What’s The Difference Between Linear and Nonlinear Electrical Loads?

What’s The Difference Between Linear and Nonlinear Electrical Loads?

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When you’re working with electrical products, you’ll find waveforms (that is, the shape of its graph as a function of time) displays the difference between nonlinear and linear loads.

While both linear and nonlinear loads are found in electrical devices and outputs throughout homes and businesses, they look and act different from one another.

Want to know the main differences between linear and nonlinear electrical loads?

Read more from the trusted electrical wholesaler company, Nedlands Group to find out.

What are linear electrical loads

The term ‘linear’ refers to things that are ‘along with a straight line.’ Linear electrical loads are defined as currents that are proportional to the voltage at any given time. This is otherwise referred to, in physics, as Ohm’s law.

Examples of linear electrical loads:

  • Capacitor and Capacitive Circuits
  • Inductor and Inductive Circuits
  • Resistance and Resistive Circuits
  • Motors
  • Transformers.

For example, let’s say you have a waveform reflecting the voltage, with a current in clean 60 Hz sine waves. With this waveform, the current looks exactly like the voltage. Hence, the term ‘linear load’ is applied in this instance.

With these types of loads, when applied voltage is increased, so too will the current flowing through the circuit increase. The same will apply vice versa.

What are nonlinear electrical loads?

On the other spectrum we have nonlinear electrical loads, where the current isn’t proportional to the voltage and fluctuates based upon alternating load resistance. They look nothing like the voltage on a waveform.

Examples of nonlinear electrical loads:

  • Computers
  • Printers
  • Rectifiers
  • Servers
  • Televisions
  • Transistors.

Nonlinear electrical loads work by drawing currents in brief and rapid pulses. As these pulses distort the current’s waveforms, harmonics are generated, which can lead to power problems.

As the current is pulled through the system, nonlinear loads have the capacity to create current, and in turn, voltage distortion.

These power problems have the real capacity to affect distribution system equipment and also any loads connected to it. You can read our post on harmonics here.

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