VD gives (4).
angle (8)whose cosine is the load power factor. From the
addition of two phasors, one may deduce (1).
~~803-0634-1/92$03.O0 1268 VS = VR + Iz (4)
B. Phasor Components Rearranging wc have (6).

Since any given phasor CUI be broken down into

components, we 6nd the components which make up the 12, or
quivalcnt voltage drop phasor, c o n s h of the bad current
multiplied by the resistance and reactance rwpcctively.
Ruristancc opposes the flow of current and o r u ~ shcating to
develop in a conductor. Rtactanot O C C U ~because a
current flowing in a given conductor c r d a a magnetic kld Taking the square root of both sides of (6) gives (7).
I which builds up and c o l l a p uound each coaducbr. A
voltage is induced propoaiOnal to the rate of change of thia
magnetic field, which will be a &um when the currcnt
passes through zero, or lap the cumnt wave by 90 degrees.
These phasor componeats which make up the I2 phaoor arc
shown as IR and IX respectively in FIG. 2. It should be noted
that the IR component is in phase with the I phosor. This is
because resistance has no direction and ruimnce is simply a Solving for receiving voltage we have (8).
magnitude to the IR phasor. As discussed, the IX phosor
shown lags the IR phasor by 90 degrees. The 1R component is
the reeistive portion of the drop in voltage while the IX
component is the reactive pottion.

C. TngottometricMethodfor Calcvlaling VD

Extending lined for cluity, the following trigonom&ic It is worth noting now that (8) is the correct quation for the
relationships are developed as shown in mG. 3. Extending a d v i n g voltage. Thin equation is incorractly given in Chapter
line from the VR phosor terminal point (arrow) to the right, and 3 (voltage Considerations), page 98 of the ANSylEEE S T D
drawing a line perpendicular to it up through the terminal point 141-1986. The expected voltage drop is found by substituting
of the VS phasor, a right triangle is now completed. Derling (8) into (2) and rearranging. The exact theorctical voltage drop
with the magnitudes of the pbason and from the Pythagonrn to be expected in given as (9).
theorem, the following rrigonometric nktionship U given an



A. Copnpkx Numbers

The combination of a real and an imaginary term is a

complex number. Complex number simply means that its tern
must be added U phason. A complex number A U a number
of the fonn U shown in (10).

A =a + jb (10)

where a and b are real numbers. We call a the real pmt of A

Fig. 2. and b the imaginary part. The magnitude of a complex number
Voltage Drop Phasor Components is the squarc root of the sum of the squarur as shown in (11).



Fig. 3.
Phosor Trigonometric Relationships


B. Impedance Magnitude

Referring back to Fig. 2., we see that we may form a A. Voltage Drop Problem
complex number for impedance in the form of (12).
An industrial client had two identical existing blower systems
Z = R + j X (12) with quite long feeder cables. Each of the feeder cablee was
being evaluated for voltage drops since a planned retrofit
From (3) we note that the voltage drop we are seeking is necessitated them to be lengthened even further. Each supply
simply the load current multiplied by the equivalent impedance. voltage was 480V, 3 phase, serving a variable frequency drive
Since we know the load current magnitude, we must only (VFD). The feeder cables (350MCM cables) consisted of two
calculate the magnitude for the equivalent impedance as shown parallel circuits from each voltage supply to each variable
in (13). frequency drive. Each drive w a s in turn connected to a 400 HP
blower which was being used for an aeration system. The
Z = (R2 + X2)lh (13) circuit parametera are given in FIG.4.

C. Voltage Drop Formula Using information from ,the existing variable frequency
driveu, a power factor of 91.7% is used for calculation
With this value now known, the proposed voltage drop purposes. Power factor is the ratio of average power compared
formula to be used in IEEE STD 141 is shown in (14). to the apparent power or the cosine of the power factor angle 8
as in (15):


i Circuit Pormotarr

(2)5-550 MCM Vs 277 Vdt (Lino to Nwutrd)

cables - I 227.5 Amp Motor Naneplato
Data fLA& Amp)
R 0.017 0 (Lino Retistonto for
30 corrductor)
X O.O18fl(Limo Roodonce for
Ono conductor)

Power Factor = core (15) The pcnxatage voltage drop from (17) is thar 2.0%.

or D. Rwvfu

e = oos-1powt~F.otor) (16)

For the purpose ofthis G - P ~ e = 23.51 d,

core =
0.917, and sine 0.399.
5 obviowly it k much easier to oalculate voltage drop
utitizingthe propod formula than it k wing the existing IEEE
B. VD Using LEEE S l D 141-1986 STD-141 formula. The b r htmduce~the probabilay of mor
just in the number of u l c u h*oIU om must do to get a result.
If wc substitute the numerical valucs and circuit parametera One .Ira notea the discrepancy rcgardiig numerical valucs.
hto (9) wc find thpt the Voltage drop VD = 5.189V. The what the propod formula is thee-y cxpct, the current
1 percentage voltage drop is given u (17): atandad trigonometrio formula introduces an error in the
approximation of the voltage drop.

The percatage voltage drop in thb wc is approximately
Thir paper began U 8 derivation of the trigonome(ricvoltage
C. VD Using Proposed Voltage Drop Formula drop formula due to an m r in the existing standard. As a
ruult, a updated and more Lccuntc formula for calculating
If wc subatitutc the numeriorrl valw urd cimuit p u a m w voltagcdropr hr been preKntsd u aproposcd replacement to
into (13) and (14) wc find that the vohgc drop VD = 5.633V. the current 8tanchd's formula.
Using the proposed formula versus the existing standard can
literally make the difference between making a correct
engineering decision and an incorrect one. Because of the
widespread use and technical significance of this particular
standard, it is truly imperative that the standard be as e m r free
and up to date as possible.


[l] Power Systems Engineering Committee of the IEEE

Industry Applications Society, ANSUEEE Std 141-1986 IEEE
Recommended Practice for Electric Power Distribution for
Industrial Plants, New York, N.Y.:1986