You are on page 1of 76

Phase Difference and Phase Shift

In the previous tutorial, we saw that a Sinusoidal Waveform is an alternating quantity

that can be presented graphically in the time domain along an horizontal zero axis.

We also saw that as an alternating quantity, sine waves have a positive

maximum value at time π/2, a negative maximum value at time 3π/2, with
zero values occurring along the baseline at 0, π and 2π.
However, not all sinusoidal waveforms will pass exactly through the zero axis
point at the same time, but may be “shifted” to the right or to the left of 0o by
some value when compared to another sine wave.
For example, comparing a voltage waveform to that of a current waveform.
This then produces an angular shift or Phase Difference between the two
sinusoidal waveforms. Any sine wave that does not pass through zero at t =
0 has a phase shift.
The phase difference or phase shift as it is also called of a Sinusoidal
Waveform is the angle Φ (Greek letter Phi), in degrees or radians that the
waveform has shifted from a certain reference point along the horizontal zero
axis. In other words phase shift is the lateral difference between two or more
waveforms along a common axis and sinusoidal waveforms of the same
frequency can have a phase difference.
The phase difference, Φ of an alternating waveform can vary from
between 0 to its maximum time period, T of the waveform during one
complete cycle and this can be anywhere along the horizontal axis
between, Φ = 0 to 2π (radians) or Φ = 0 to 360odepending upon the angular
units used.
Phase difference can also be expressed as a time shift of τ in seconds
representing a fraction of the time period, T for example, +10mS or – 50uS but
generally it is more common to express phase difference as an angular
Then the equation for the instantaneous value of a sinusoidal voltage or
current waveform we developed in the previous Sinusoidal Waveform will need
to be modified to take account of the phase angle of the waveform and this
new general expression becomes.

Phase Difference Equation

 Where:
 Am - is the amplitude of the waveform.
 ωt - is the angular frequency of the waveform in radian/sec.
 Φ (phi) - is the phase angle in degrees or radians that the waveform has
shifted either left or right from the reference point.
If the positive slope of the sinusoidal waveform passes through the horizontal
axis “before” t = 0 then the waveform has shifted to the left so Φ >0, and the
phase angle will be positive in nature, +Φ giving a leading phase angle. In
other words it appears earlier in time than 0o producing an anticlockwise
rotation of the vector.
Likewise, if the positive slope of the sinusoidal waveform passes through the
horizontal x-axis some time “after” t = 0 then the waveform has shifted to the
right so Φ <0, and the phase angle will be negative in nature -Φ producing a
lagging phase angle as it appears later in time than 0o producing a clockwise
rotation of the vector. Both cases are shown below.

Phase Relationship of a Sinusoidal Waveform

Firstly, lets consider that two alternating quantities such as a voltage, v and a
current, ihave the same frequency ƒ in Hertz. As the frequency of the two
quantities is the same the angular velocity, ω must also be the same. So at
any instant in time we can say that the phase of voltage, v will be the same as
the phase of the current, i.
Then the angle of rotation within a particular time period will always be the
same and the phase difference between the two quantities of v and i will
therefore be zero and Φ = 0. As the frequency of the voltage, v and the
current, i are the same they must both reach their maximum positive, negative
and zero values during one complete cycle at the same time (although their
amplitudes may be different). Then the two alternating quantities, v and iare
said to be “in-phase”.

Two Sinusoidal Waveforms – “in-phase”

Now lets consider that the voltage, v and the current, i have a phase
difference between themselves of 30o, so (Φ = 30o or π/6 radians). As both
alternating quantities rotate at the same speed, i.e. they have the same
frequency, this phase difference will remain constant for all instants in time,
then the phase difference of 30o between the two quantities is represented by
phi, Φ as shown below.

Phase Difference of a Sinusoidal Waveform

The voltage waveform above starts at zero along the horizontal reference
axis, but at that same instant of time the current waveform is still negative in
value and does not cross this reference axis until 30o later. Then there exists
a Phase difference between the two waveforms as the current cross the
horizontal reference axis reaching its maximum peak and zero values after the
voltage waveform.
As the two waveforms are no longer “in-phase”, they must therefore be “out-
of-phase” by an amount determined by phi, Φ and in our example this is 30o.
So we can say that the two waveforms are now 30o out-of phase. The current
waveform can also be said to be “lagging” behind the voltage waveform by the
phase angle, Φ. Then in our example above the two waveforms have
a Lagging Phase Difference so the expression for both the voltage and
current above will be given as.

where, i lags v by angle Φ

Likewise, if the current, i has a positive value and crosses the reference axis
reaching its maximum peak and zero values at some time before the
voltage, v then the current waveform will be “leading” the voltage by some
phase angle. Then the two waveforms are said to have a Leading Phase
Difference and the expression for both the voltage and the current will be.

where, i leads v by angle Φ

The phase angle of a sine wave can be used to describe the relationship of
one sine wave to another by using the terms “Leading” and “Lagging” to
indicate the relationship between two sinusoidal waveforms of the same
frequency, plotted onto the same reference axis. In our example above the
two waveforms are out-of-phase by 30o so we can say
that i lags v or v leads i by 30o.
The relationship between the two waveforms and the resulting phase angle
can be measured anywhere along the horizontal zero axis through which each
waveform passes with the “same slope” direction either positive or negative.
In AC power circuits this ability to describe the relationship between a voltage
and a current sine wave within the same circuit is very important and forms
the bases of AC circuit analysis.

The Cosine Waveform

So we now know that if a waveform is “shifted” to the right or left of 0o when
compared to another sine wave the expression for this waveform
becomes Am sin(ωt ± Φ). But if the waveform crosses the horizontal zero axis
with a positive going slope 90o or π/2 radians before the reference waveform,
the waveform is called a Cosine Waveform and the expression becomes.

Cosine Expression

The Cosine Wave, simply called “cos”, is as important as the sine wave in
electrical engineering. The cosine wave has the same shape as its sine wave
counterpart that is it is a sinusoidal function, but is shifted by +90o or one full
quarter of a period ahead of it.
Phase Difference between a Sine wave and a Cosine wave

Alternatively, we can also say that a sine wave is a cosine wave that has been
shifted in the other direction by -90o. Either way when dealing with sine waves
or cosine waves with an angle the following rules will always apply.

Sine and Cosine Wave Relationships

When comparing two sinusoidal waveforms it more common to express their

relationship as either a sine or cosine with positive going amplitudes and this
is achieved using the following mathematical identities.
By using these relationships above we can convert any sinusoidal waveform
with or without an angular or phase difference from either a sine wave into a
cosine wave or vice versa.
In the next tutorial about Phasors we will use a graphical method of
representing or comparing the phase difference between two sinusoids by
looking at the phasor representation of a single phase AC quantity along with
some phasor algebra relating to the mathematical addition of two or more

phase angle

phase angle: Of a periodic wave, the number of suitable units of angular measure
between a point on the wave and a reference point. Note 1: The reference point may
be a point on another periodic wave. The waves may be plotted on a suitable
coordinate system, such as a Cartesian plot, with degrees or other angular measure
usually plotted on the abscissa and amplitude on the ordinate. Usually, at least one
full cycle of each wave is plotted, with 360° (2 radians) encompassing one full
cycle. The reference points may be any significant instants on the waves, such as
where they cross the abscissa axis. Note 2: The use of angular measure to define the
relationship between a periodic wave and a reference point is derived from the
projection of a rotating vector onto the real axis of an Argand diagram. Note 3: The
value of the phase angle of a point on the wave is the point on the abscissa that
corresponds to the point on the wave. Note 4: The phase angle of a vector may be

written as M , where M is the magnitude of the vector and is the phase

angle relative to the specified reference.

Relationship between Real Power, Apparent Power

and Power Factor
Electric power expressed as watts in d-c circuits is the product of the voltage and
current (voltage times current). In a-c circuits the calculation is complicated by the need
to take into account the shape of the voltage and current waveforms and their relative
phase angle.

Real power is mathematically determined by dividing time into a very large number of
small segments and multiplying the instantaneous voltage present in each time
segment by the instantaneous current flowing and averaging the results.

FIGURE 14 - Relationship between real and apparent power in a sinusoidal system

A wattmeter gives the same result in a real world circuit because the instrument reacts
to the simultaneous effects of the voltage and current present from instant to instant.
When separate measurements are made of voltage and current, the product is NOT a-
c power since each meter reads an average or rms value of the voltage or current over
time without reflecting the phase shift that may be present. If there is a difference in
phase between the voltage and current waveforms, the peak current may not be
present when the voltage reaches its peak. The apparent power will be the vector sum
of the real power and the imaginary power.

The angle is the phase shift. In a non-reactive circuit, the voltage and current will be in
phase, the imaginary power is zero and the real power will equal the apparent power.
Their ratio is expressed as power factor (PF) and when they are equal, the power factor
is unity (1).

Waveform distortion, of the type caused by capacitor input filter circuits following
rectifiers, is another source of low power factor. It results from the creation of
discontinuous waveforms as the current to the load flows for just the part of the cycle
where the voltage from the rectifier exceeds the d-c level across the capacitor. In terms
of rms values, there are an infinite number of waveforms that can yield the same rms
value. If the current is not sinusoidal, a narrow spike, for example, the rms value may
remain the same even though the average value can be quite different. Although the
voltage and current are in phase with each other, the power factor can differ from the
unity value that two sinusoidal waveforms would produce. A Fourier analysis would
show that changing the shape of either the voltage or current waveform reduces the
power factor from the unity value that you might expect from the in-phase relationship.

The input off-line capacitors of switch mode power supplies do significantly change the
current waveform. As the voltage reaches the stored level in the capacitor, the rectifier
diode switches on, forcing the current to flow for a shorter time interval than the
voltage. While the load current is drawn from the capacitor continuously, or at the high
switching frequency of the converter, the capacitor is recharged only during the interval
when the input rectifiers conduct. No current flows into the capacitor from any point
along the voltage waveform where its amplitude falls below the capacitor's d-c voltage.
Current only flows when it again rises above the d-c value during the next mains half

Low power factor results when the load current is drawn over only a part of each mains
cycle. This is a common result in off-line rectifiers where the input diode does not
conduct until the peak of the rectified mains waveform exceeds the d-c level across the
input capacitors.

FIGURE 15 - A capacitor-input filter as used in off-line power supplies produces

discontinuous current flow. a-c current flows only when the a-c voltage exceeds the d-c
change in the capacitor

The period of time during which no current flows into the capacitor, expressed in terms
of degrees along the voltage waveform, is the rectifier's dead angle. Conversely, the
period during which current does flow into the capacitor is the rectifier's conduction
angle. The ratio of these angles depends upon the filter's capacitance and how much
energy is being withdrawn by the power converter which is the capacitor's load. This, in
turn, depends on the amount of power demanded by the output load on the converter.
With a light load, the conduction angle may be just a few degrees. At full rated load, the
conduction angle will be larger, but even with heavy loads, conduction is not
continuous. The current has the form of relatively large, short-duration pulses. Because
the a-c mains exhibit a non-zero source impedance, the high current peaks cause
some clipping distortion on the peaks of the voltage sinusoid. Fourier analysis would
show that this lowers the power factor significantly.

Since power factor represents the ratio of real to apparent power, the high apparent
power that yields a low power factor translates into a higher current than the load
actually needs to satisfy its real power requirement. The difference between the current
that produces the real power consumed by the load and the current measured on an
ammeter is known as the circulating current. It is so called because even though it does
no real work, it continuously flows back and forth between the mains and the load.

FIGURE 16 - Waveforms illustrating the peak flattening effect that the narrow current
pulses impose on the mains voltage

A switching converter with 80 percent efficiency and an uncorrected power factor of

0.65 can produce only 717 watts of real power to a load with 12 amperes from a 115V
a-c utility mains. (12 amperes is the maximum continuous rating of a standard 15
ampere branch circuit.) Equipping this power supply with power factor correction,
despite lower conversion efficiency, allows it to use the full 12 amperes to produce real
power for its load. With an overall efficiency of 67.5%the 12 amperes from the 115V a-c
branch circuit produces 932 watts to the load, an increase of 30%.

FIGURE 17 - Waveforms illustrating the reduced peak current when the current
waveform is made to conduct continuously by power factor correction



The EMI produced by the high-frequency switching of a switch-mode converter is well

recognized and may be dealt with through special filters built into nearly all such power
supplies. The discontinuous current pulses created by the charging action of a power
supply's input circuit is another form of EMI. As such it can affect the operation of
sensitive equipment operated in close proximity to the a-c mains. This interference
takes two forms. First, the high amplitude of the current pulses generate
electromagnetic fields strong enough to be detected by sensitive amplifiers. Second, as
the current pulses occur around the peaks of the voltage waveform, the IR drop in the
wiring flattens the voltage waveform producing harmonic distortion. This may adversely
affect instruments that depend upon the presence of a normal a-c sinusoid. When more
than one power supply operates from such distorted mains, the problem is
compounded as each power supply tries to charge its input capacitor from the same
peak of the a-c voltage.


The European electrical system distributes power at 240 volts. This means that the
current is half what it would be in the USA for an equivalent load. Because of this,
European distribution systems use smaller gauge wire and lower amperage fuses. As a
result, they are more sensitive to circulating current than their USA counterparts. With
the goal of minimizing circulating current, the International Electrotechnical Committee
(IEC) took a look at the discontinuous currents produced by switch mode power
converters and other electrical equipment. Any discontinuous waveform consists of a
pure sine wave at the fundamental frequency plus sine waves of various amplitudes
occurring at each of the fundamental's harmonic frequencies. The IEC codified its
findings in IEC 555-2, setting limits for currents at each harmonic frequency through the
40th harmonic. The IEC divided equipment into four classes, each with its own set of
harmonic current limits. These limits have been codified into a “European norm,”

To meet these limits various power factor correcting (PFC) circuits are employed to
actively force the main rectifier(s) to conduct over the whole of each half cycle of the ac
power mains. These sometimes take the form of a high frequency boost converter that
preceeds the input filter capacitor.

At some sacrifice in efficiency and some loss of simplicity, the PFC boost converter
reduces the power factor to something between 0.95 and 0.99 (sufficient to meet the
harmonic current limits). Additionally, PFC enhances the energy storing function of the
input capacitor. A boost converter can also provide a relatively stable output over a
wide range of input voltages. The power factor correcting boost converter produces a
constantly high voltage across its input capacitor regardless of the input mains voltage.
Thus the hold-up time becomes independent of the mains voltage.

Power supplies with active power factor correction (PFC) include the
Kepco ABC (100W), MST (200W), RCW (350, 750 and 1500W), RKW (50, 100, 150,
300, 600 and 1500W), HSP (1000 and 1500W), BOP High Power (1000 and 2000W)
and HSM (1000 and 1500W).

True, Reactive, and Apparent Power

Chapter 11 - Power Factor

We know that reactive loads such as inductors and capacitors dissipate zero power,
yet the fact that they drop voltage and draw current gives the deceptive impression
that they actually do dissipate power. This “phantom power” is called reactive power,
and it is measured in a unit called Volt-Amps-Reactive (VAR), rather than watts. The
mathematical symbol for reactive power is (unfortunately) the capital letter Q. The
actual amount of power being used, or dissipated, in a circuit is called true power, and
it is measured in watts (symbolized by the capital letter P, as always). The
combination of reactive power and true power is called apparent power, and it is the
product of a circuit’s voltage and current, without reference to phase angle. Apparent
power is measured in the unit of Volt-Amps (VA) and is symbolized by the capital
letter S.
As a rule, true power is a function of a circuit’s dissipative elements,
usually resistances (R). Reactive power is a function of a circuit’s reactance (X).
Apparent power is a function of a circuit’s total impedance (Z). Since we’re dealing
with scalar quantities for power calculation, any complex starting quantities such as
voltage, current, and impedance must be represented by their polar magnitudes, not
by real or imaginary rectangular components. For instance, if I’m calculating true
power from current and resistance, I must use the polar magnitude for current, and
not merely the “real” or “imaginary” portion of the current. If I’m calculating apparent
power from voltage and impedance, both of these formerly complex quantities must
be reduced to their polar magnitudes for the scalar arithmetic.
There are several power equations relating the three types of power to resistance,
reactance, and impedance (all using scalar quantities):

Please note that there are two equations each for the calculation of true and reactive
power. There are three equations available for the calculation of apparent power,
P=IE being useful only for that purpose. Examine the following circuits and see how
these three types of power interrelate for: a purely resistive load in Figurebelow, a
purely reactive load in Figure below, and a resistive/reactive load in Figure below.
Resistive load only:
True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a purely resistive load.

Reactive load only:

True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a purely reactive load.

Resistive/reactive load:
True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a resistive/reactive load.

These three types of power—true, reactive, and apparent—relate to one another in

trigonometric form. We call this the power triangle: (Figure below).
Power triangle relating appearant power to true power and reactive power.

Using the laws of trigonometry, we can solve for the length of any side (amount of any
type of power), given the lengths of the other two sides, or the length of one side and
an angle.

 Power dissipated by a load is referred to as true power. True power is symbolized by the
letter P and is measured in the unit of Watts (W).
 Power merely absorbed and returned in load due to its reactive properties is referred to
as reactive power. Reactive power is symbolized by the letter Q and is measured in the
unit of Volt-Amps-Reactive (VAR).
 Total power in an AC circuit, both dissipated and absorbed/returned is referred to
as apparent power. Apparent power is symbolized by the letter S and is measured in the
unit of Volt-Amps (VA).
 These three types of power are trigonometrically related to one another. In a right
triangle, P = adjacent length, Q = opposite length, and S = hypotenuse length. The
opposite angle is equal to the circuit’s impedance (Z) phase angle.

Power Triangle and Power Factor

The three circuit elements which make up the electrical power consumed in an AC circuit can be
represented by the three sides of a right angled triangle, known commonly as a power triangle.

We saw in our tutorial about Electrical Power that AC circuits which contain
resistance and capacitance or resistance and inductance, or both, also
contain real power and reactive power. So in order for us to calculate the total
power consumed, we need to know the phase difference between the
sinusoidal waveforms of the voltage and current.
In an AC circuit, the voltage and current waveforms are sinusoidal so their
amplitudes are constantly changing over time. Since we know that power is
voltage times the current (P = V*I), maximum power will occur when the two
voltage and current waveforms are lined up with each other. That is, their
peaks and zero crossover points occur at the same time. When this happens
the two waveforms are said to be “in-phase”.
The three main components in an AC circuit which can affect the relationship
between the voltage and current waveforms, and therefore their phase
difference, by defining the total impedance of the circuit are the resistor, the
capacitor and the inductor.
The impedance, (Z) of an AC circuit is equivalent to the resistance calculated
in DC circuits, with impedance given in ohms. For AC circuits, impedance is
generally defined as the ratio of the voltage and current phasor’s produced by
a circuit component. Phasor’s are straight lines drawn in such a way as to
represents a voltage or current amplitude by its length and its phase
difference with respect to other phasor lines by its angular position relative to
the other phasor’s.
AC circuits contain both resistance and reactance that are combined together
to give a total impedance (Z) that limits current flow around the circuit. But an
AC circuits impedance is not equal to the algebraic sum of the resistive and
reactive ohmic values as a pure resistance and pure reactance are 90o out-of-
phase with each other. But we can use this 90o phase difference as the sides
of a right angled triangle, called an impedance triangle, with the impedance
being the hypotenuse as determined by Pythagoras theorem.
This geometric relationship between resistance, reactance and impedance
can be represented visually by the use of an impedance triangle as shown.

Impedance Triangle

Note that impedance, which is the vector sum of the resistance and
reactance, has not only a magnitude (Z) but it also has a phase angle (θ),
which represents the phase difference between the resistance and the
reactance. Also note that the triangle will change shape due to variations in
reactance, (X) as the frequency changes. Of course, resistance (R) will
always remain constant.
We can take this idea one step further by converting the impedance triangle
into a power triangle representing the three elements of power in an AC
circuit. Ohms Law tells us that in a DC circuit, power (P), in watts, is equal to
the current squared (I2) times the resistance (R). So we can multiply the three
sides of our impedance triangle above by I2 to obtain the corresponding power
triangle as:

Real Power P = I2R Watts, (W)

Reactive Power Q = I2X Volt-amperes Reactive, (VAr)

Apparent Power S = I2Z Volt-amperes, (VA)

Real Power in AC Circuits

Real power P, also known as true or active power, performs the “real work”
within an electrical circuit. Real power, measured in watts, defines the power
consumed by the resistive part of a circuit. Then real power, P in an AC circuit
is the same as power, P in a DC circuit. So just like DC circuits, it is always
calculated as I2R, where R is the total resistive component of the circuit.

As resistances do not produce any phasor difference (phase shift) between

voltage and current waveforms, all the useful power is delivered directly to the
resistance and converted to heat, light and work. Then the power consumed
by a resistance is real power which is fundamentally the circuits average
To find the corresponding value of the real power the rms voltage and current
values are multiplied by the cosine of the phase angle, θ as shown.

Real Power P = I2R = V*I*cos(θ) Watts, (W)

But as their is no phase difference between the voltage and the current in a
resistive circuit, the phase shift between the two waveforms will be zero (0).

Real Power in an AC Circuit

Where real power (P) is in watts, voltage (V) is in rms volts and current (I) is in
rms amperes.
Then real power is the I2R resistive element measured in watts, which is what
you read on your utility energy meter and has units in Watts (W), Kilowatts
(kW), and Megawatts (MW). Note that real power, P is always positive.

Reactive Power in AC Circuits

Reactive power Q, (sometimes called wattless power) is the power
consumed in an AC circuit that does not perform any useful work but has a big
effect on the phase shift between the voltage and current waveforms.
Reactive power is linked to the reactance produced by inductors and
capacitors and counteracts the effects of real power. Reactive power does not
exist in DC circuits.

Unlike real power (P) which does all the work, reactive power (Q) takes power
away from a circuit due to the creation and reduction of both inductive
magnetic fields and capacitive electrostatic fields, thereby making it harder for
the true power to supply power directly to a circuit or load.
The power stored by an inductor in its magnetic field tries to control the
current, while the power stored by a capacitors electrostatic field tries to
control the voltage. The result is that capacitors “generate” reactive power and
inductors “consume” reactive power. This means that they both consume and
return power to the source so none of the real power is consumed.
To find reactive power, the rms voltage and current values are multiplied by
the sine of the phase angle, θ as shown.

Reactive Power Q = I2X = V*I*sin(θ) volt-amperes reactive, (VAr’s)

As there is a 90o phase difference between the voltage and the current
waveforms in a pure reactance (either inductive or capacitive), multiplying VI
by sinθ gives a vertical component that is 90o out-of-phase with each other,

Reactive Power in an AC Circuit

Where reactive power (Q) is in volt-amperes reactive, voltage (V) is in rms
volts and current (I) is in rms amperes.
Then reactive power represents the product of volts and amperes that are
90o out-of-phase with each other, but in general, there can be any phase
angle, θ between the voltage and the current.
Thus reactive power is the I2X reactive element that has units in volt-amperes
reactive (VAr), Kilovolt-amperes reactive (kVAr), and Megavolt-amperes
reactive (MVAr).

Apparent Power in AC Circuits

We have seen above that real power is dissipated by resistance and that
reactive power is supplied to a reactance. As a result of this the current and
voltage waveforms are not in-phase due to the difference between a circuits
resistive and reactive components.
Then there is a mathematical relationship between the real power (P), and the
reactive power (Q), called the complex power. The product of the rms voltage,
V applied to an AC circuit and the rms current, I flowing into that circuit is
called the “volt-ampere product” (VA) given the symbol S and whose
magnitude is known generally as apparent power.
This complex Power is not equal to the algebraic sum of the real and reactive
powers added together, but is instead the vector sum of P and Q given in volt-
amps (VA). It is complex power that is represented by the power triangle. The
rms value of the volt-ampere product is known more commonly as the
apparent power as, “apparently” this is the total power consumed by a circuit
even though the real power that does the work is a lot less.
As apparent power is made up of two parts, the resistive power which is the
in-phase power or real power in watts and the reactive power which is the out-
of-phase power in volt-amperes, we can show the vector addition of these two
power components in the form of a power triangle. A power triangle has four
parts: P, Q, S and θ.
The three elements which make up power in an AC circuit can be represented
graphically by the three sides of a right-angled triangle, in much the same way
as the previous impedance triangle. The horizontal (adjacent) side represents
the circuits real power (P), the vertical (opposite) side represents the circuits
reactive power (Q) and the hypotenuse represents the resulting apparent
power (S), of the power triangle as shown.

Power Triangle of an AC Circuit

 Where:
 P is the I2R or Real power that performs work measured in watts, W
 Q is the I2X or Reactive power measured in volt-amperes reactive, VAr
 S is the I2Z or Apparent power measured in volt-amperes, VA
 θ is the phase angle in degrees. The larger the phase angle, the greater the
reactive power
 Cosθ = P/S = W/VA = power factor, p.f.
 Sinθ = Q/S = VAr/VA
 Tanθ = Q/P = VAr/W
The power factor is calculated as the ratio of the real power to the apparent
power because this ratio equals cosθ.

Power Factor in AC Circuits

Power factor, cosθ, is an important part of an AC circuit that can also be
expressed in terms of circuit impedance or circuit power. Power factor is
defined as the ratio of real power (P) to apparent power (S), and is generally
expressed as either a decimal value, for example 0.95, or as a percentage:
Power factor defines the phase angle between the current and voltage
waveforms, were I and V are the magnitudes of rms values of the current and
voltage. Note that it does not matter whether the phase angle is the difference
of the current with respect to the voltage, or the voltage with respect to the
current. The mathematical relationship is given as:

Power Factor of an AC Circuit

We said previously that in a pure resistive circuit, the current and voltage
waveforms are in-phase with each other so the real power consumed is the
same as the apparent power as the phase difference is zero degrees (0o). So
the power factor will be:

Power Factor, pf = cos 0o = 1.0

That is the number of watts consumed is the same as the number of volt-
amperes consumed producing a power factor of 1.0, or 100%. In this case it is
referred to a unity power factor.
We also said above that in a purely reactive circuit, the current and voltage
waveforms are out-of-phase with each other by 90o. As the phase difference is
ninety degrees (90o), the power factor will be:

Power Factor, pf = cos 90o = 0

That is the number of watts consumed is zero but there is still a voltage and
current supplying the reactive load. Clearly then reducing the reactive VAr
component of the power triangle will cause θ to reduce improving the power
factor towards one, unity. It is also desirable to have a high power factor as
this makes the most efficient use of the circuit delivering current to a load.
Then we can write the relationship between the real power, the apparent
power and the circuits power factor as:

An inductive circuit where the current “lags” the voltage (ELI) is said to have a
lagging power factor, and a capacitive circuit where the current “leads” the
voltage (ICE) is said to have a leading power factor.

Power Triangle Example No1

A wound coil that has an inductance of 180mH and a resistance of 35Ω is

connected to a 100V 50Hz supply. Calculate: a) the impedance of the coil, b)
the current, c) the power factor, and d) the apparent power consumed.
Also draw the resulting power triangle for the above coil.
Data given: R = 35Ω, L = 180mH, V = 100V and ƒ = 50Hz.
(a) Impedance (Z) of the coil:
(b) Current (I) consumed by the coil:

(c) The power factor and phase angle, θ:

(d) Apparent power (S) consumed by the coil:

(e) Power triangle for the coil:

As the power triangle relationships of this simple example demonstrates, at
0.5263 or 52.63% power factor, the coil requires 150 VA of power to produce
79 Watts of useful work. In other words, at 52.63% power factor, the coil takes
about 88% more current to do the same work, which is a lot of wasted current.
Adding a power factor correction capacitor (for this example a 32.3uF) across
the coil, in order to increase the power factor to over 0.95, or 95%, would
greatly reduce the reactive power consumed by the coil as these capacitors
act as reactive current generators, thus reducing the total amount of current

Power Triangle and Power Factor Summary

We have seen here that the three elements of electrical power, Real
Power, Reactive Powerand Apparent Power in an AC circuit can be
represented by the three sides of a triangle called a Power Triangle. As these
three elements are represented by a “right-angled triangle”, their relationship
can be defined as: S2 = P2 + Q2, where P is the real power in watts (W), Q is
the reactive power in volt-amperes reactive (VAr) and S is the apparent power
in volt-amperes (VA).
We have also seen that in an AC circuit, the quantity cosθ is called the power
factor. The power factor of an AC circuit is defined as the ratio of the real
power (W) consumed by a circuit to the apparent power (VA) consumed by
the same circuit. This therefore gives us: Power Factor = Real
Power/Apparent Power, or pf = W/VA.
Then the cosine of the resulting angle between the current and voltage is the
power factor. Generally power factor is expressed as a percentage, for
example 95%, but can also be expressed as a decimal value, for example
When the power factor equals 1.0 (unity) or 100%, that is when the real power
consumed equals the circuits apparent power, the phase angle between the
current and the voltage is 0o as: cos-1(1.0) = 0o. When the power factor equals
zero (0), the phase angle between the current and the voltage will be 90o as:
cos-1(0) = 90o. In this case the actual power consumed by the AC circuit is zero
regardless of the circuit current.
In practical AC circuits, the power factor can be anywhere between 0 and 1.0
depending on the passive components within the connected load. For an
inductive-resistive load or circuit (which is most often the case) the power
factor will be “lagging”. In a capacitive-resistive circuit the power factor will be
“leading”. Then an AC circuit can be defined to have a unity, lagging, or
leading power factor.
A poor power factor with a value towards zero (0) will consume wasted power
reducing the efficiency of the circuit, while a circuit or load with a power factor
closer to one (1.0) or unity (100%), will be more efficient. This is because a a
circuit or load with a low power factor requires more current than the same
circuit or load with a power factor closer to 1.0 (unity).

Real, Reactive, and Apparent Power

(No reviews)
Be the first to
Write a Review

The apparent power is the vector sum of real and reactive power
Engineers use the following terms to describe energy flow in a system (and assign each of them a different unit to
differentiate between them):

 Real power (P) [Unit: W]

 Reactive power (Q) [Unit: VAR]
 Complex power (S)
 Apparent Power (|S|) [Unit: VA]: i.e. the absolute value of complex power S.

In the diagram, P is the real power, Q is the reactive power (in this case negative), S is the complex power and the
length of S is the apparent power.
The unit for all forms of power is the watt (symbol: W). However, this unit is generally reserved for the real power
component. Apparent power is conventionally expressed in volt-amperes (VA) since it is the simple product of rms
voltage and rms current. The unit for reactive power is given the special name "VAR", which stands for volt-amperes
reactive (since reactive power flow transfers no net energy to the load, it is sometimes called "wattless" power). Note
that it does not make sense to assign a single unit to complex power because it is a complex number and it is
therefore defined as a pair of two units: W and VAR.

Understanding the relationship between these three quantities lies at the heart of understanding power engineering.
The mathematical relationship among them can be represented by vectors or expressed using complex numbers,
(where j is the imaginary unit).

The complex value S is referred to as the complex power.

Consider an ideal alternating current (AC) circuit consisting of a source and a generalized load, where both the
current and voltage are sinusoidal. If the load is purely resistive, the two quantities reverse their polarity at the same
time, the direction of energy flow does not reverse, and only real power flows. If the load is purely reactive, then the
voltage and current are 90 degrees out of phase and there is no net power flow. This energy flowing backwards and
forwards is known as reactive power.

If a capacitor and an inductor are placed in parallel, then the currents flowing through the inductor and the capacitor
oppose and tend to cancel out rather than adding. Conventionally, capacitors are considered to generate reactive
power and inductors to consume it. This is the fundamental mechanism for controlling the power factor in electric
power transmission; capacitors (or inductors) are inserted in a circuit to partially cancel reactive power of the load. A
practical load will have resistive, inductive, and capacitive parts, and so both real and reactive power will flow to the
The apparent power is the product of voltage and current. Apparent power is handy for sizing of equipment or wiring.
However, adding the apparent power for two loads will not accurately give the total apparent power unless they have
the same displacement between current and voltage.

Power factor:

Power factor measures the efficiency of an AC power system. Power factor is the real power per unit of apparent
power. (pf = Wh/VAh) A power factor of one is perfect, and 99% is good. Where the waveforms are purely sinusoidal,
the power factor is the cosine of the phase angle (φ) between the current and voltage sinusoid waveforms.
Equipment data sheets and nameplates often will abbreviate power factor as "cosφ" for this reason.
Power factor equals 1 when the voltage and current are in phase, and is zero when the current leads or lags the
voltage by 90 degrees. Power factors are usually stated as "leading" or "lagging" to show the sign of the phase angle,
where leading indicates a negative sign. For two systems transmitting the same amount of real power, the system
with the lower power factor will have higher circulating currents due to energy that returns to the source from energy
storage in the load. These higher currents in a practical system will produce higher losses and reduce overall
transmission efficiency. A lower power factor circuit will have a higher apparent power and higher losses for the same
amount of real power transfer.
Purely capacitive circuits cause reactive power with the current waveform leading the voltage wave by 90 degrees,
while purely inductive circuits cause reactive power with the current waveform lagging the voltage waveform by 90
degrees. The result of this is that capacitive and inductive circuit elements tend to cancel each other out.

Reactive power flow:

In power transmission and distribution, significant effort is made to control the reactive power flow. This is typically
done automatically by switching inductors or capacitor banks in and out, by adjusting generator excitation, and by
other means. Electricity retailers may use electricity meters which measure reactive power to financially penalise
customers with low power factor loads. This is particularly relevant to customers operating highly inductive loads such
as motors at water pumping stations.

Intelligent Battery:

Output current depends upon the battery's state. An intelligent charger may monitor the battery's voltage,
temperature and/or time under charge to determine the optimum charge current at that instant. Charging is
terminated when a combination of the voltage, temperature and/or time indicates that the battery is fully charged.

For Ni-Cd and NiMH batteries, the voltage across the battery increases slowly during the charging process, until the
battery is fully charged. After that, the voltage decreases, which indicates to an intelligent charger that the battery is
fully charged. Such chargers are often labeled as a ΔV, or "delta-V," charger, indicating that they monitor the voltage

A typical intelligent charger fast-charges a battery up to about 85% of its maximum capacity in less than an hour, then
switches to trickle charging, which takes several hours to top off the battery to its full capacity.

Volt Amperes:

A volt-ampere in electrical terms, means the amount of apparent power in an alternating current circuit equal to a
current of one ampere at an emf of one volt. It is equivalent to watts for non-reactive circuits.

 10 kV·A = 10,000 watts capability (where the SI prefix k equals kilo)

 10 MV·A = 10,000,000 watts capability (where M equals mega)

While the volt-ampere and the watt are dimensionally equivalent one may find products rated in both VAs and watts
with different numbers. This is common practice on UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies). The VA rating is the
apparent power that a UPS is capable of producing, while the watt rating is the real power (or true power) it is
capable of producing, as opposed to reactive power. Reactive power arises due to the effects of capacitance and
inductance of components in the load to be powered by the AC circuit. In a purely resistive load (incandescent lights
for example), the apparent power is equal to the true power and the amount of VAs and watts used would be
equivalent. However, in more complex loads, such as computers (which UPSs are intended to power) the apparent
power used (VAs) will be larger than the true power used (watts). The ratio of these two quantities is called the power

Real and Reactive Power and Power Factor

All loads of a power plant can be modeled by a two-terminal network of passive

elements (resistors, inductors, capacitors, without any energy sources) with a total
complex impedance
As the loads are typically inductive (e.g., electric motors, transformers),

i.e., , the phase angle of the impedance is positive. We are concerned

with the energy consumption (by ) and storage (in ) in the load. Let the input
voltage to the load network be:

then the current through the power transmission line and load can be found:

where is the RMS or effective value of the current. Note that the

current is lagging the voltage by an angle .

Consider the instantaneous power of the load defined as the product of the voltage
and current:

where we have defined

 Apparent Power (in volt-amperes):

 Real power (in Watts): as the

 Reactive power (in volt-ampere reactive or VAR):

As shown in the plots below, the instantaneous power can be both positive
(energy consumed by the load) and negative (energy released by the load), and it can

be represented as either a product of and , or a weighted sum and

Consider the average power over one period :
We see that

 The real power represents the average power dissipation by the

load over one period ;

 The reactive power is not consumed but converted back and forth
between the energy source and the energy storing (inductive) elements in the

The apparent power can be considered as the magnitude of a complex

product of and :

On the other hand, as , the above can also be written as:

Comparing the two expressions of above, we get:

We see that the real power is dissipated by the resistive

component of the load, while the reactive power is stored in and

released from the reactive component of the load.
Improvement of Power Factor

The Power factor is defined as

which represents the phase difference between the voltage and current in the system,

and the ratio between the real power and the reactive

power . To increase the efficiency of the power transmission system, i.e.,

to deliver the real power to the load with minimum reactive power (thereby
minimum current and power dissipation along the transmission line), it is desirable to

maximize the power factor by reducing . Specifically, we can include a shunt

capacitor to cancel the inductive effect in the system, thereby reducing and
increasing . There are two possible ways to do this.

 The most straight forward way is to add the shunt capacitor in

series with the inductive load, so that the inductive reactance is

completely canceled by the capacitive reactance .

However, we also note that at resonance, the voltages

across and are times the voltage across , which is the same as the
source voltage (see this page):

the voltage across the inductive

load becomes ,
which could be much higher than the expected source voltage (without

capacitor ) if is large. Consequently, improper operation of the load or

even damage may result.

 Alternatively, to avoid the drawback above, the shunt capacitor can be

added in parallel to the inductive load so that it still gets the expected voltage.

Now the overall load becomes

For the new phase angle to be zero, the phases of the numerator
and denominator need to be the same, i.e.,

Solving this equation for we get the desired capacitance:

Now the voltage across the inductive load is still the same as the voltage source

as expected, and another benefit is that the required capacitance is smaller

than the capacitance required for the series approach.

To reduce the cost of a large capacitance needed for the phase angle of the load to be

reduced to zero so that , it is acceptable for the improved

power factor to be less than 1, e.g., 0.9. In this case, the phase angle of the load is
Solving this equation for we get the required capacitance. As now we have


we get an even smaller capacitance which is more practically implementable:


Dave Loucks
 Administrator
 Jr. Member

 Posts: 75


Real and Reactive Power Analysis

« on: February 19, 2015, 01:46:03 PM »

Lots of good material on the web, but I've sometimes found it confusing to understand why
reactive power flow to an inductor is considered "positive", but at the same time you hear that
the phase angle of inductor current is lagging (which to my ear sounds "negative"). For
capacitors this is reversed (e.g. negative reactive power flow for leading current). Anyway, I
thought I'd outline a quick overview of how all this fits together.

We begin with a diagram that might be familiar to many. It shows real power flow on the x-axis
and reactive power flow on the y-axis. Since both forward and reverse (positive and negative)
real and reactive power flow is possible, there are four categories (+W/+vars, +W/-vars, -
W/+vars, -W/-vars) that the diagram places in separate quadrants. I've shown it with ABC
clockwise rotation (meaning that increasing angles are increasingly "lagging" which is explained

The circle shows the line etched by a constant value of S at different values of θ (0 to 360

The exact same value of S (VA or apparent power) can result in a variety of different P (real) and
Q (reactive) values just by changing the phase angle!

So what is the phase angle and how do you calculate it?

Let's say you just define the voltage reference right now to be 00 and you measure your current
to be θ degrees away from that axis. Depending on which way the angle points (above the x-
axis or below) determines whether the power factor is lagging (consuming vars) or leading
(producing vars), respectively.

Here's a diagram of system with where the current is lagging the voltage by 36.9 deg.
Here's where it gets somewhat tricky... the current is delayed by 36.9 degrees, which might
sound like a "negative" angle, but you can see from the phasor diagram as shown that it actually
is a more positive phase angle.

sin (36.90) = 0.6

By the way, in these waveforms the peak voltage and current were both 1. When we calculate
power (whether real or reactive), we use root mean square versions of the signals. Since we
have a two nice sine waves the rms value can be calculated easily from the peak:

In a single phase system:

 S=V*A
 P = S * cos(θ) = V * A * cos(θ)
 Q = S * sin(θ) = V * A * sin(θ)

(in a 3-phase system, each parameter is just multiplied by 1.732)

Plugging and chugging:

Note that sin (-36.90) = - sin (+36.90). This means that moving the phase of the current either
ahead or behind the voltage causes leading (positive) var production or lagging (negative) var
consumption, respectively.

That is not the case for the real power (cosine). Since cos(-36.90) = cos(+36.90) = 0.8 this tells
you that changing PF over this range doesn't affect real power flow over this small range.
The waveform and phasor diagrams show how the same value of S (in these cases it is assume
to be 1) can result in very different values of P (real) or Q (reactive) power.

The phase angle of the current relative to the voltage would need to increase to more than 90
degrees (but less than 270 degrees) in order for the the sign of the real (W or P) term to turn
negative. This makes sense since consider a signal exactly 180 degrees out of phase. 180
degree out of phase current would look like this:

It is by convention among power systems engineers that capacitive circuits "produce" vars and
have leading PF and inductive circuits "consume" vars and have lagging PF. Here's an example
where the current leads the voltage by 135 degrees resulting in negative real power, but positive
reactive power.
In the scheme of things this is totally arbitrary because ideal versions of both components never
"keep" the vars. They store energy during a portion of the half cycle and then return it the

So why do people talk about capacitors "producing vars"?

It is just convention to say that the reactive power is "consumed" when it is positive and
"generated" when it is negative. From the diagrams above, negative vars occur when you have
leading power factor.

Maybe then someone asks "why do capacitor circuits result in leading phase angles and inductors
result in lagging phase angles?"

Let's start with looking at a leading PF circuit.

This is a 3-phase diagram, but it works for 1-phase (just remove the B and C phases). The way
I look at it is to realize that the phasors are rotating in time. At the instant this "snapshot" was
taken, the Va phase was exactly aligned with the x-axis (00), but that is totally arbitrary. What
is important is the angle between that voltage and its corresponding phase current. While we
said at this instant the voltage was measured and/or defined to be at 0 degrees, a millisecond
later it may not be.

As these phasors rotate (I'll assume clock-wise for ABC rotation, meaning first A, the B, then C
cross the 00 axis as it rotates...), the Ia phase will always cross any arbitrary angle before the Va
phasor "gets there".

Since current "gets there" before the voltage we say the current is leading the voltage.

Here's the "why" that this happens. Capacitors look like short circuits when discharged. For a
moment in time after you apply a non-zero charging current, the voltage is 0 until it begins to
charge up. A voltage of 0, by definition, is a short-circuit. In an ideal short circuit, infinite
current flows but there is no voltage drop. Now, in the physical world that isn't the case, but you
will see current flowing in a capacitor before the voltage changes. How fast that happens
depends on the size of the capacitor and the voltage applied. If you have current
flowing before voltage changes, then that is another way of saying current changes precede (or
lead) voltage changes -- or more simply, current leads the voltage. This can also be described
by looking at the mathematical relationship between current and voltage in a capacitor. Danger
Will Robinson - Differential Equations ahead :

What this says is that for voltage to change instantaneously (dt = 0) you would have to apply
infinite current. Guess that isn't going to happen! So for capacitors, any nominal current will
result in a delayed voltage change, or in the vernacular of speaking about current in relation to
the voltage we say the current leads the voltage.

If the phase angle was reversed, the voltage would cross any arbitrary angle before the current
and we'd say the current lagged the voltage. Here's that phasor diagram:
This is known to be an inductive circuit since with inductors no current flows immediately after a
voltage change is applied across the inductor. Mathematically we write:

According to this equation, for the current in an inductor to change instantaneously (dt = 0)
you would have to apply infinite voltage. That ain't gonna happen either, so the result is that
current can't change instantaneously with a voltage change and we say the current lags the

Armed with this fabulous knowledge, we can then attack the problem using our standard trig
equations that show how to solve for unknown values of a right triangle.

If, for example, you know its hypotenuse (S or VA or apparent power) and you have been given
either one other side (kW) or the angle (PF) you're good to go.

You can derive everything else using these equations:

W = Wh / h
Q = varh / h

S2 = W2 + Q2
cos-1(W/S) = θ
W = S cos θ
cos θ= W/S
sin-1(Q/S) = θ
Q = S sin θ
sin θ = Q/S
tan θ= sin θ/ cos θ = (Q/S)/(W/S) = Q/W

To help visualize these phase angles, I've attached two Excel spreadsheets that can be used to
create a voltage waveform, then superimpose on the same graph the current waveform. I went
ahead and included the ability to add harmonic currents (which is a topic for a future discussion).

 1-phase_harmonics.xls
Allows entering the phase shift as power factor. The spreadsheet will perform the math
to shift the current waveform.
 1-phase_harmonics_Phase_shift.xls
Allows entering the phase shift in degrees.
 X over R2.xls
Converts PF to X/R and reverse. Calculates Z, %Z, X/R, R, X and L for a given voltage,
desired and current. Useful when creating a simulation and you want to choose an R
and X to limit current to a particular short circuit value at a particular X/R ratio.
 phase_angle_diagram_V1_V2.xls
Allows entering the phase shift in degrees and seeing corresponding changes to real,
reactive and apparent power.


First – a simple question
Right or Wrong? Power = Voltage x Current that statement is correct for DC systems but there are
two major complications for AC systems.
 The value of current and voltage keeps changing. Which value do you use ?
 The voltage and the current may not be in phase. Multiplying the current and the voltage
when they are not in phase requires and adjustment to compensate for the phase. It is this
phase shift that forces us to define Real, Apparent and Reactive Power.
 This phase shift occurs when a power source feeds an inductive or capacitve load”. Most
loads are either inductive (motors) or resistive (heaters) and therefore the phase shift is
typically in one direction.
 A motor has a winding. A wound conductor essentially defines an inductor. Thus the winding
presents the resistance of the wound wire and the inductance resulting from the winding.
RMS or Effective Value
Peak values in the alternating voltage or current curves only lasts a short instant. They are not really
representative of the ability of the voltage and current to do work and thus they are not used in Power
Calculations.Scientists use a statistical method to define the effective values. It is called the RMS or
Root-Mean-Square values. The result of the definition is that: Veff / rms = 0.707 x V peak The same
applies to current too.TIP: You can reasonably assume that all the Voltages and Currents reported by
a Power Meter are reported as RMS or Effective values unless otherwise indicated.
TIP: Most multi meters report RMS values

Apparent Power
Apparent Power is the power delivered by a power source to a load like a motor. In almost all real
world situations that use AC, you need to supply more power (Apparent Power) to a device than it
will do work (Real Power).The (vector) difference between the two represents the work done to
overcome the inductive and capacities effects of the load.Apparent Power is measured in units of VA
– Volt-amperes. These are actually Watts but we use the new unit name to reduce confusion. Thus
when you see VA on a data sheet you can reasonably conclude that they are talking about Apparent
Power.Apparent Power is calculated:S(Common symbol for Apparent Power) = Veff / rms x Ieff /
rms – Single Phase Calc

Power Factor and Phase

Power Factor is calculated: PF = Cosine ( phase angle in radians)Power factor has no engineering
units.The value of PF ranges from -1 to 0 to 1 (lagging – none – leading)Loads that only present a
resistive load (no capacitance or inductance) have a PF of 1.Inductive Loads

Current phase lags the Voltage Typical – Transformers and motors (wound conductors)
Capacitive Loads

Current phase leads the Voltage Typical – Buried Cables, capacitor banks There is nothing
‘wrong’ with having a power factor that isn’t 1.0.

Real Power and Reactive Power

Think of Real Power as useful power – a measure of how much work is being done.The units of Real
Power are Watts.Real Power is calculated : P(Real) = S(Apparent Power) x pf Reactive Power is the
(vector) difference between Apparent Power and Real Power. The energy used to produce the
Reactive Power is stored in the magnetic/electrical field of the Inductive Load. In the case of the
capacitive load the magnetic/electrical field of the Inductive Load produces the Reactive Power.
Reactive Power cannot be harnessed to do useful work.Reactive Power is identified by the symbol : Q
The engineering units of Reactive Power are VAR – Volt-amperes Reactive. These are also Watts but
we use VAR so that we know we are talking about Reactive Power.

Diagram: RMS measurement

Diagram: Leading / Lagging

THD – Total harmonic Distortion (also called Distortion)

In simple terms THD is a measure of distortion reported as %. If a device (any active device but think
of rectifiers, variable speed drives … as practical examples) is given a sine wave as in input the output
is never a faithful 100% reproduction of the input. A series of harmonics of the original wave distort
the original wave form. The THD % is an attempt to ‘numberize’ the degree of distortion to allow for
comparison. The % number is somewhat controversial because some harmonics are more important
than others and there is no weighting.
THD(%) = 100 * SQRT[(V22 + V32 + V42 + … + Vn2)] / Vt Where V2, V3 are the RMS values of each
voltage harmonic and Vt is the total RMS output voltage.

Sag / Swell or Dip / Surge

Duration is 0.5 cycle and greater. Voltage sags are the most common power disturbance. Voltage sags
can arrive from the utility. In most cases, sags are generated inside a building. For example, in
residential wiring, the most common cause of voltage sags is the starting current drawn by refrigerator
and air conditioning motors.Sags do not generally disturb incandescent or fluorescent lighting.
motors, or heaters. However, some electronic equipment lacks sufficient internal energy storage and,
therefore, cannot ride through sags in the supply voltage. Equipment may be able to ride through very
brief, deep sags, or it may be able to ride through longer but shallower sags.

Under / Over Voltage

Over Voltage is an increase in effective voltage to more than 110% for longer than one minute. Under
Voltage is a decrease in effective voltage to less than 90% for longer than one minute. Take care with
this definition because it tends to change from vendor to vendor.

Transient Voltages / Spikes / Surges

Refers to short duration (less than 1 cycle) events. Low frequency transients are often called
“capacitor switching transients”. High frequency transients are often called impulses, spikes, or
surges. They can be caused when a discharged power-factor-correction capacitor is switched on
across the line.High frequency transients are caused by lightning, and by inductive loads turning off.
Typical rise times are on the order of a microsecond; typical decay times are on the order of a tens to
hundreds of microseconds. Often, the decay will be an exponential damped ringing waveform, with a
frequency of approximately 100 kHz.Extremely fast transients, or EFT’s, have rise and fall times in
the nanosecond region. They are caused by arcing faults, such as bad brushes in motors, and are
rapidly damped out by even a few meters of distribution wiring. Standard line filters, included on
almost all electronic equipment, remove EFT’s.

Review of 3-Phase Circuits

 Requirements of a Balanced 3-Phase Set
 Requirements of a Balanced 3-Phase Circuit
 Terms and Naming Conventions
 Where Does that Come From?
 Wyes and Deltas
 Y to Conversions
 The One-Line Diagram
 3-Phase Power
 Collection of Important 3-Phase Equations
 What to Assume
 Unbalanced Circuits
 Wattmeters

Requirements of a Balanced 3-Phase Set

Following are the requirements that must be satisified in order for a set of 3 sinusoidal
variables (usually voltages or currents) to be a "balanced 3-phase set"

1. All 3 variables have the same amplitude

2. All 3 variables have the same frequency
3. All 3 variables are 120o in phase
In terms of the time domain, a set of balance 3-phase voltages has the following
general form.

va = Vm cos ( t + )
vb = Vm cos ( t + - 120o )
vc = Vm cos ( t + - 240o ) = Vm cos ( t + +120o )
Notice that we have assumed (and will continue to assume) positive (abc) phase
sequence, i.e., phase "b" follows 120o behind "a" & phase "c" follows 120o behind
phase "b"

Figure 1 below illustrates the balanced 3-phase voltages in time domain.

Figure 1: Balanced 3-Phase Variables in Time Domain

In terms of phasors, we write the same balanced set as follows. Note that the phasors
are in rms, as will be assumed throughout this course.
Va = Vm m
Vb = Vm - 120o
Vc = Vm - 240o = Vm +120o


Vb = Va (1 -120o) , and Vc = Va (1 +120o)

Figure 2 below illustrates the balanced 3-phase phasors graphically.
Figure 2: Balanced 3-Phase Phasors

Requirements of a Balanced 3-Phase Circuit

Following are the requirements that must be satisified in order for a 3-phase system or
circuit to be balanced

1. All 3 sources are reprensented by a set of balanced 3-phase variables

2. All loads are 3-phase with equal impedances
3. Line impedances are equal in all 3 phases

Having a balanced circuit allows for simplified analysis of the 3-phase circuit. In fact,
if the circuit is balanced, we can solve for the voltages, currents, and powers, etc. in
one phase using circuit analysis. The values of the corresponding variables in the
other two phases can be found using some basic equations. This type of solution is
accomplished using a "one-line diagram", which will be discussed later. If the
circuit is not balanced, all three phases should be analyzed in detail.

Figure 3 illustrates a balanced 3-phase circuit and some of the naming conventions to
be used in this course

Figure 3: A Balanced 3-Phase Circuit

Terms and Naming Conventions

describes or pertains to one element or device in a load, line, or source. It is
simply a "branch" of the circuit and could look something like

this .
refers to the "transmission line" or wires that connect the source (supply) to the
load. It may be modeled as a small impedance (actually 3 of them), or even by
just a connecting line.
the 4th wire in the 3-phase system. It's where the phases of a Y connection
come together.
Phase Voltages & Phase Currents
the voltages and currents across and through a single branch (phase) of the
circuit. Note this definition depends on whether the connection is Wye or
Line Currents
the currents flowing in each of the lines (Ia, Ib, and Ic). This definition does not
change with connection type.
Line Voltages
the voltages between any two of the lines (Vab, Vbc, and Vca). These may also
be referred to as the line-to-line voltages. This definition does not change with
connection type.
Line to Neutral Voltages
the voltages between any lines and the neutral point (Va, Vb, and Vc). This
definition does not change with connection type, but they may not be
physically measureable in a Delta circuit.
Line to Neutral Currents
same as the line currents (Ia, Ib, and Ic).

Where Does that Come From?

Let us determine the relationships between the line and line to neutral voltages. By
applying Kirchoff's Voltage Law (KVL) to the top "loop" of the source section in
Figure 3, we get

Vab = Va - Vb = Vm - Vm - 120o

Now, without loss of generality, let = 0o

thus, Va = Vm 0o, and Vb = Vm -120o, so

Vab = Vm 0o - Vm - 120o = Vm (1 - 1 - 120o ) = Vm (1 - (cos 120o - j sin 120o))

= Vm (1 - (-1/2) + j ( / 2 ) ) = Vm (3 / 2) + j ( / 2 ))

Converting to polar form,

Vab = Vm Sqrt[ (3/2)2 + ( / 2)2 ] tan-1 {( / 2) / (3/2) }

= Vm Sqrt[ 9/4 + 3/4 ] tan-1 {1/ }

= Vm tan-1 {(1 / 2) / ( /2) } = Vm tan-1 {(sin 30o) / (cos 30o) }

= Vm tan-1 {tan 30o } = Vm 30o

Thus we have the general equation (for abc sequence anyway)

Vab = Va 30o

The relationships between the currents can be developed similarly. Summing currents
at the "A" node in Figure 3 yields the starting equation,

Ia = IAB - ICA

This time choose Ia to be the phasor reference (at 0o). The final result is:

Ia = IAB -30o
These relationships can also be remembered graphically using Figures 4 and 5 below.
Figure 4 illustrates the voltage relationship. By looking at the phasor equation as the
sum of two vectors (Va and -Vb ) we obtain the resulting Vab shown in the figure.

Since Vab is longer, we know . . . . |Vab| = |Va| ,

and since Vab is ahead of Va, we know that, . . . . (the angle of Vab) = (the angle of
Va) + 30o
Figure 4: Graphical Voltage Relationship

Figure 5 illustrates the current relationship. Now the phasor equation is the sum of
two vectors (Iab and -Ica ) we obtain the resulting Ia shown in the figure.

Since Ia is longer, we know

|Ia| = |Iab| ,

and since Ia is behind Iab, we know that,

(the angle of Ia) = (the angle of Iab) - 30o

Figure 5: Graphical Current Relationship

Wyes and Deltas

A summary of the characteristics of the two types of 3-phase circuit connections are
given below.
The Wye = Y = "Star" connection ____ The Delta = connection
each phase is connected between a line and
each phase is connected between two lines
the neutral

Figure 6: A Y Circuit Figure 7: A Circuit

Phase voltages = Line to neutral voltages (Va, Phase voltages = Line voltages (Vab, etc.)
Phase currents = currents from line to line
Phase currents = Line currents (Ia, etc.) (Iab, etc.)

Neutral connects the 3 phases Neutral is not present

Y to Conversions
In terms of power, currents & line voltages, the following sources are the same and
may be used interchangably in most cases. Note, the Y connection should be used in a
one-line diagram.
Wye connected source ____ Delta connected source

Figure 8: A Y Source Figure 9: A Source

VA = Vab / ( 30o) Vab = VA ( 30o)

Similarly, the two loads given below are the same in terms of the resulting power, line
currents and line voltages and can usually be substituted as desired. Note that the Y
connection is the one needed for the one-line diagram!

Wye connected load ____ Delta connected load

Figure 10: A Y Impedance Load Figure 11: A Impedance Load

The One-Line Diagram

If the circuit is balanced, all corresponding sets of 3-phase voltages and currents are
balanced, and the neutral current will be zero.

IN = Ia + Ib + Ic

Why must this be so? Because the sum of a balanced set of 3-phase variables is equal
to zero. This can be verified mathematically using the definition, or visually by
considering using vector addition to add the balanced set in Figure 5.

Because the neutral current is zero, this means that if the neutral in the load is
connected to the neutral in the source, no current will flow. Thus, the voltage at each
of the neutrals must be the same. This means they can be considered to be the same

Now consider the circuit of Figure 12. In general, any circuit with a source, load, and
line configuration can be converted to a circuit of this type by replacing any Delta -
connected sources or loads with the equivalent Wye connected sources or loads.

Figure 12: Completely Y-Connected Circuit Including Neutral

If the Neutral points in Figure 12 are actually the same point, Figure 12 can be
redrawn as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 13: ReDrawn All-Y Circuit
From this figure we see that each of the phase currents depends only on the source in
the corresponding loop. In other words,

Ia = Va / ( Zline + ZY) , Ib = Vb / ( Zline + ZY) , and Ic = Vc / ( Zline + ZY)

Notice that these equations are VERY similar.

Recall that in balanced set of variables, once we know one variable, the other two can
be found by simply adding and subtracting 120o. Thus, we only need to consider and
solve one loop of Figure 13 --- this is the one-line diagram!

Figure 14 shows the one-line diagram for the circuit of Figure 13. Usually the one line
that is considered is the "a" phase. The "b" phase quantities are then found by
subtracting 120o, and the "c" phase quantities are found by adding 120o.

Figure 14: The One-Line Diagram

3-Phase Power
The 3-phase (3 ) power of a circuit is simply the sum of the power in the three
individual phases. Thus for a Wye circuit, the equation is

S3 = Sa + Sb + Sc

and for a Delta circuit, the equation is

S3 = Sab + Sbc + Sca

Another adavantage of having a balanced circuit is that each phase has the same
power. That is,

S = Sab = Sbc = Sca = Sa = Sb = Sc

so that,

S3 = 3 S = 3 Sab = 3 Sa

Just in case you didn't know, right now you should be thinking "This is very

The single phase power can be found using either

S = Va Ia* or S = Vab Iab*

We can do some interesting rearrangements to get the power in terms of the line
voltage (Vab) and line current (Ia) only.

S = Va Ia* = |Va| | Ia| = {|Vab| / }| Ia| =S

Thus, S3 = 3 S = 3 {|Vab| / }| Ia| = |Vab| | Ia|

In balanced systems, all the S 's and S3 have the same power factor (pf) and
thus the same power factor angle = impedance angle = .

Collection of Important 3-Phase Equations

If Xa, Xb, and Xc are a balanced set,
Xb = Xa (1 -120o) , and
Xc = Xa (1 +120o)
In general,
S3 = Sa + Sb + Sc
S3 = Sab + Sbc + Sca
For a balanced system,
S3 = 3 S
S = Va Ia*
S = Vab Iab*
For the balanced and positive sequence case,
Vab = Va 30o
Ia = IAB -30o

What to Assume
If you are given a voltage, current, or power value and not told specifically which
variable it is, you should assume that you have been given a "line" value. That is,
assume the following:
Voltage => Line voltage = |Vab|
Current => Line current = |Ia|
Power => Three Phase Power = S3 , P3 , or Q3

Unbalanced Circuits
When we have an unbalanced circuit, we CANNOT use the one-line diagram to solve
for "a" phase values and then get the answers for the other phases by adding or
subtracting 120o.

In general, a unbalanced three-phase circuit requires that you draw the complete
circuit including all 3-phase and single-phase loads and perform a circuit analysis of
the whole thing. Normal methods such as "meshes" or "node voltages" may be used.
If you have the simple case in which a balanced 3-phase load is connected directly to
a source and a single phase load is connected in parallel to the same source, you may
calculate the currents in the balanced load using a one-line method. The single phase
current is calculated separately and then individual line currents can be found by
summing the currents at certain nodes in the system.

Remember any circuit that does not have all loads with the same impedance in all
three branches is an unbalanced circuit.

The schematic for a wattmeter is given in Figure 15 below. Note that in order to
measure power, we need to measure a current and a voltage. The wattmeter doesn't
care which current or which voltage you use. It will give you a reading regardless of
whether or not it means anything. It is up to the user (you) to make sure the meter is
sensing the correct voltage and current to give a meaningful measurement!
Figure 15: The Basic Wattmeter

The meter reading will be

W = I V cos ( V - I )

Under balanced conditions and conditions in which there are only three wires in the
system, we can measure the power in all three phases of a load (or source) by using
only two meters. This is called the "Two Wattmeter Method."

This method is quite convenient when all you have access to are the three wires going
into a three-phase motor (for example). You want to measure P3 , where do you
connect your meter?

To measure the 3-phase power correctly using two meters:

connect the current coils in two of the phases

connect the positive terminals of the voltage coils to the same two phases
(where you're measuring the current)

connect both of the negative voltage terminals to the third phase.

Figures 16 and 17 below show two possible connections with phases "b" and "c"
respectively, used as the voltage reference. Note that the "plus-minus" symbol marks
the positive voltage terminal & the negative terminal is generally unmarked.

Figure 16: Two Wattmeter Connection with "b" as Reference

Figure 17: Two Wattmeter Connection with "c" as Reference

The meter readings for Figure 16 are:

W1 = |Ia| |Vab| cos ( Vab - Ia )
W2 = |Ic| |Vcb| cos ( Vcb - Ic )

The meter readings for Figure 17 are:

W1 = |Ia| |Vac| cos ( Vac - Ia )

W2 = |Ib| |Vbc| cos ( Vbc - Ib )

The three phase real power is found using . . . P3 = W1 + W2

similarly, for the balanced condition, the magnitude three phase reactive power can be
found using . . . |Q3 | = |W1 - W2|

the sign of Q may vary depending on how the wattmeters are connected. So, it is
generally safer to determine the sign using other means.

Shelli Starrett

September 18, 1997

Three Phase Circuit | Star and Delta System

There are two types of system available in electric circuit, single phase and
three phase system. In single phase circuit, there will be only one phase, i.e
the current will flow through only one wire and there will be one return path
called neutral line to complete the circuit. So in single phase minimum amount
of power can be transported. Here the generating station and load station will
also be single phase. This is an old system using from previous time.In 1882,
new invention has been done on polyphase system, that more than one phase
can be used for generating, transmitting and for load system. Three phase
circuit is the polyphase system where three phases are send together from
the generator to the load.
Each phase are having a phase difference of 120o, i.e 120o angle electrically.
So from the total of 360o, three phases are equally divided into 120o each. The
power in three phase system is continuous as all the three phases are
involved in generating the total power. The sinusoidal waves for 3 phase
system is shown below- The three phases can be used as single phase each.
So if the load is single phase, then one phase can be taken from the three
phase circuit and the neutral can be used as ground to complete the circuit.

Why Three Phase is preferred Over Single Phase?

There are various reasons for this question because there are numbers of
advantages over single phase circuit. The three phase system can be used as
three single phase line so it can act as three single phase system. The three
phase generation and single phase generation is same in the generator
except the arrangement of coil in the generator to get 120° phase difference.
The conductor needed in three phase circuit is 75% that of conductor needed
in single phase circuit. And also the instantaneous power in single phase
system falls down to zero as in single phase we can see from the sinusoidal
curve but in three phase system the net power from all the phases gives a
continuous power to the load.
Till now we can say that there are three voltage source connected together to
form a three phase circuit and actually it is inside the generator. The generator
is having three voltage sources which are acting together in 120 o phase
difference. If we can arrange three single phase circuit with 120o phase
difference, then it will become a three phase circuit. So 120o phase difference
is must otherwise the circuit will not work, the three phase load will not be able
to get active and it may also cause damage to the system. The size or metal
quantity of three phase devices is not having much difference. Now if we
consider the transformer, it will be almost same size for both single phase and
three phase because transformer will make only the linkage of flux. So the
three phase system will have higher efficiency compared to single phase
because for the same or little difference in mass of transformer, three phase
line will be out whereas in single phase it will be only one. And losses will be
minimum in three phase circuit. So overall in conclusion the three phase
system will have better and higher efficiency compared to the single phase
system. In three phase circuit, connections can be given in two types:
1. Star connection
2. Delta connection
Star Connection
In star connection, there is four wire, three wires are phase wire and fourth is
neutral which is taken from the star point. Star connection is preferred for long
distance power transmission because it is having the neutral point. In this we
need to come to the concept of balanced and unbalanced current in power
When equal current will flow through all the three phases, then it is called as
balanced current. And when the current will not be equal in any of the phase,
then it is unbalanced current. In this case, during balanced condition there will
be no current flowing through the neutral line and hence there is no use of the
neutral terminal. But when there will be unbalanced current flowing in the
three phase circuit, neutral is having a vital role. It will take the unbalanced
current through to the ground and protect the transformer. Unbalanced current
affects transformer and it may also cause damage to the transformer and for
this star connection is preferred for long distance transmission. The star
connection is shown below-
In star connection, the
line voltage is √3 times of phase voltage. Line voltage is the voltage between
two phases in three phase circuit and phase voltage is the voltage between
one phase to the neutral line. And the current is same for both line and phase.
It is shown as expression below
Delta Connection
In delta connection, there is three wires alone and no neutral terminal is
taken. Normally delta connection is preferred for short distance due to the
problem of unbalanced current in the circuit. The figure is shown below for
delta connection. In the load station, ground can be used as neutral path if

required. In delta
connection, the line voltage is same with that of phase voltage. And the line
current is √3 times of phase current. It is shown as expression below,
In three phase circuit, star and delta
connection can be arranged in four different ways-
1. Star-Star connection
2. Star-Delta connection
3. Delta-Star connection
4. Delta-Delta connection
But the power is independent of the circuit arrangement of the three phase
system. The net power in the circuit will be same in both star and delta
connection. The power in three phase circuit can be calculated from the
equation below, Since, there is three phases,
so the multiple of 3 is made in the normal power equation and the PF is power
factor. Power factor is a very important factor in three phase system and some
times due to certain error, it is corrected by using capacitors.

Three-phase Y and Delta

Chapter 10 - Polyphase AC Circuits

Initially we explored the idea of three-phase power systems by connecting three

voltage sources together in what is commonly known as the “Y” (or “star”)
configuration. This configuration of voltage sources is characterized by a common
connection point joining one side of each source. (Figure below)
Three-phase “Y” connection has three voltage sources connected to a common point.

If we draw a circuit showing each voltage source to be a coil of wire (alternator or

transformer winding) and do some slight rearranging, the “Y” configuration becomes
more obvious in Figure below.

Three-phase, four-wire “Y” connection uses a “common” fourth wire.

The three conductors leading away from the voltage sources (windings) toward a load
are typically called lines, while the windings themselves are typically called phases. In
a Y-connected system, there may or may not (Figure below) be a neutral wire
attached at the junction point in the middle, although it certainly helps alleviate
potential problems should one element of a three-phase load fail open, as discussed
Three-phase, three-wire “Y” connection does not use the neutral wire.

When we measure voltage and current in three-phase systems, we need to be

specific as to where we’re measuring. Line voltage refers to the amount of voltage
measured between any two line conductors in a balanced three-phase system. With
the above circuit, the line voltage is roughly 208 volts. Phase voltagerefers to the
voltage measured across any one component (source winding or load impedance) in
a balanced three-phase source or load. For the circuit shown above, the phase
voltage is 120 volts. The terms line current and phase current follow the same logic:
the former referring to current through any one line conductor, and the latter to current
through any one component.
Y-connected sources and loads always have line voltages greater than phase
voltages, and line currents equal to phase currents. If the Y-connected source or load
is balanced, the line voltage will be equal to the phase voltage times the square root
of 3:

However, the “Y” configuration is not the only valid one for connecting three-phase
voltage source or load elements together. Another configuration is known as the
“Delta,” for its geometric resemblance to the Greek letter of the same name (Δ). Take
close notice of the polarity for each winding in Figure below.
Three-phase, three-wire Δ connection has no common.

At first glance it seems as though three voltage sources like this would create a short-
circuit, electrons flowing around the triangle with nothing but the internal impedance of
the windings to hold them back. Due to the phase angles of these three voltage
sources, however, this is not the case.
One quick check of this is to use Kirchhoff’s Voltage Law to see if the three voltages
around the loop add up to zero. If they do, then there will be no voltage available to
push current around and around that loop, and consequently, there will be no
circulating current. Starting with the top winding and progressing counter-clockwise,
our KVL expression looks something like this:

Indeed, if we add these three vector quantities together, they do add up to zero.
Another way to verify the fact that these three voltage sources can be connected
together in a loop without resulting in circulating currents is to open up the loop at one
junction point and calculate voltage across the break: (Figure below)
Voltage across open Δ should be zero.

Starting with the right winding (120 V ∠ 120o) and progressing counter-clockwise, our
KVL equation looks like this:

Sure enough, there will be zero voltage across the break, telling us that no current will
circulate within the triangular loop of windings when that connection is made
Having established that a Δ-connected three-phase voltage source will not burn itself
to a crisp due to circulating currents, we turn to its practical use as a source of power
in three-phase circuits. Because each pair of line conductors is connected directly
across a single winding in a Δ circuit, the line voltage will be equal to the phase
voltage. Conversely, because each line conductor attaches at a node between two
windings, the line current will be the vector sum of the two joining phase currents. Not
surprisingly, the resulting equations for a Δ configuration are as follows:
Let’s see how this works in an example circuit: (Figure below)

The load on the Δ source is wired in a Δ.

With each load resistance receiving 120 volts from its respective phase winding at the
source, the current in each phase of this circuit will be 83.33 amps:

So each line current in this three-phase power system is equal to 144.34 amps, which
is substantially more than the line currents in the Y-connected system we looked at
earlier. One might wonder if we’ve lost all the advantages of three-phase power here,
given the fact that we have such greater conductor currents, necessitating thicker,
more costly wire. The answer is no. Although this circuit would require three number 1
gage copper conductors (at 1000 feet of distance between source and load this
equates to a little over 750 pounds of copper for the whole system), it is still less than
the 1000+ pounds of copper required for a single-phase system delivering the same
power (30 kW) at the same voltage (120 volts conductor-to-conductor).
One distinct advantage of a Δ-connected system is its lack of a neutral wire. With a Y-
connected system, a neutral wire was needed in case one of the phase loads were to
fail open (or be turned off), in order to keep the phase voltages at the load from
changing. This is not necessary (or even possible!) in a Δ-connected circuit. With
each load phase element directly connected across a respective source phase
winding, the phase voltage will be constant regardless of open failures in the load
Perhaps the greatest advantage of the Δ-connected source is its fault tolerance. It is
possible for one of the windings in a Δ-connected three-phase source to fail open
(Figure below) without affecting load voltage or current!

Even with a source winding failure, the line voltage is still 120 V, and load phase
voltage is still 120 V. The only difference is extra current in the remaining functional
source windings.

The only consequence of a source winding failing open for a Δ-connected source is
increased phase current in the remaining windings. Compare this fault tolerance with
a Y-connected system suffering an open source winding in Figure below.

Open “Y” source winding halves the voltage on two loads of a Δ connected load.

With a Δ-connected load, two of the resistances suffer reduced voltage while one
remains at the original line voltage, 208. A Y-connected load suffers an even worse
fate (Figure below) with the same winding failure in a Y-connected source

Open source winding of a “Y-Y” system halves the voltage on two loads, and looses
one load entirely.

In this case, two load resistances suffer reduced voltage while the third loses supply
voltage completely! For this reason, Δ-connected sources are preferred for reliability.
However, if dual voltages are needed (e.g. 120/208) or preferred for lower line
currents, Y-connected systems are the configuration of choice.

 The conductors connected to the three points of a three-phase source or load are
called lines.
 The three components comprising a three-phase source or load are called phases.
 Line voltage is the voltage measured between any two lines in a three-phase circuit.
 Phase voltage is the voltage measured across a single component in a three-phase
source or load.
 Line current is the current through any one line between a three-phase source and load.
 Phase current is the current through any one component comprising a three-phase
source or load.
 In balanced “Y” circuits, line voltage is equal to phase voltage times the square root of 3,
while line current is equal to phase current.

 In balanced Δ circuits, line voltage is equal to phase voltage, while line current is equal
to phase current times the square root of 3.

 Δ-connected three-phase voltage sources give greater reliability in the event of winding
failure than Y-connected sources. However, Y-connected sources can deliver the same
amount of power with less line current than Δ-connected sources.

While 3-phase power allows utilities to deliver more power over smaller, less expensive
wires, there are more compelling reasons for using three-phase in the data center—
specifically 3-phase Wye.

Why 3-Phase?
To understand electric power in the data center, you need to first understand single-
and 3-phase power distribution. Most homes are wired with single-phase that uses one
ac voltage delivered over two hot wires and one neutral wire. The voltage across the
two hot wires measures 240VAC (for your oven or dryer) and across any hot to neutral
measures 120VAC (for everything else).

Most commercial businesses are wired with 3-phase that consists of three ac voltages
separated from each other by 120 electrical degrees, or by a third of a cycle. These
systems deliver power over three hot wires where the voltage across any two hot wires
measures 208VAC.

way to
look at 3-
power is
as a
on of
power in a
way that it
never falls
to zero,
that the
load is the
same at any instant (the concept is easy to grasp when you look at the waveform).

Because the load is constant, 3-phase power is ideal for motors—it eliminates the need
for starting capacitors. It also allows for smaller wires (i.e., less copper) and lower
voltages for the same power transmission as single-phase, making it less expensive
and safer.

Download our free white paper here to learn 10 steps to holistic

data center design.

Why Wye?
There are two types of circuits used to maintain equal load across the three hot wires in
a 3-phase system—Delta and Wye. The Delta configuration has the three phases
connected like a triangle, whereas the Wye (or “star”) configuration has all three loads
connected at a single neutral point.

Delta systems have four wires—three hot and one ground. Wye systems have five
wires—three hot, one neutral and one ground. While both Delta and Wye systems
measure 208VAC between any two hot wires, Wye systems also measure 120VAC
between any hot wire and neutral. In other words, it’s the neutral wire of the Wye
system that allows for providing two different voltages and powering both 3-phase and
single-phase devices in the data center.

That’s not to say that Delta doesn’t have its place—we mainly see Delta used for any
large motors or heaters that don’t need a neutral. Delta is also used in power
transmission because it’s expensive to run a fourth neutral wire all those miles. That’s
why distribution transformers are wired as Delta-Wye. This creates the neutral that
allows the transformer to deliver power for single-phase loads.

Delta-wired devices can also be fed from a Wye source by simply omitting the neutral. That
means that in a data center, a Delta power distribution unit (PDU) can be used when there is
only a need for 208VAC, while Wye PDUs are used when there is a need for both 120VAC and
Many of today’s larger blade servers only accept 208VAC because their power
requirements can’t be met with 120VAC. However, most data centers still need the
flexibility of also being able to power 120VAC devices. So now you know why 3-phase
Wye power distribution is the best option for today’s data center.

Belden’s wide range of three-phase rack-mounted and vertical PDUs available in both
Delta and Wye configurations to accommodate a broad range of electrical
characteristics, outlet requirements, plug and receptacle styles, and remote monitoring
and management.

3 Phase Power vs Single Phase Power

How does Electrical Power work?
If you’re not electrically minded, think of 3 Phase vs Single Phase electric power as something easier to visualize like mechanical
power. They’re very different, but both deliver power using pressure (force) and flow (speed). In both the power delivered
is calculated by multiplying pressure (force) times flow (speed).

In mechanical power, many terms describe the pressure or force (Foot Pounds, Pounds per Square Inch, etc.) and many terms
describe the speed or flow (Rotating Speed, Gallons per Minute, etc.). In electric power, one term describes the pressure or force
(Voltage) and two terms describe the speed or flow (Current and Amperes).

In the earliest days Direct Current (DC), where the power flows in one direction like a water hose, was the standard for delivering
electrical power. Now Alternating Current (AC), where the power flow is constantly alternating direction, is the standard for
delivering electrical power.

The standard for delivering electrical power changed from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) because Alternating
Current (AC) delivers electrical power more efficiently over long distances.
 In the US, 60 Hertz (cycles per second) is the Alternating Current (AC) frequency.
 In some countries, 50 Hertz (cycles per second) is the Alternating Current (AC) frequency.
What is 1 (Single) Phase Power ?

If you’re not electrically minded, think of 1 (Single) phase power like a bicycle where only one leg (phase) is pushing
on one pedal rotating around a crankshaft axis (neutral).

1. Mechanically, power is calculated as leg pressure (Foot Pounds) times speed (Rotating Speed).
2. Electrically, power is calculated as leg force (Voltage) times flow (Current).
Single Phase power is a two wire Alternating Current (AC) power circuit. Most people use it every day because it’s the most
common household power circuit and powers their lights, TV, etc. Typically there’s one power wire and one neutral wire and
power flows between the power wire (through the load) and the neutral wire.

 In the US, 120V is the standard single phase voltage with one 120V power wire and one neutral wire.
 In some countries, 230V is the standard single phase voltage with one 230V power wire and one neutral wire.

What is 2 (Dual / Split) Phase Power ?

If you’re not electrically minded, think of 2 (Dual / Split) phase power like a bicycle where one leg (phase) can push
on one pedal, or both legs (phases) can push on both pedals (180 degrees out of phase with one another) rotating around
a crankshaft axis (neutral).

1. Mechanically, power is calculated as leg pressure (Foot Pounds) times speed (Rotating Speed).
2. Electrically, power is calculated as leg force (Voltage) times flow (Current).
Dual Phase or Split Phase power is also Single Phase because it’s a two wire Alternating Current (AC ) power circuit. In the US,
this is the standard household power arrangement with two (Phase A, Phase B) 120V power wires (180 degrees out of phase with
one another) like two bicycle pedals and one neutral wire. This arrangement is used in most US households because of its

 Low power loads (lights, TV, etc.) powered using either either of (2) 120V power circuits
 High power loads (Water Heaters, AC Compressors) powered using (1) 240V power circuit
What is 3 (Three) Phase Power ?
If you’re not electrically minded, think of 3 (Three) phase power like a three cylinder engine where three pistons
(phases) located (120 degrees out of phase with one another) push rotating around a crankshaft axis (neutral).

1. Mechanically, I’m not sure how to calculate the power.

2. Electrically, power is calculated as cylinder force (Voltage) times flow (Current) times 1.732 (Square Root of 3).
Three Phase power is a three wire Alternating Current (AC) power circuit. Most US commercial buildings use a 3
Phase 4 Wire 208Y/120V power arrangement because of its power density and flexibility. Compared to single phase,
a 3 phase power arrangement provides 1.732 (the square root of 3) times more power with the same current and
provides (7) power circuits.

 Low power loads (Lights, etc.) powered using any of (3) 120V single phase power power circuits
 Medium power loads (Water Heaters, etc.) powered using any of (3) 208V single phase power circuits
 High power loads (HVAC Systems, etc.) powered using (1) 208V three phase power circuit
Most US industrial facilities use a 3 Phase 4 Wire 480Y/277V power arrangement because of its power density.
Compared to 208V 3 Phase, 480V 3 Phase provides 2.3 (480 /208) times more power with the same current or 43%
(208/480) less current with the same power. This yields additional benefits.

 Reduced construction costs with smaller electrical service, wiring, conduits, and electrical devices.
 Reduced energy costs will less energy lost as electrical current resistance (converted to heat).