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About Harmonic Filters

Harmonic filters or line/load reactors isolate harmonic current to protect electrical equipment
from damage due to harmonic voltage distortion. They can also be used to improve power
factor, and are sometimes called line reactors, load reactors, line load reactors, and line/load
reactors. Harmonic filters mitigate the detrimental effects of harmonic distortion, which can be
manifested in many different ways. Examples include increased heating effect on electrical
distribution equipment and cables, electronics miss-timings (computers, fax machines, etc.),
capacitor overloads, fluorescent light flickering, and others.
Filter type and signal type are important specifications to consider when searching for
harmonic filters or line/load reactors. There are two choices for filter type: passive and active.
Passive harmonic filters are built with a series of passive components such as resistors,
inductors and capacitors. These devices are the most common type of harmonic filters, and
are available for all voltage levels. Active harmonic filters are used mainly in low-voltage
networks. These line/load reactors are very fast electronic devices that insert negative
harmonics in order to eliminate undesirable harmonics from a network. Active harmonic filters
are built with active components such as insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT) and can
eliminate many harmonic frequencies. Choices for signal type are single-phase AC, three-
phase AC, and DC.
Performance specifications for harmonic filters (line reactors, load reactors, line load reactors)
include THID, rated power, nominal input voltage, and frequency. A signal’s total harmonic
current distortion (THID) is defined as the ratio of the sum of the powers of all harmonic
frequencies above the fundamental frequency to the power of the fundamental frequency.
Rated power or reactive power is the mathematical product of voltage and current consumed
by reactive loads. Examples of reactive loads include capacitors and inductors. These types
of loads, when connected to an AC voltage source, will draw current; however, since the
current is 90 degrees out-of- phase with the applied voltage, they actually consume no real
power in the ideal sense. Nominal input voltages for harmonic filters include 110 V, 208 V,
240 V, 380 V, 480 V, and 600 V. Frequency choices are 50 Hz and 60 Hz.
Applicable standards and optional features are also important factors to consider when
selecting harmonic filters and line/load reactors. National and international standards include
IEEE 519, EN 61000, AS 2279, and BS G5/3. Features for harmonic filters include UL Marks,
performance monitors, operating temperature, and form factor. The UL Mark denotes that
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) has found that the harmonic filters and line/load reactors
met UL's published standards for safety. Harmonic filters with performance monitors have
indicators or meters that monitor variables such as current THD, voltage THD, and power.
Choices for form factor include NEMA 1 enclosure, NEMA 2 enclosure, NEMA 3 enclosure,
NEMA 4 enclosure, NEMA 3R enclosure, NEMA 12 enclosure, rack-mounted, and panel-
mounted.
Whatever is a harmonic filter? What are harmonics? What does it mean to have harmonics in
my system? Why do I need to filter harmonics? Are there different types of harmonic filters?
This article intends to provide an overview on harmonic filters and hopefully answer some of
the questions that you might have on them.

Introduction to Harmonic Filters and Harmonics


A harmonic filter is used to eliminate the harmonic distortion caused by appliances.
Harmonics are currents and voltages that are continuous multiples of the fundamental
frequency of 60 Hz such as 120 Hz (2nd harmonic) and 300 Hz (5th harmonic). Harmonic
currents provide power that cannot be used and also takes up electrical system capacity.
Large quantities of harmonics can lead to malfunctioning of the system that results in
downtime and increase in operating costs. The second harmonic would have a frequency of
120 Hz; the third harmonic would have a frequency of 180 Hz and so on.

Inside the Harmonic Filter


The harmonic filter is built using an array of capacitors, inductors, and resistors that deflect
harmonic currents to the ground. Each harmonic filter could contain many such elements,
each of which is used to deflect harmonics of a specific frequency.

The Cause and the Effect


Harmonic distortion is caused by equipment that are non-linear loads. These loads use
current in a pulsing manner and at times feed harmonic currents back into the wiring. In non-
linear loads, the current waveform is different from the applied voltage waveform. This causes
them to produce the following:

• · Voltage distortions
• · Excessive currents on neutral wires
• · Overheating of motors
• · Microprocessor control problems
• · Unexplained computer crashes
• Examples of non-linear, harmonic-causing loads are:
• · Electronic equipment such as personal computers
• · Battery chargers
• · Lighting dimmer controls
• · Fluorescent lights
• · Welders
• · Electronic ballasts
• · Printers
• · Photocopiers
• · Fax machines

Harmonic Filter Functions

• The various functions that a harmonic filter performs are enumerated as follows:
• Reduces neutral currents
• Reduces transformer loading
• Protects electrical systems
• Reduces fire hazard
• Protects the neutral conductor
• Enhances system protection
• Minimizes impact on distribution transformers
• Reduces local neutral to ground voltage
• Lowers peak phase current/average phase current
• Increases system capacity
• Decreases system losses
• Improves power factor on non-linear loads
• Reduces total harmonic distortion
• Improves phase current balance
• Augments phase voltage balance
• Reduces three-phase neutral current

Types of Harmonic Filters


Harmonic filters can be broadly classified into two basic types: active and passive.
Active Harmonic Filter
An active harmonic filter is something like a boost regulator. The concept used in an active
filter is the introduction of current components using power electronics to remove the
harmonic distortions produced by the non-linear load. Active harmonic filters are mostly used
for low-voltage networks.
There are three types of active harmonic filters based on the way they are connected to the
AC distribution network.

i) The series filter is connected in series with the AC distribution network. It serves to offset
harmonic distortions caused by the load as well as that present in the AC system.

ii) The parallel filter is connected in parallel with the AC distribution network. Parallel filters are
also known as shunt filters and offset the harmonic distortions caused by the non-linear load.

iii) The hybrid filter is a combination of an active and a passive filter and could be of a series
or a parallel configuration.
Apart from the above classification, active harmonic filters can be either 3-wire or 4-wire
filters.

3-wire filters: Are power units that are large and typically used in variable speed drives and
other such applications, which have a large number of non-linear loads.

4-wire filters: Are those that can filter the neutral conductor of the triple-n harmonics. These
filters are used to eliminate harmonics that are generated by switch-mode power supplies and
Information Technology equipment, typically commercial applications.

Passive Harmonic Filter


A passive harmonic filter is built using an array of capacitors, inductors, and resistors. It can
take the form of a simple line reactor or may use a series of parallel resonant filters to
eliminate harmonics. Passive harmonic filters are also divided based on the way they are
connected with the load.

i) A series filter: Here the filter is placed in series with the load and uses parallel components,
i.e., inductors and capacitors are in parallel. This filter is a current rejector.

ii) A parallel filter: The filter is placed in parallel with the load and its components are built in
series. This filter is a current acceptor.
Based on the components used to build the passive filter, there are the following types:

A Band-pass filter is a common passive filter that is built using a capacitor connected in series
with a resistor.

A High-pass filter has a resistor connected in parallel with a reactor. This helps in reducing
the q value of the filter, which will in turn help reduce the higher frequencies.

A High-pass filter when used in combination with a band-pass filter will provide a solution for
medium voltage and sub-transmission voltage networks, which have moderate harmonic
distortions.
A C-type filter is used for complex loads, cyclo converters and electric arc furnaces and is a
special variation of the high pass filter. This filter will provide the load with reactive power and
avoid forming parallel resonance circuits with the load.

Other devices that are used to control harmonics are:


A line reactor: Is usually just an inductor, which resists the flow of high frequency harmonics
and thus causes harmonic currents to decrease when it is applied. Line reactors serve to
suppress current spikes and limit peak currents that flow through them, because of their
impedance. These are typically used in variable frequency, DC, SCR, and rectifier drives.

Feedback electronic filter: Is a complex device that detects the presence of voltage and
current harmonics and generates counteracting harmonics to remove harmonic distortions.
The electronic filter uses feedback mechanisms, and monitors voltage and current constantly.
It thus effectively reduces harmonics and provides voltage regulation.

Selection of the Harmonic Filter


The selection of a harmonic filter must be based on the following:
1. kVA requirements of the load
2. Harmonic profile of the load current
3. Harmonic factor of the neutral current
4. Configuration of the existing or proposed system
Quality Certifications
Harmonic filters need to be UL listed and CSA certified. This would abide by the requirements
of the NEMA, ASA, UL and CSA standards.

Manufacture of Harmonic Filters


They are manufactured with insulating materials that comply with the CSA winding insulation
system class 220, which is the highest insulation level that is recognized in the industry.
Windings: can be copper or aluminum
Enclosures: Drip-proof, weather-proof, and standard types

Harmonic Filter - Application Areas


Harmonic filters are well suited for three-phase, 4-wire electrical power distribution systems
that supply single phase, non-linear loads. There are various application areas for harmonic
filters, the most important being:

• · Adjustable speed drives


• · Welders and battery charges
• · Computer equipment
• · Consumer electronics

The major end-user industries for harmonic filters include:

Industrial - printers, extruders, machining, heavy industries: pulp and paper producers,
mining, oil and chemical refineries, iron and steel, rubber and plastics, glass and cement, food
processing

Utilities - electrical utilities, water treatment plants

Commercial - data centers, telephone centers, hospitality services


Residential - consumer electronics, personal computers

Conclusion
High power quality and voltage stability are necessities for the equipment we use today. It is
therefore necessary for the power system to be free from harmonics and other electrical
disturbances. Hence, harmonic filters play an important role in ensuring a 'clean' power
supply.

Stay tuned to this industry portal for Part Two that inlcudes additional analysis on the
harmonic filter market, the key players, challenges, trends and more.