Another thing we have to know is just how positive or negative the voltage is, with respect to some selected neutral reference. With DC, this is easy; the voltage is constant at some measurable value. But AC is constantly changing, and yet it still powers a load. Mathematically, the amplitude of a sine wave is the value of that sine wave at its peak. This is the maximum value, positive or negative, that it can attain. However, when we speak of an AC power system, it is more useful to refer to the effective voltage or current. This is the rating that would cause the same amount of work to be done (the same effect) as the same value of DC voltage or current would cause. We won't cover the mathematical derivations here; for the present, we'll simply note that for a sine wave, the effective voltage of the AC power system is 0.707 times the peak voltage. Thus, when we say that the AC line voltage in the US is 120 volts, we are referring to the voltage amplitude, but we are describing the effective voltage, not the peak voltage of nearly 170 volts. The effective voltage is also known as the rms voltage.
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