# 120/208 Shared Neutral Current Additive?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by donniet1977, Dec 9, 2013.

1. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
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I'm remodeling my kitchen and am bringing it up to code. My service is 120/208. I wired up my first multiwire circuit. I decided to read neutral current flow with a clamp on ammeter to make sure everything was cool. I had a 1 amp load and a 2 amp load on the two hots. I expected to see something less than 2 amps on the neutral but was surprised to see the full 3 amps. The hots are fed from opposite busses. Can anyone help me figure this one out?

Thanks,

Don

2. ### crutschow Expert

Mar 14, 2008
16,209
4,333
The only thing I can think of is that you are not really wired to the two opposite phases of the service input. If you measure the voltage between the two hot leads you can determine that. It will either measure 0V if from the same phase or 240V if from the opposite phase.

3. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
1
I read 208 which is expected on a 120/208 service. I would think that since the phases are not 180 degrees out like in 240V service I wouldn't see a 1 to 1 reduction in neutral current but still see a reduction none the less.

inwo likes this.
4. ### richard.cs Member

Mar 3, 2012
162
31
This is exactly what you should expect but only for linear loads, harmonic currents add in the neutral rather than cancelling. What were your two loads for this test? If they were electronic things which rectify the incoming power that might explain it.

5. ### mcgyvr AAC Fanatic!

Oct 15, 2009
5,063
1,099
This is exactly why you should hire a qualified electrician..

6. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
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Supposedly a qualified electrician wired the panel in the first place since it is original. Anyhow here is an update:

Quick recap: My service 120/208, hot to hot is 208.

With an 8.5 amp toaster oven on one circuit and 11 amps on the other circuit which feeds the fridge (about 1 amp) and space heater (temp) my neutral current reads 19.2 amps. I'm using an Amprobe ACD-15 Pro clamp on ammeter. This condo has been wired with mostly MWBCs ever since it was built from what I can tell. Have the neutrals been overloaded the whole time?! I'd really like to get on the feed to my panel which is just a subpanel but I just don't have the room.

Lol, someone caught me. I did post this on 2 or 3 other forums. I figure that enough quantity is bound to generate some quality.

Thanks,

Don

7. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
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I'm both embarrassed and happy to say that after further troubleshooting I discovered that the outlet we wired temp for testing was miswired and being fed by the wrong circuit. This led to all loads being on the same leg. I was a little lazy in my initial troubleshooting and made too many assumptions. One assumption was that there was a problem in the first place.

I think the initial problem I saw with the 3 amp neutral was simply due to low inductive loading along with meter creep.

Final Reads Ignoring Fridge (<1 amp) which is always on:

CKT 1 on 2 off - In=9.1A
CKT 1 off 2 on - In=11.9A
Both CKTs on - In=12.0A

Thanks for the replies.

Apr 20, 2011
15
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With both circuits on, the neutral should only read the imbalance.

9. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
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After reading this thread, its obvious that i'm no expert but the neutral would only carry the imbalance of the phases if they were 180 degrees out. In this case they were 120 degress out hence the 120/208 and not 120/240 service.

I have also learned that inductive loads and their affect on power factor will throw off the simple imbalance calculations.

Don

10. ### WBahn Moderator

Mar 31, 2012
20,064
5,665
If the neutral is grounded, which it is in your case, then it will always carry the net imbalance between the phases. It has no choice. In = Iph1 - Iph2.

The problem is that the currents in each phase are, in general, not in phase with each other. If they are purely resistive, you can assume they are in phase with their respective voltages and figure out what the current in the neutral should be. But if either (or both) currents have a power factor, then they are not in phase with their respective voltages and all bets are off unless you have a means of either measuring the phase or measuring the power factor. If you have a wattmeter on each phase and you measure the RMS current in each phase, then you can do this.

For those that might be reading this (perhaps some distant time in the future) and wondering why 208V and not 240V, the key (as touched on by the OP in the prior post) is that the supplies are derived from two phases of a three phase transformer as opposed to being derived from a single-phase.

When tapped off a single phase using a center-tapped transformer, you end up with two "phases" that are 180 degrees out of phase and the line-to-line RMS voltage is the sum of the two line-to-neutral (center tap) RMS voltages.

But with pulling the lines off the phase voltages of two of the three Y-connected transformer terminals and the neutral of the neutral point between the phases, you basically have the following, relative to the neutral:

Vph1 = Vo @ -60°
Vph2 = Vo @ +60°

Where Vo is the phase-to-neutral voltage (the phase voltage) which, in this case, is 120V.

The line-to-line voltage is simply:

Vl = Vph2 - Vph1
Vl = (Vo @ +60°) - (Vo @ -60°)
Vl = Vo [ (cos(+60°) + jsin(+60°)) - (cos(-60°) + jsin(-60°)) ]
Vl = Vo [ (cos(+60°) + jsin(+60°)) - (cos(60°) - jsin(60°)) ]
Vl = Vo [ cos(+60°) + jsin(+60°) - cos(60°) + jsin(60°) ]
Vl = Vo [ j2sin(+60°) ]
Vl = Vo*2sin(60°) @ 90°

sin(60°) = √3 / 2

Vl = √3 * Vo @ 90°

If Vo=120V, then Vl = 208V

11. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
1

I thought it would only carry the net imbalance if they were 180° out. Since they are 120° out I would not expect it. This is backed up by my readings.

12. ### WBahn Moderator

Mar 31, 2012
20,064
5,665
If they are not balanced, and if the net imbalance is not carried by the neutral, then where does that current imbalance go?

13. ### inwo Well-Known Member

Nov 7, 2013
2,441
315
The neutral does carry the imbalance.

The neutral carries MORE than the unbalance however.

If neutral current is zero on a 208 two wire multi-circuit.

Then the two 120 volt circuits would essentially be is series across the 208.

This seems impossible as measured voltage can't be 208 and 240.

There can be no conditions where neutral current is zero and phase currents are more than zero.

I might very well be wrong!

14. ### WBahn Moderator

Mar 31, 2012
20,064
5,665
How could it do that without violating KCL?

Well, let's walk into it bit by bit.

Let's say I have a socket that has the two line voltages and a neutral. We have 120V across each line to neutral but 208V between line and line.

Now I connect a resistor from line to line. I have nothing connected to the neutral. Haven't I just created a situation in which I have non-zero phase currents but zero neutral current?

15. ### inwo Well-Known Member

Nov 7, 2013
2,441
315
That's true.

I didn't word that well at all.

What I meant was, any 120 volt load will have neutral current. Even if the 120 volt loads are the same on two phases.
The extra power has to come from some place.
The two loads are using 120v times current. 2 X 120 X I.
The phases are using, if no neutral current, total power = 208 X I.

May be wrong again. I'll keep trying til I understand it.

16. ### WBahn Moderator

Mar 31, 2012
20,064
5,665
Nope, you are definitely onto something and asking the right questions and homing in on the key to the apparent descrepancy.

So spend some time with this:

That resistor that I previously placed across the 208V line-to-line supply, make it two equal resistors of size R in series, okay. Now, by symmetry, the voltage at the junction of the resistors has to be half way between the two line voltages, right? This would lead you to believe that this point must therefore be at the neutral potential, right? Seems obvious. If that were true, then we should be able to connect the neutral to that point and have no current flow, right? But if we did that, then we would go from having a single 2R load across 208V to having just the situation you were talking about, which is two 1R loads each across 120V. The only way to explain it is that, as soon as we connect the neutral to the center point that a neutral current DOES flow, which means that we need to look at the voltage at the center point of the two resistors (when not connected to the neutral) a bit more carefully.

17. ### GetDeviceInfo Senior Member

Jun 7, 2009
1,571
230
you should agree on the definition of neutral. Next to ground, it's probably the most confused. Neutrals do not exist in 2 wire circuits, so the statement
is incorrect. Neutrals, by definition, only carry the imbalanced current.
Grounding has nothing to do with the neutral definition, nor it's calculated currents.

The 'extra' power comes from the fact that you are employing different voltages. These supplies are typically identified as 120/208Y.

Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
18. ### inwo Well-Known Member

Nov 7, 2013
2,441
315
There has to be voltage from center of resistors to neutral.
Current flows!

Are you changing your story now? It seems you're taking my side.
There either will be neutral current in a balanced multi-circuit, as I picture it, or there is not.

Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
19. ### GetDeviceInfo Senior Member

Jun 7, 2009
1,571
230
In a three phase system, the neutral point will have a sum of zero, if the phases contribute equally. Remove one of those phase loads and the neutral carries that vectorial difference. Add your vector currents and tell us what the neutral current will be.

20. ### donniet1977 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 9, 2013
8
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Doesn't this support my readings then? I'm using 2 phases of a 3 phase system. Even if my 2 phases, A and B, are carrying equal current, the neutral will not carry 0 current because the C phase vector (which I'm not using) of 0 amps needs to be included in the calculation. This makes sense because A and B are 120° and not 180 out of phase.