A DC meter, such as an ammeter, connected in an AC circuit indicates zero, because the meter movements used in a d’Arsonval type movement is restricted to DC. Since the field of a permanent magnet in the d’Arsonval type meter remains constant and in the same direction at all times, the moving coil follows the polarity of the current. The coil attempts to move in one direction during half of the AC cycle and in the reverse direction during the other half when the current reverses.
The current reverses direction too rapidly for the coil to follow, causing the coil to assume an average position. Since the current is equal and opposite during each half of the AC cycle, the DC meter indicates zero, which is the average value. Thus, a meter with a permanent magnet cannot be used to measure alternating voltage and current. For AC measurements of current and voltage, additional circuitry is required. The additional circuitry has a rectifier, which converts AC to DC. There are two basic types of rectifiers: the half-wave rectifier and the full-wave rectifier. [Figure 12-159]
Figure 12-159 also shows a simplified block diagram of an AC meter. In this depiction, the full-wave rectifier precedes the meter movement. The movement responds to the average value of the pulsating DC. The scale can then be calibrated to show anything the designer wants. In most cases, it is the root mean square (RMS) value or peak value.
Electrodynamometer Meter Movement
The electrodynamometer can be used to measure alternating or direct voltage and current. It operates on the same principles as the permanent magnet moving coil meter, except that the permanent magnet is replaced by an air core electromagnet. The field of the electrodynamometer is developed by the same current that flows through the moving coil. [Figure 12-160]
Because this movement contains no iron, the electrodynamometer can be used as a movement for both AC and DC instruments. AC can be measured by connecting the stationary and moving coils in series. Whenever the current in the moving coil reverses, the magnetic field produced by the stationary coil reverses. Regardless of the direction of the current, the needle moves in a clockwise direction. However, for either voltmeter or ammeter applications, the electrodynamometer is too expensive to economically compete with the d’Arsonval-type movement.
Moving Iron Vane Meter
The moving iron vane meter is another basic type of meter. It can be used to measure either AC or DC. Unlike the d’Arsonval meter, which employs permanent magnets, it depends on induced magnetism for its operation. It utilizes the principle of repulsion between two concentric iron vanes, one fixed and one movable, placed inside a solenoid. A pointer is attached to the movable vane. [Figure 12-161]
When current flows through the coil, the two iron vanes become magnetized with north poles at their upper ends and south poles at their lower ends for one direction of current through the coil. Because like poles repel, the unbalanced component of force, tangent to the movable element, causes it to turn against the force exerted by the springs.
The movable vane is rectangular in shape and the fixed vane is tapered. This design permits the use of a relatively uniform scale.
When no current flows through the coil, the movable vane is positioned so that it is opposite the larger portion of the tapered fixed vane, and the scale reading is zero. The amount of magnetization of the vanes depends on the strength of the field, which, in turn, depends on the amount of current flowing through the coil.
The force of repulsion is greater opposite the larger end of the fixed vane than it is nearer the smaller end. Therefore, the movable vane moves toward the smaller end through an angle that is proportional to the magnitude of the coil current. The movement ceases when the force of repulsion is balanced by the restraining force of the spring.
Because the repulsion is always in the same direction (toward the smaller end of the fixed vane), regardless of the direction of current flow through the coil, the moving iron vane instrument operates on either DC or AC circuits.
Mechanical damping in this type of instrument can be obtained by the use of an aluminum vane attached to the shaft so that, as the shaft moves, the vane moves in a restricted air space.
When the moving iron vane meter is used as an ammeter, the coil is wound with relatively few turns of large wire in order to carry the rated current. When the moving iron vane meter is used as a volt-meter, the solenoid is wound with many turns of small wire. Portable voltmeters are made with self-contained series resistance for ranges up to 750 volts. Higher ranges are obtained by the use of additional external multipliers.
The moving iron vane instrument may be used to measure DC but has an error due to residual magnetism in the vanes. Reversing the meter connections and averaging the readings may minimize the error. When used on AC circuits, the instrument has an accuracy of 0.5 percent. Because of its simplicity, relatively low cost, and the fact that no current is conducted to the moving element, this type of movement is used extensively to measure current and voltage in AC power circuits. However, because the reluctance of the magnetic circuit is high, the moving iron vane meter requires much more power to produce full-scale deflection than is required by a d’Arsonval meter of the same range. Therefore, the moving iron vane meter is seldom used in high-resistance low-power circuits.
Inclined Coil Iron Vane Meter
The principle of the moving iron vane mechanism is applied to the inclined coil type of meter, which can be used to measure both AC and DC. The inclined coil, iron vane meter has a coil mounted at an angle to the shaft. Attached obliquely to the shaft, and located inside the coil, are two soft iron vanes. When no current flows through the coil, a control spring holds the pointer at zero, and the iron vanes lie in planes parallel to the plane of the coil. When current flows through the coil, the vanes tend to line up with magnetic lines passing through the center of the coil at right angles to the plane of the coil. Thus, the vanes rotate against the spring action to move the pointer over the scale.
The iron vanes tend to line up with the magnetic lines regardless of the direction of current flow through the coil. Therefore, the inclined coil, iron vane meter can be used to measure either AC or DC. The aluminum disk and the drag magnets provide electromagnetic damping.
Like the moving iron vane meter, the inclined coil type requires a relatively large amount of current for full-scale deflection and is seldom used in high-resistance low-power circuits.
As in the moving iron vane instruments, the inclined coil instrument is wound with few turns of relatively large wire when used as an ammeter and with many turns of small wire when used as a voltmeter.
Multiplying the volts by the amperes in an AC circuit gives the apparent power: the combination of the true power (which does the work) and the reactive power (which does no work and is returned to the line). Reactive power is measured in units of vars (volt-amperes reactive) or kilovars (kilovoltamperes reactive (kVAR). When properly connected, wattmeters measure the reactive power. As such, they are called varmeters. [Figure 12-162]
Electric power is measured by means of a wattmeter. Because electric power is the product of current and voltage, a wattmeter must have two elements, one for current and the other for voltage. For this reason, wattmeters are usually of the electrodynamometer type. [Figure 12-163]
The movable coil with a series resistance forms the voltage element, and the stationary coils constitute the current element. The strength of the field around the potential coil depends on the amount of current that flows through it. The current, in turn, depends on the load voltage applied across the coil and the high resistance in series with it. The strength of the field around the current coils depends on the amount of current flowing through the load. Thus, the meter deflection is proportional to the product of the voltage across the potential coil and the current through the current coils. The effect is almost the same (if the scale is properly calibrated) as if the voltage applied across the load and the current through the load were multiplied together.
If the current in the line is reversed, the direction of current in both coils and the potential coil is reversed, the net result is that the pointer continues to read up scale. Therefore, this type of wattmeter can be used to measure either AC or DC power.