Thursday, 30 July 2020


Power is simply the flow of energy and the current demanded by a load is largely uncontrollable. “Power quality” is a convenient term for many; it is the quality of the voltage, rather than power or electric current.

The performance of electronic devices is directly linked to the power quality level in a facility. The electric power industry comprises electricity generation (AC power), electric power transmission and ultimately electricity distribution to an electricity meter located at the premises of the end user of the electric power. The electricity then moves through the wiring system of the end user until it reaches the load. The complexity of the system to move electric energy from the point of production to the point of consumption combined with variations in weather, generation, demand and other factors provide many opportunities for the quality of supply to be compromised

Without the proper power, an electrical device may malfunction, fail prematurely or not operate at all. There are many ways in which electric power can be of poor quality and many more causes of such poor quality power. Some of the most common power supply problems and their likely effect on sensitive equipment:

1. Voltage surges/spikes

Voltage surges/spikes are the opposite of dips – a rise that may be nearly instantaneous (spike) or takes place over a longer duration (surge). A voltage surge takes place when the voltage is 110% or more above normal. The most common cause is heavy electrical equipment being turned off. Under these conditions, computer systems and other high tech equipment can experience flickering lights, equipment shutoff, errors or memory loss. Possible Solutions are surge suppressors, voltage regulators, uninterrupted power supplies, power conditioners

2. Voltage Dips

Short duration under-voltages are called “Voltage Sags” or “Voltage Dips [IEC]”. Voltage sag [5, 6] is a reduction in the supply voltage magnitude followed by a voltage recovery after a short period of time. The major cause of voltage dips on a supply system is a fault on the system, i.e. sufficiently remote electrically that a voltage interruption does not occur. Other sources are the starting of large loads and, occasionally, the supply of large inductive loads [6]. The impact on consumers may range from the annoying (non-periodic light flicker) to the serious (tripping of sensitive loads and stalling of motors.

3. Under voltages

Excessive network loading, loss of generation, incorrectly set transformer taps and voltage regulator malfunctions, causes under voltage. Loads with a poor power factor or a general lack of reactive power support on a network also contribute. Under voltage can also indirectly lead to overloading problems as equipment takes an increased current to maintain power output (e.g. motor loads) 

4. High-Voltage Spikes

High-voltage spikes occur when there is a sudden voltage peak of up to 6,000 volts. These spikes are usually the result of nearby lightning strikes, but there can be other causes as well. The effects on vulnerable electronic systems can include loss of data and burned circuit boards. Possible Solutions are using Surge Suppressors, Voltage Regulators, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, Power Conditioners 

5. Frequency Variation

A frequency variation involves a change in frequency from the normally stable utility frequency of 50 or 60 Hz, depending on your geographic location. This may be caused by erratic operation of emergency generators or unstable frequency power sources. For sensitive equipment, the results can be data loss, program failure, equipment lock-up or complete shutdown. Possible Solutions are using Voltage Regulators and Power Conditioners

6. Power Sag

Power sags are a common power quality problem. Despite being a short duration (10ms to 1s) event during which a reduction in the RMS voltage magnitude takes place, a small reduction in the system voltage can cause serious consequences. Sages are usually caused by system faults, and often the result of switching on loads with high demand startup currents. For more details about power sags visit our newsletter archives. Possible Solutions are using Voltage Regulators, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, and Power Conditioners

7. Electrical Line Noise

Electrical line noise is defined as Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and causes unwanted effects in the circuits of computer systems. Sources of the problems include motors, relays, motor control devices, broadcast transmissions, microwave radiation, and distant electrical storms. RFI, EMI and other frequency problems can cause equipment to lock-up, and data error or loss. Possible Solutions are using Voltage Regulators, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, and Power Conditioners

8. Brownouts

A brownout is a steady lower voltage state. An example of a brownout is what happens during peak electrical demand in the summer, when utilities can’t always meet the requirements and must lower the voltage to limit maximum power. When this happens, systems can experience glitches, data loss and equipment failure. Possible Solutions are using Voltage Regulators, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, and Power Conditioners

9. Blackouts

A power failure or blackout is a zero-voltage condition that lasts for more than two cycles. It may be caused by tripping a circuit breaker, power distribution failure or utility power failure. A blackout can cause data loss or corruption and equipment damage. Possible Solutions is using Generators

10. Very short interruptions

Total interruption of electrical supply for duration from few milliseconds to one or two seconds. Mainly due to the opening and automatic re-closure of protection devices to decommission a faulty section of the network. The main fault causes are insulation failure, lightning and insulator flash-over. Consequences of these interruptions are tripping of protection devices, loss of information and malfunction of data processing equipment

11. Long interruptions

Long interruption of electrical supply for duration greater than 1 to 2 seconds. The main fault causes are Equipment failure in the power system network, storms and objects (trees, cars, etc) striking lines or poles, fire, human error, bad coordination or failure of protection devices. A consequence of these interruptions is stoppage of all equipment

12. Voltage swell

Momentary increase of the voltage, at the power frequency, outside the normal tolerances, with duration of more than one cycle and typically less than a few seconds. The main causes are Start/stop of heavy loads, badly dimensioned power sources, badly regulated transformers (mainly during off-peak hours).Consequences is data loss, flickering of lighting and screens, stoppage or damage of sensitive equipment, if the voltage values are too high

13. Harmonic distortion

Voltage or current waveforms assume non-sinusoidal shape. The waveform corresponds to the sum of different sine-waves with different magnitude and phase, having frequencies that are multiples of power-system frequency. Main Causes are Classic sources: electric machines working above the knee of the magnetization curve (magnetic saturation), arc furnaces, welding machines, rectifiers, and DC brush motors. Modern sources: all non-linear loads, such as power electronics equipment including ASDs, switched mode power supplies, data processing equipment, high efficiency lighting. Consequences are increased probability in occurrence of resonance, neutral overload in 3-phase systems, overheating of all cables and equipment, loss of efficiency in electric machines, electromagnetic interference with communication systems, and errors in measures when using average reading meters, nuisance tripping of thermal protections.

14. Voltage fluctuation

Oscillation of voltage value, amplitude modulated by a signal with frequency of 0 to 30 Hz. Causes are arc furnaces, frequent start/stop of electric motors (for instance elevators), oscillating loads. Consequences are most consequences are common to under voltages. The most perceptible consequence is the flickering of lighting and screens, giving the impression of unsteadiness of visual perception 

15. Noise

Superimposing of high frequency signals on the waveform of the power-system frequency. Main Causes are Electromagnetic interference provoked by Hertzian waves such as microwaves, television diffusion, and radiation due to welding machines, arc furnaces, and electronic equipment. Improper grounding may also be a cause. Consequences are disturbances on sensitive electronic equipment, usually not destructive. It may cause data loss and data processing errors

16. Voltage Unbalance

A voltage variation in a three-phase system in which the three voltage magnitudes or the phase angle differences between them are not equal. Causes are large single-phase loads (induction furnaces, traction loads), incorrect distribution of all single-phase loads by the three phases of the system (this may be also due to a fault). Consequences are Unbalanced systems imply the existence of a negative sequence that is harmful to all three phase loads. The most affected loads are three-phase induction machines.