What Does 60 Hz or 60 Cycles Per Second Mean in a Generator?

60 cycles per second

You may have seen a measurement of 60Hz or 60 cycles per second somewhere on your generator. What does this mean? Is that good or bad? Why is it important to maintain 60 cycles per second? We’ll take a look at these questions and more in this week’s blog post.

What Does 60 Cycles Per Second Mean?

First, one of the most important parameters that determine the generator’s rating is output frequency. This electrical output of the generator needs to remain at a fixed frequency, 60 cycles per second, to match the output of a standard electrical grid or the frequency rating of your appliances.

However, you can also encounter different isolated sections of the same grid operating at different frequencies. So, then it becomes essential to vary the output frequency of the generator to match the frequency of the appliances needing power, or of the grid to which your generator is connected.


Second, most modern generators feature an engine directly connected to an alternator to produce electricity. So, one of the most common ways of changing the output frequency of a generator is to change the rotation speed of the engine. This can be helpful if you need to change from 60 cycles per second to 50, or vice versa.

The two factors relate as per the following formula:

  • Generator Frequency (f) = Number of revolutions per minute of the engine (N) * Number of magnetic poles (P) / 120
  • In other words, f = N*P/120
  • Or, P = 120*f/N

Therefore, a 2-pole generator producing an output frequency of 60 Hz has an engine speed of 3,600 rpm. Likewise, a 4-pole generator at an engine speed of 1,800 rpm produces output of 60 cycles per second.

More Information on 60 Cycles Per Second at Woodstock Power

Finally, it’s worth noting that most US generators maintain a frequency of 60 cycles per second. However, European ones maintain a frequency of 50. Thus, if you’d like more information on your generator’s output frequency, or need help shopping for a generator for your application, please feel free to contact us at Woodstock Power. Renowned for our expertise and customer service, we’d love to help you!

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