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Alternating-Current Circuits

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ALTERNATING-CURRENT CIRCUITS It is not within the province of this chapter to treat the various alternating-current phenomena, but simply to outline the modifications which should be made in designing and calculating electric light wiring, in order to make proper allowance for these phenomena.

The most marked difference between alternating and direct cur rent, so far as wiring is concerned, is the effect produced by self induction, which is characteristic of all alternating-current circuits. This self-induction varies greatly with conditions depending upon the arrangement of the circuit, the medium surrounding the circuit, the devices or apparatus supplied by or connected in the circuit, etc.

For example, if a coil having a resistance of 100 ohms is included in the circuit, a current of one ampere can be passed through the coil with an electric pressure of 100 volts, if direct current is used; while it might require a potential of several hundred volts to pass a current of one ampere if alternating-current were used, depending upon the number of turns in the coil, whether it is wound on iron or some other non-magnetic material, etc.

It will be seen from this example, that greater allowance should be made for self-induction in laying out and calculating alternating current wiring, if the conditions are such that the self-induction will be appreciable.

On account of self-induction, the two wires of an alternating current circuit must never be installed in separate iron or steel con duits, for the reason that such a circuit would be virtually a choke coil consisting of a single turn of wire wound on an iron core, and the self induction would not only reduce the current passing through the cir cuit, but also might produce heating of the iron pipe. It is for this reason that the National Electric Code requires conductors constitut ing a given circuit to be placed in the same conduit, if that conduit is iron or steel, whenever the said circuit is intended to carry, or is liable to carry at some future time, an ; Iternating current. This does not mean, in the case of a two-phase circuit, that all four conductors need be placed in the same conduit, but that the two conductors of a given phase must be placed in the same conduit. If, however, the three-wire system be used for a two-phase system, all three conductors should be placed in the same conduit, as should also be the case in a three-wire three-phase system. Of course, in a single-phase two- or

three-wire system, the conductors should all be placed in the same conduit.

In calculating circuits carrying alternating current, no allowance usually should be made for self-induction when the conductors of the same circuit are placed close together in an iron conduit. When, however, the conductors are run exposed, or are separated from each other, calculation should be made to determine if the effects of self induction are great enough to cause an appreciable inductive drop. There are several methods of calculating this drop due to self-induc tion—one by formula, and one by a mathematical method which will be described.

Skin Effect.

Skin effect in alternating-current circuits is caused by an incorrect distribution of the current in the wire, the current tending to flow through the outer portion of the wire, it being a well known fact that in alternating currents, the current density decreases toward the center of the conductor, and that in large wires, the current density at the center of the conductor is relatively quite small.

The skin effect increases in proportion to the square of the diam eter, and also in direct ratio to the frequency of the alternating current.

For conductors of No. 0000 B. & S. Gauge, and smaller, and for frequencies of 60 cycles per second, or less, the skin effect is negligible and is less than one-half of one per cent.

For very large cables and for frequencies above 60 cycles per second, the skin effect may be appreciable; and in certain cases, allow ance for it should be made in making the calculation. In ordinary practice, however, it may be neglected. Table IX, taken from Alter nating-Current Wiring and Distribution, by W. R. Emmet, gives the data necessary for calculating the skin effect. The figures given in the first and third columns are obtained by multiplying the size of the conductor (in circular mils) by the frequency (number of cycles per second); and the figures in the second and fourth columns show the factor to be used in multiplying the ohmic resistance, in order to obtain the combined resistance and skin effect.

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