How Electricity Can Affect Our Clocks

Electric clocks keep time using electricity

Our electric clocks run on 60 Hertz (Hz), “alternating current” (ac) electricity. Alternating current refers to the fact that the current consists of pulses and 60 Hz means that 60 pulses of current flow every second. This is known as the “frequency” of our power system. Many electric devices, such as alarm clocks, ovens, and microwaves, use these pulses to count the seconds and keep time.

If you look at the back or bottom of these types of devices you will see something like “AC 120V ~60 Hz” where the 120 V refers to Voltage and the ~60 Hz refers to the frequency.

How does our system play a part

While we aim to keep the power on our system frequency as close to 60 Hz as possible we are constantly balancing our electricity system to meet customer demand and so these pulses are constantly ebbing and flowing.

Think about it like this, if all the light switches in the province were turned on we would meet that need for power. But as they turn on and off, our system has to constantly adjust to meet this fluctuating demand.

If we have a longer period of high frequency, for example, more than 60 pulses are received every second by our clocks and the seconds will count more quickly. Over time, this will cause our clocks to drift ahead. As well, this would be the opposite for periods where frequency is lower in which case, over time, this would cause our clocks to drift behind. Normally these ebbs and flows balance out so that the shifts to our clocks are barely noticeable.

Quick Facts

Remember, this won’t affect clocks run by battery, or the clock on your phone, just those that need to plug into electricity to function (think digital alarm clock, stove, microwave, etc.)

No need to worry, this won’t damage any of your appliances or light bulbs. If you notice these changes on your electric clocks simply manually reset your clock to the correct time.