Generation of current references constitutes an important part in the control of active power filters (APFs) used in power system, since any inaccuracy in reference currents yields to incorrect compensation. In this paper, harmonic detection methods for generating reference currents have been evaluated on the basis of three-phase balanced and unbalanced load currents processed in the digital signal processor (DSP). The advantages and disadvantages of several methods found in the literature have been discussed on the basis of simulation results. Three of these methods have been programmed in the TMS320F2812 digital signal processor (DSP) unit and their performances are evaluated from the viewpoint of practical considerations. Finally, instantaneous reactive power method to estimate the APF reference currents is implemented and its practical results obtained under balanced and unbalanced loads are given. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.