Why the United States Uses 60Hz Instead of 50Hz

by | May 26, 2023 | Blog

The United States does many things differently from the rest of the world. Foreigners often wonder why we do things differently, whether we’re using Fahrenheit, inches, or teaspoons. However, the reason why the United States uses 60Hz instead of 50Hz for our electrical system is interesting and based on history, corporate greed, and a rivalry between two electrical pioneers.

The Original Rivalry

Nikola Tesla developed theories that 60Hz was a stronger, better, and more reliable method of electrical frequencies. However, other great thinkers, notably Thomas Edison, believed 60Hz was far too powerful and dangerous. Edison even put on public events to demonstrate the dangers of 60Hz by electrocuting Topsy the elephant in the early 1900s.

Edison may not have actually believed that 50Hz was safer. However, he did believe it was more cost-effective to produce and maintain, allowing him to make more money.

The United States Using 50Hz

The US used 50Hz on its power grids for many years. In fact, many regions used different frequencies depending on their systems. While Tesla worked with manufacturers that produced 60Hz equipment, Edison continued to partner with AEG, a German company that shifted to 50Hz to maintain a monopoly in Europe.

The Shift to 60Hz

Both the US and Europe continued to fluctuate between 50Hz and 60Hz. For example, California primarily used AEG equipment, while other regions used Westinghouse, an American electric corporation that Tesla worked for. Standardization became more common in the years following World War II when Europe turned to its largest corporation. The United States decided to support national companies and moved toward Westinghouse.

As time went on, other companies joined and wanted to compete with the current standards for power frequencies, which became the norm in their respective regions. The United States uses 60Hz instead of 50Hz because of a rivalry between two industry leaders, a fight to create a monopoly free of overseas manipulation, and an aim to support local brands over foreign powers.

Thanks to industrial frequency converters, companies can use equipment from all over the world without worrying about imbalanced electrical frequencies. Visicomm Industries offers a wide range of static and rotary converters that are ideal for 60Hz, 50Hz, and even 400Hz. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information.