If you’ve ever worked with electrical equipment, you know that electrical frequency is a central component of its operation. But you may not fully understand what electrical frequency is, how it works, or how to calculate it. That’s where we come in. Keep reading for a breakdown of electrical frequency.

What Electrical Frequency Is

Electrical frequency measures the number of times a sine wave duplicates an electrical cycle. In other words, it tells you how many times per second an alternative current (AC) cycles up and down—or between positive and negative—in one second. The higher the number of cycles per second, the higher the frequency.

Let’s define some terms that play a key role in the electrical frequency process.

  • Alternating current (AC): An alternating current (AC) is a type of electrical current that periodically reverses direction during a cycle.
  • Hertz (Hz): Named after the German physicist Heinrich Hertz, hertz (Hz) is a frequency unit. One hertz (Hz) is equivalent to one cycle per second. Electrical frequency is measured in hertz (Hz).
  • Frequency: Frequency measures how fast the AC changes per second during the cycle. In simpler terms, frequency tells you how often something occurs.
  • Cycle: One cycle is equivalent to one wave of AC.
  • Alternation: An alternation is equivalent to half a cycle.
  • Period: A period measures how long it takes to make one waveform cycle.
electronic measuring instruments in science lab

    How to Measure Frequency

    The easiest way to measure electrical frequency is to use a digital multimeter. This device is equipped with a frequency counter mode that’s designed to measure AC frequency.

    If you can’t access a digital multimeter, here’s how you can measure frequency manually:

    • Divide 1 by the time period you want to measure over.
      • For example, if you want to know how many hertz there are in one minute, divide 1 by 60 (1/60 = 0.01667 hertz per second).

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