What are Harmonics?

Harmonics, in an electrical system, are currents created by non-linear loads that generate non-sinusoidal (non-linear) current waveforms. These current and voltage wave forms operate on frequencies that are in multiples of the fundamental 60hz frequency. That is, the fundamental frequency is at 60 hertz, the 2nd harmonic is at 120hz frequency (60 x 2), the 3rd at 180 hertz, and so forth. Harmonics are principally the by-product of switch-mode power supply technology where AC is rectified to DC, and back again. In the process, a capacitor is charged in the first half-cycle, and then discharged in the next half-cycle, in supplying current to the load. This cycle is repeated. This action of recharging causes AC current to flow only during a portion of the AC voltage wave, in abrupt pulses. These abrupt pulses distort the fundamental wave shape causing distortion to the various harmonic frequencies.