Lately I’ve been hearing local chatter suggesting that my electric company has switched from 60Hz to 40Hz and that its causing problems.
I don’t even know if such a thing is possible or whether I would even notice. Hopefully some knowledgeable FReeper has some info.
I do know that myself and plenty of my neighbors are noticing dimming lights and what seems to be an extraordinary rate of electric appliance failures.
You do have a battery powered BS meter don't you?
>> Ive been hearing local chatter suggesting that my electric company has switched from 60Hz to 40Hz... Hopefully some knowledgeable FReeper has some info.
ROFLMAO! Okay! I’ll see if I can help.
It’s horse-hockey. Pure, plain, and simple.
For only one, small (but obvious) engineering point: most electricity is generated one way or another by Big, Expensive. Rotating. Machinery of some sort.
To make this Big. Expensive. Machinery rotate 33% slower is, well, intractable.
But here’s an easy test for you to try. Can you lay hands on an old-fashioned electric clock? The kind that ran off an electric motor and made hands spin around? Those clocks depend on 60Hz power for their timekeeping. If your utility has slowed to 40Hz, the clock won’t keep time. IT’ll be slow. And by *how much* slow, you can calculate the line frequency of your ElecCo.
But you’re wasting your time if you try this, because they are NOT reducing the line frequency. I guarantee you.
Another point: what exactly would they be SAVING by reducing line frequency? ANSWER: nothing.
It measures voltage and frequency, among other things.
If you’re not noticing transformers, electric motors and such burning up... they didn’t switch.
Going to 40Hz would *guarantee* transformers, motors, etc burn up - within a very short time (like minutes to an hour or two).
60 ~ 40Hz? Nope. We’ve been using 60 cycles since the beginning. Europe uses 50Hz. My iPad charger is rated for 50 & 60 and their corresponding voltages. Nothing else. You appliances and everything else would have serious issues with another cycle rate unless specifically designed for it.
The same thing happened here. At 40Hz, all of my fonts are 1/3 their normal size.
“Lately Ive been hearing local chatter suggesting that my electric company has switched from 60Hz to 40Hz and that its causing problems.”
No, that didn’t happen. Maybe they’re messing around a bit with frequency, or voltage, but nothing like dropping to 40 Hz.
But then again, I live in Texas, so I certainly wouldn’t rule out anything from this bunch in Austin.
(1) It would involve reworking huge chunks of the infrastructure - not possible. (2) You’d notice because most of your stuff like TVs and computers would not work.
The chance that your local utility is delivering power at other than 60Hz is extremely small, and the chance that they would do so intentionally for more than an instant in some emergency situation is effectively zero. The entire US electric grid is designed to run at 60Hz, and every source on the grid has to run at the same frequency.
You could prove it to yourself by plugging in one of those old alarm clocks from the 70's that have a synchronous motor in them. If the clock runs 1/3 slower you'll know that your AC frequency is at 40Hz.
Lots of motors and devices will not function properly with a 40Hz AC source, you'd see evidence of such a frequency shift immediately, and it would be much more dramatic than dimmer lights (which would not be likely if all that happened was a frequency shift).
Now, if your local power supply is really local, like a wind generator up on the hill, or an old diesel generator out behind the barn, you might want to check its output frequency, voltage, etc. Using a clock with an AC motor will test the frequency, a voltmeter (used safely!) will test the voltage level. Checking AC waveform shape, power factor, etc. takes more sophisticated equipment.
If you have unreliable power the usual cause is poor voltage regulation or transients. Various test equipment can log the voltage levels and record brown outs, etc. Google "power line quality monitor", something like an acscout will record power line disturbances.
Not very likely, Europe runs 230 Vac 3 phase @50Hz, some parts of South America are 40Hz. Problems start with noticeable flickering of fluorescent lights and electric motors running hot.
It's very east to determine if your electric utility is fudging on frequency, check your electric clock against a known time reading (cable decoder box, the Weather channel, &c.). If they are running 40Hz your electric clock will lose 20 minutes per hour, since mechanical clocks use synchronous motors which maintain an rpm slaved to the cyclic rate of the line voltage and electronic (digital) clocks actually count the 'zero' crossings of the line voltage and divide that down to get a one second tick to drive a counter.
If I recall correctly the power delivered by a utility is rather loosely specified in terms of voltage because voltage is not directly under their control. Voltage varies with the load (current), as load goes up voltage tends to sag. Transmission losses occur because of electrical resistance in the distribution system, the further away from the generating station the greater the drop.
Frequency on the other hand is specified by the National Bureau of Standards as 60 cycles per second with any deviation to be corrected so as the total cycle count for a 24 hour period is within +/- 1 cycle of 5,184,000. So if for some reason a utility allows it's generators to run slower then 3600 rpm for part of a day, they are required to make up the 'lost' cycles before the next day. For the power distribution grid to work with multiple generating plants all connected together it is necessary that they maintain synchronization of generator speed.
It may seem strange but if you watch an electric clock with a sweep second hand as midnight approaches you might see it speed up a bit just before the last minute of the day passes. It doesn't happen very often but then nobody's perfect.