Harmonic Distortion

Harmonic distortion is a means for measuring nonlinear distortion. Nonlinear distortion is a form of signal processing error that creates signals at frequencies that are not necessarily present in the input.

Consider these facts:

A Concise Report on the Effects of Harmonic Distortion

  1. The adverse effects of harmonics on electrical power systems are well known. International standards exist to help manage the injection of harmonic currents into the power system.
  2. A pure sine wave consists of a single fundamental frequency. Most waves are complex and can be broken down into a series of harmonics. For instance, the 3rd harmonic of the fundamental frequency 60 Hz is 180 Hz. The opposite end of the scale from a pure sine wave is a square wave, which contains all the odd harmonics of a fundamental frequency starting with the 3rd harmonic and extending to infinity.
  3. Harmonic distortion is a measure of the ratio between the fundamental and the harmonics that are present in a waveshape.
  4. Distortion is caused by non-linear loads drawing non-sinusoidal currents.
  5. Non-linear loads include such office equipment as computers (draw 3rd and 5th harmonics); lighting (ballasts produce 3rd and 5th), transformers (3rd component), power converters (variable speed drives, UPS, electronic ballasts produce 3rd, 5th, 7th and 11th), commercial appliances such as photocopiers and printers.
  6. The harmonic currents in a distribution system have the following undesirable effects:
    1. Significant effects on the performance of computer power supplies.
    2. Heating of magnetic devices, which can cause premature insulation failure and breakdown.
    3. Triple harmonics produce higher than expected neutral currents, potentially resulting in insulation damage and breakdown due to temperature rise.
    4. High neutral currents cause additional voltage drops, reducing available voltage and introducing even more distortion at the load. The resulting neutral-to-ground voltage also causes parasitic ground currents. data lines.
    5. Stray magnetic fields can introduce annoying interference patterns in VDTs.
    6. Undesirable ground currents may cause upstream GFI (Ground Fault Interrupts)to trip, degrading power availability.

Computer Loads

Computer power supplies are usually designed to operate over a range of AC input voltages. They produce a DC voltage that is affected by the waveshape of the AC waveform. Harmonic distortion has the effect of actually reducing the computer power supply’s operating voltage. That variation is compounded by the normal variation of 10%. The end result is that the computer supply may malfunction, hiccup, or fail to provide the required output logic voltages, resulting in potential bit errors. A further negative side-effect of effectively lowering the computer’s operating voltage range is the reduction of “hold-up” time, essential for the ability of the power supply to “ride through” power sags (caused by other equipments’ startups). The result is more potential bit errors.

The simple fact is that the harmonic distortion prevalent in the modern office has a direct pathway to your computer power supplies, and once there it can cause data loss and other operating errors.