So what is Dirty power?


You’ve probably heard the term “dirty power”. It can cause strange occurrences, or sudden failures, in appliances and electronics around your home or business. The definition of dirty power varies from region, but here it refers to voltage and frequency out of tolerance.

Standard US and Canada wiring use 60Hz and voltage range from 110V to 120V. The 110V option is outdated and no longer supplied by utility companies, and the 115V is on its way to becoming outdated as well. When utility companies provide the 120V, the acceptable variance is plus or minus 6V. If it strays any farther, the power can be considered ‘dirty’; and the same goes for frequencies above or below 60Hz. Continuous dirty power can be disruptive, expensive, and potentially dangerous.

Not only can appliances and electronics misbehave, they can suddenly fail because the equipment is not meant to handle electrical currents outside of its designed operating specifications. In rare cases, some internal power regulators get hot enough to melt the circuitry, resulting in catastrophic failure and even can cause fires.

According to data from 2015, power quality issues are costing us about $15 billion annually. Unsurprisingly, 80% of those issues originate on the customer’s side of the electric meter. Residents and homeowners can take steps to identify and correct these issues. If corrected, you’ll not only avoid costly disruptions, but it will also improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.

Common Symptoms

  • Sudden spike in utility bills
  • Flickering and blinking lights
  • Electronic circuit boards frying
  • Equipment vibrations and noise
  • Nuisance breaker tripping
  • Poor network communications from EMI
  • Utility efficiency penalties
  • Poor energy efficiency

The remaining 20%, power quality issues are affected by sources outside your home or business. Your power company’s old infrastructure or inability to supply a higher demand can decrease the quality of power. However, utility providers now are more than equipped to handle the demand required on a daily basis. The other source is actually caused by upstream systems, or other customers, than the actual system itself. Your neighbors could be producing that “dirty power” which makes its way into power lines, resulting in lower quality power being delivered to all systems “downstream”.

To determine if the dirty power is originating from inside your home or business, it may require some equipment to test the power quality.

One common cause is known as voltage sag. A voltage sag is a dip in voltage below the normal value. Voltage sags can be caused by ground faults as well as initiating large loads on the system. Think of it like water pressure in an old home. When someone used water, say from flushing a toilet, while somebody else is using the shower, the shower pressure will drop temporarily. The same theory can apply to electrical loads.

While there are many other possible causes of dirty power, there are several solutions that can be implemented in order to improve power quality. Power factor correction, high-frequency filters, line reactors, and surge protectors can be installed in order to correct electrical current to provide good, clean power.

To learn more about how you can correct or identify if your home or business suffers from “dirty power”, please feel free to contact us below!

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