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Understanding Power & Power Quality Measurements

The threatened limitations of conven- Typical voltage:
tional electrical power sources have phase-to-phase = 208/480V
focused a great deal of attention on phase-to-neutral = 120/277V
power, its application, monitoring and
correction. Power economics now play a
critical role in industry as never before.
With the high cost of power generation,
transmission, and distribution, it is of
paramount concern to effectively moni-
tor and control the use of energy.
The electric utility’s primary goal is to
meet the power demand of its customers Figure 1: 1Ø System
at all times and under all conditions.
But as the electrical demand grows in Three-Phase, 3-Wire Systems
size and complexity, modifications and Figure 3: 3Ø, 4-Wire System
In this type of system, commonly known
additions to existing electric power
as the “DELTA” configuration, the volt-
networks have become increasingly Balanced vs. Unbalanced Loads
age between each pair of line wires is the
expensive. The measuring and monitoring
actual transformer voltage. This system A balanced load is an AC power system
of electric power have become even
is frequently used for power loads in using more than two wires, where the
more critical because of down time
commercial and industrial buildings. In current flow is equal in each of the
associated with equipment breakdown
such cases, service to the premises is current-carrying conductors. Many
and material failures.
made at 208V, three-phase. Feeders systems today represent an unbalanced
For economic reasons, electric power is carry the power to panel boards supply- condition due to uneven loading on a
generated by utility companies at rela- ing branch circuits for motor loads. particular phase. This often occurs when
tively high voltages (4160, 6900, 13,800 Lighting loads are usually handled by a electrical expansion is affected with little
volts are typical). These high voltages separate single-phase service. The 480V regard to even distribution of loads
are then reduced at the consumption site distribution is often used in industrial between phases or several nonlinear
by step-down transformers to lower val- buildings with substantial motor loads. loads on the same system.
ues which may be safely and more easi-
RMS vs. Average Sensing
ly used in commercial, industrial and
residential applications. The term RMS (root-mean-square) is
used in relation to alternating current
Personnel and property safety are the
waveforms and simply means “equiva-
most important factors in the operation
lent” or “effective,” referring to the
of electrical system operation. Reliability
amount of work done by the equivalent
is the first consideration in providing
value of direct current (DC). The term
safety. The reliability of any electrical
RMS is necessary to describe the value
system depends upon knowledge, pre-
of alternating current, which is
ventive maintenance and subsequently
constantly changing in amplitude and
the test equipment used to monitor that
polarity at regular intervals. RMS
system. Figure 2: 3Ø, 3-Wire System
measurements provide a more accurate
Three-Phase, 4-Wire Systems representation of actual current or
TYPICAL VOLTAGE voltage values. This is very important for
CONFIGURATIONS Known as the “WYE” type connection, nonlinear (distorted) waveforms.
Single-Phase Systems this is the system most commonly used
in commercial and industrial buildings. Until recently, most loads were “linear”;
Single-phase residential loads are almost In office or other commercial buildings, that is, the load impedance remained
universally supplied through 120/240V, 3- the 480V three-phase, 4-wire feeders essentially constant regardless of the
wire, single-phase services. Large appli- are carried to each floor, where 480V applied voltage. With expanding markets
ances such as ranges, water heaters, and three-phase is tapped to a power panel of computers, uninterruptable power
clothes dryers are supplied at 240V. or motors. General area fluorescent supplies, and variable speed motor
Lighting, small appliances, and outlet lighting that uses 277V ballasts is drives, resulting nonlinear waveforms
receptacles are supplied at 120V. In this connected between each leg and are drastically different.
system the two “hot” or current carrying neutral; 208Y/120 three-phase, 4-wire Measuring nonsinusoidal voltage and
conductors are 180 degrees out-of-phase circuits are derived from step-down current waveforms requires a True RMS
with respect to the neutral. transformers for local lighting and meter. Conventional meters usually
receptacle outlets. measure the average value of the


amplitudes of a waveform. Some meters The fundamental unit for measuring In the case of a single-phase motor, the
are calibrated to read the equivalent RMS usage is the watthour (Wh), or more typ- actual power is the sum of several
value (.707 x peak); this type calibration ically the kilowatthour (kWh). This value components:
is a true representation only when the represents usage of 1000W for one hour.
a. the work performed by the system;
waveform is a pure sine wave (i.e., no Typical costs in the United States for one
that is, lifting with a crane, moving air
distortion). When distortion occurs, the kilowatthour range from 8 to 15 cents.
with a fan, or moving material, as with
relationship between average readings
a conveyer.
and True RMS values changes drastically. POWER FACTOR
b. heat developed by the power lost in
Only a meter which measures True RMS Power factor is the ratio of ACTUAL the motor winding resistance
values gives accurate readings for a non- POWER used in a circuit to the APPAR-
sinusoidal waveform. RMS measuring ENT POWER delivered by a utility. Actual c. heat developed in the iron through
circuits sample the input signal at a high power is expressed in watts (W) or kilo- eddy currents and hysteresis losses
rate of speed. The meter’s internal cir- watts (kW); apparent power in voltam-
cuitry digitizes and squares each sample, d.frictional losses in the moor bearings
peres (VA) or kilovoltamperes (kVA).
adds it to the previous samples squared, Apparent power is calculated simply by e. air friction losses in turning the motor
and takes the square root of the total. multiplying the current by the voltage. rotor, more commonly known as
This is the True RMS value. windage losses.
Power Factor = Actual Power = k W
Apparent Power kVA We now observe that with a single-phase
motor, the apparent power obtained is
Certain loads (e.g., inductive type
greater than the actual power. This dif-
motors) create a phase shift or delay
ference is the power factor.
between the current and voltage wave-
forms. An inductive type load causes the Power factor reflects the difference
current to lag the voltage by some angle, which exists between loads. The solder-
known as the phase angle. ing iron is a purely resistive load which
absorbs the current, which is then
On purely resistive loads, there is no
absorbed directly into heat. The current
phase difference between the two wave-
Figure 4: Nonlinear Current Waveform is called actual current because it directly
forms; therefore the power factor on
contributes to the production of actual
such a load will be 0 degrees, or unity.
DEMAND The following examples of a soldering
On the other hand, the single-phase elec-
The amount of electrical energy con- iron and a single-phase motor illustrate
tric motor represents a partially inductive
sumed over time is known as demand. how power factor is consumed in
load consisting of actual current which
Demand is the average load placed on different types of loads.
will be converted into actual power, and
the utility to provide power (kilowatts) to In a soldering iron, the apparent power magnetizing current which generates the
a customer over a utility-specified time supplied by the utility is directly convert- magnetic field required to operate the
interval (typically 15 or 30 minutes). If ed into heat, or actual power. In this electric motor. This magnetizing current,
demand requirements are irregular, the case, the actual power is equal to the called the reactive current, corresponds
utility must have more capability avail- apparent power, so that the power factor to an exchange of energy between the
able than would be required if the cus- is equal to “1” or 100% (unity). generator and the motor, but it is not
tomer load requirements remained con- converted into actual power.
stant. To provide for this time-varying
demand, the utility must invest in the REACTIVE COMPENSATION
proper size equipment to provide for POWER
these power peaks. Brief high peaks
such as those present when large equip- Reactive compensation power refers to
ment initially comes on line are not criti- the capacitive values required to correct
cal in the overall equation because the low power factor to as close to unity
duration is short with respect to the (1.0) as possible. Most industrial loads
demand averaging interval. are inductive, so the load current lags
the line voltage by some degree.
CONSUMPTION In order to bring the value closer to unity,
Watts and vars are instantaneous meas- something must be added to the load to
urements representing what is happen- draw a leading current. This is done by
ing in a circuit at any given moment. connecting a capacitor in parallel with
Since these parameters vary so greatly the load. Since a capacitor will not dissi-
within any period, it is necessary to inte- pate any real power, the charge for real
Figure 5: Power Factor on Nondistorted Sine Wave
grate (sum) electrical usage over time. power will be the same.


Several AEMC power monitoring that is then drawn by the nonlinear load • Saturated transformers
instruments will display the actual power would be the fundamental as well as all
• Solid state elevator controls
factor correction capacitor values directly. the harmonics.
AEMC recommends consulting a power • Medical equipment
Harmonic distortion can cause serious
factor correction capacitor manu-
problems for the users of electric power, This is by no means an exhaustive list of
facturer prior to any installation to
from inadvertent tripping of circuit equipment which generates harmonics.
reduce the possible effects of harmonics,
breakers to dangerous overheating of Any electronic-based equipment should
resonance, etc.
transformers and neutral conductors, as be suspected of producing harmonics.
well as heating in motors and capacitor
ELECTRICAL HARMONICS failure. Harmonics can cause problems Due to the ever increasing use of
that are easy to recognize but tough to electronics, the percentage of equipment
Until fairly recently, power quality
diagnose. which generates harmonic current has
referred to the ability of the electric
increased significantly. The harmonic
utilities to supply electric power without It is becoming increasingly important to problem manifests itself with pro-
interruption. Today, the phrase encom- understand the fundamentals of liferation of equipment using diode-
passes any deviation from a perfect harmonics, and to be able to recognize capacitor input power supplies. This type
sinusoidal waveform. Power quality now and monitor the presence of damaging of equipment draws current in a short
relates to short-term transients as well harmonics. Harmonics within an electri- pulse only during the peak of the sine
as continuous state distortions. Power cal system vary greatly within different wave. The result of this action, aside
system harmonics are a continuous state parts of the same distribution system from improved efficiency, is that high
problem with dangerous results. and are not limited simply to the supply frequency harmonics are superimposed
harmonics can be present in current, of the harmonic producing device. onto the fundamental 60Hz frequency.
voltage, or both. It is estimated that as Harmonics can interact within the sys-
many as 60% of all electrical devices tem through direct system connections The harmonics are produced by the
operate with non-linear current draw. or even through capacitive or inductive diode-capacitor input section which
coupling. rectifies the AC signal into DC. The
Utility companies invest millions of
circuit draws current from the line only
dollars each year to ensure that voltage A harmonic may be defined as an integer during the peaks of the voltage wave-
supplied to their customers is as close multiple of a fundamental frequency. form, thereby charging a capacitor to the
as possible to a sinusoidal waveform. If Harmonics are designated by the peak of line voltage. The equipment DC
the power user connects loads to the harmonic number. For our discussion, requirements are fed from this capacitor
system which are resistive, such as we will focus on the 60Hz power and as a result the current waveform
incandescent light bulb, the resulting frequency. The second harmonic would becomes distorted.
current waveform will also be sinusoidal. be two times the fundamental or 120Hz.
However, if the loads are nonlinear, The third would be three times the
which is typically the case, the current is fundamental or 180Hz, and so on.
drawn in short pulses and the current
waveform will be distorted. Total current Nonlinear equipment generates harmonic
frequencies. The nonlinear nature of a
device draws current waveforms that do
not follow the voltage waveform.
Electronic equipment is a good example.
While this broad category encompasses
many different types of equipment, most Figure 7: Nonlinear Current Draw
of these devices have one characteristic
in common. They rely on an internal DC Harmonics in the electric power system
power source for their operation. combine with the fundamental frequency
to create distortion. The level of distor-
Loads which produce harmonic currents
tion is directly related to the frequencies
and amplitudes of the harmonic current.
• Electronic lighting ballasts The contribution of all harmonic frequency
currents to the fundamental current is
• Adjustable speed drives known as “Total Harmonic Distortion” or
• Electric arc furnaces THD. This THD value is expressed as a
percentage of the fundamental current.
• Personal computers THD values of over 10% are reason for
• Electric welding equipment concern.
• Solid state rectifiers THD is calculated as the square root of
the sum of the squares of all the
• Industrial process controls harmonics divided by the fundamental
Figure 6: Composite Waveform • UPS systems signal (50 or 60Hz). This calculation


arrives at the value of distortion as a Wherever there are large numbers of

percentage of the fundamental. nonlinear loads, there are sure to be
harmonics in the distribution system.
Mathematically, %THD is the ratio of the Harmonic-producing equipment is found
sum of the root-mean-square (RMS) of in varied locations from administrative
the harmonic content to the root-mean- offices to manufacturing facilities. In the
square (RMS) value of the fundamental factory environment, electronic power
50 or 60Hz signal, and expressed as a converters such as variable speed
percentage. drives, SCR drives, etc.,
are the largest contribu- Figure 9: Delta Primary, Circulating Current
tors to harmonic distor-
tion. It is not uncommon on the zero crossing of the sinusoidal
to have THD levels as high waveform, such as clock timing devices,
as 25% within some heavy harmonic content can cause a zero
industrial settings. crossing point offset.
Most single-phase office Odd number harmonics (third, fifth and
equipment draws nonlin- seventh) cause the greatest concern in
ear current. While fluores- the electrical distribution system.
cent lighting with electronic ballasts and Because the harmonic waveform usually
Another useful parameter is the many types of office equipment con- swings equally in both the positive and
Distortion Factor, or %DF. Distortion tribute to creating harmonics, personal negative direction, the even number
Factor is the Total Harmonic Distortion computer power supplies are the largest harmonics are mitigated.
referenced to the total RMS signal. The contributor within the office environ-
THD is expressed as a percentage and Heating effect causes the greatest
ment. Although THD levels will be lower
may not be greater than the fundamental. problem in electric equipment. Many
than in an industrial setting, the suscep-
The %DF never exceeds 100%. We pro- times, electrical distribution equipment
tibility of office equipment to variations
vide this term because of the market has overheated and failed even when
in power quality is extremely high.
need and the requirement of this value operating well below the suggested
under the international standard IEC- In the industrial environment, there can rating requirements. Temperature
555. Mathematically, it is the ratio of the be many three-phase, nonlinear loads increase is directly related to the
sum of the root-mean-square (RMS) of drawing high levels of load current. The increase in RMS current.
the harmonic content to the root-mean- most prevalent harmonic frequencies are
Because harmonic frequencies are
square (RMS) value of the total signal, the odd integer multiples of the 60Hz fre-
always higher than the 60Hz fundamen-
and expressed as a percentage. quency. The third harmonic (180Hz) is
tal frequency, “skin effect” also becomes
always the most prevalent
a factor. Skin effect is a phenomenon
and troublesome.
where the higher frequency causes the
Large commercial build- electrons to flow toward the outer sides
ings have many different of the conductor, effectively reducing the
sizes and types of loads. In cross-sectional diameter of the conduc-
most installations the tor and thereby reducing the ampacity
power is distributed with rating of the cable. This effect increases
208/120 volt transformers as the frequency and the amplitude
in a Delta-Wye configura- increase. As a result, higher harmonic
tion. When multiple loads frequencies cause a greater degree of
Please note that our %DF is not the same are supplied, each generates triplen har- heating in conductors.
value as the Distortion Factor as monic currents on the neutral conductor
On balanced three-phase systems with
expressed the the IEEE standard 519- which are sent onto the transformer sec-
no harmonic content, the line currents
1992 (in which Distortion Factor is the ondary and reflected into the delta pri-
are 120 degrees out-of-phase, canceling
same as THD). mary. These currents circulate within the
each other and resulting in very little
delta primary causing
neutral current. However, when there is
overheating and short-
distortion in any one of the phase cur-
ened service life.
rents, the harmonic currents increase
Harmonics can cause and the cancellation effect is lessened.
a variety of problems The result is typically a neutral current
to any user of electric that is significantly higher than
power. For large users, planned.The triplen harmonics (odd mul-
the problems can be tiples of three) are additive in the neutral
intense. For electronic and can quickly cause dangerous over-
equipment that relies heating.
Figure 8: Computer Current Waveform


neutral current to the anticipated current

due to phase imbalance. If the phase
currents are equal, the vector sum of the
neutral currents will add to zero. If there
are excessive amounts of triplen
harmonics in the neutral, neutral current
may exceed phase current. Consult the
NEC® for the maximum ampacity for
each of the tested conductors.
Measure each feeder for harmonic
content. A high degree at this location
can often be heard as a buzzing sound. A
voltage THD reading is also useful at this
IEEE standard 519-1992 specifies both
maximum distortion levels and recom-
Figure 10: Power Factor Capacitors at Resonant Frequency mended correction levels. A harmonic
distortion limit of 5% is the point where
In theory, the maximum current that the Detection and Measurement harmonics begin to have a detrimental
neutral will carry is 1.73 times the phase effect on electrical distribution systems.
In harmonic analysis, field measure-
current. If not sized correctly, over-
ments are performed to identify Harmonic current measurements define
heating will result. Higher than normal
frequency and magnitude of harmonic the harmonic generating characteristics
neutral current will cause voltage drops
currents generated by susceptible of the load, so measurements should be
between neutral and ground which are
equipment (e.g., electronic equipment, taken at the load when possible.
well above normal. Readings above
variable speed motors, etc.). Remember Voltage measurements define the
4 volts indicate high neutral current.
that most distribution systems are system response and are usually taken at
False tripping of circuit breakers is also a designed specifically to carry 60Hz. the individual busses.
problem encountered with the higher
Most nonlinear harmonic problems can Effects on the System
frequencies that harmonics produce.
be detected at the electrical panel.
peak sensing circuit breakers often will To compound the problems that
Excessive current flow on the neutral can
trip even though the amperage value has harmonic currents present to the
be detected with a True RMS current
not been exceeded. Harmonic current system, nonlinear harmonic load also
meter, but may be indicated by a
peak values can be many times higher have an Ohm’s law relationship with the
resonant buzzing sound or by discolored
than sinusoidal waveforms. source impedance of the system to
connections on the neutral buss.
Power factor correction capacitor failure produce voltage harmonics. Consider a
Beginning at the service entrance panel, heavily loaded transformer that is
in many cases can be directly attributed
measure and record the True RMS affected by one branch circuit feeding a
to harmonic content. Capacitors appear
current in each phase, as well as the non-linear load. The creation of voltage
as extremely low impedance values and
neutral of the distribution transformer harmonics can then be passed down to
are more susceptible to harmonics.
secondary. Compare this measured all the remaining circuits being fed by
Inductive reactance varies directly with
frequency (XL = 2πfl). Parallel resonance that transformer.
between the capacitor bank and the Voltage harmonics may cause havoc
source impedance can cause system within the electrical system. Motors are
resonance resulting in higher than typically considered to be linear loads;
normal currents and voltages. High however, when the source voltage supply
harmonic currents have been known to is rich in harmonics, the motor will draw
overheat correction capacitors, causing harmonic current. The typical result is a
premature failure and sometimes higher than normal operating tempera-
resulting in explosion. ture and shortened service life.
Most harmonic problems result when Different frequency harmonic currents
the resonant frequency is close to the can cause additional rotating fields in the
fifth or seventh harmonic. These happen motor. Depending on the frequency, the
to be the largest harmonic amplitude motor will rotate in the opposite
numbers that adjustable speed drives direction (counter-torque). The fifth
create. When this situation arises, harmonic, which is very prevalent, is a
capacitor banks should be resized to negative sequence harmonic causing the
shift the resonant point to another Figure 11: Measuring at the Service Entrance motor to have a backward rotation,
frequency. Panel shortening the service life.


Noise can be picked up in communication This method is established by The

equipment and telephone systems when Computer & Business Equipment
harmonics at audio or radio frequencies Manufacturers Association (CBEMA).
are inductively or capacitively coupled
into communication or data lines. CBENA Derating Factor = 1.414
Crest Factor
When induction-disc watt-hour meters
are monitoring nonlinear loads, depend- Meter Readings
ing on the content of the harmonics, the
Harmonic problems can be analyzed
disk may run slower or faster, resulting
more easily when the proper test equip- Figure 12: RMS — Avg — Peak
in erroneous readings.
ment is used. Relationship in Sine Wave
Transformer Derating complex waveform correctly. When
The term “True RMS”, or Root-Mean-
Most generators and transformers base Square, relates to the equivalent DC harmonics are present crest factors may
their operating characteristics on undis- heating value of the current or voltage be less than (CF of a square wave = 1) or
turbed 60Hz waveforms. When the waveform. If a pure sine wave and a dis - greater than 1.414.
waveforms are rich in harmonics, torted sine wave were both applied to a Limiting the Effects of Harmonics
shortened service or complete failure resistive load, the point where they both
often follows. create the same heating value is the Derating certain types of electrical equip-
point where they both have the same ment is the easiest way to limit
The derating K factor can be applied RMS value. the effects that increased heating has on
specifically to transformers to ensure the equipment. A 25% derating for
that dangerous heating will not result True RMS capability is required to accu- transformers and generators is
due to the transformer supplying load rately measure systems where harmonic commonly employed in industr y.
currents rich in harmonic content. current is present. Average responding
instruments will yield erroneous Filtering is currently the most common
The K factor is determined by measuring measurement results from 25 to 40% method used to limit the effects that
the True RMS current of each harmonic, below the actual value when harmonic harmonics present to the rest of the sys-
multiplied by the harmonic order and distortion is present. tem. Filters typically consist of tuned
squared. The total sum of this is series L – C circuits. Filter impedance is
then multiplied by the harmonic order Many instruments on the market negligible with respect to the rest of the
and squared. The total sum of this measure average or Peak values of a system, limiting its interaction effects for
is then multiplied by the eddy current waveform and internally multiply by 1.11 harmonic control. Filters are sized to
losses. Transformer parasitic heating or .707 respectively to indicate RMS withstand the RMS current as well as the
due to harmonic currents is frequency- values. These devices work well when value of current for the harmonics.
dependent, i.e., higher frequency measuring a pure sine wave.
harmonic currents cause a higher degree In the future, systems may be available
Instruments with True RMS converters which will offset the harmonics by apply-
of transformer heating and failure.
sample the waveform at many different ing signals that are equal in amplitude
The K factor is basically an index of the points and provide accurate readings on but opposite in phase, thereby canceling
transformer’s ability to handle nonlinear distorted waveforms. Microprocessor- or severely limiting harmonic effects.
load current without abnormal heating. based circuits sample, digitize and
Some distribution transformers are now square each sample, add it to the
being designed with magnetic cores and previous sample squared, and take the
windings to accommodate harmonic square root of the total. This process
content. A K-rated transformer is specif- yields a True RMS value regardless of
ically designed to handle nonlinear the amount of distortion.
loads. The higher the K factor value, the
Crest Factor
better the transformer’s ability to handle
nonlinear loads. Crest factor is the ratio of the Peak value of
a sinusoidal waveform to its RMS value.
IEEE C57.110-1986 is a prescribed
procedure used to derate the trans- Crest Factor (CF) = Peak Value
former loading based on the specific RMS Value
harmonic content. Each specific electri-
cal application is unique in type and Crest factor indicates the level of peaking
amount of harmonic interaction. which an instrument can handle without
measurement errors. For a perfect sine
IEEE C57.1200-1987 has proposed a
wave the crest factor would be 1.414.
limit of 5% for transformer harmonic
This relates to the Peak amplitude that an
current factor.
instrument can measure accurately.
An alternate method for derating trans- Typical crest factor ratings are from 2.0
formers is available for buildings which to 6.0. The higher the factor, the more Figure 13: Single tuned shunt filter
supply single phase, 120V receptacles. capable the instrument of measuring a