Power Factor Sumplified




Understand the basis of the Power Factor


So what exactly is represented by the term Power Factor when we’re speaking in terms of energy efficiency of a home or industrial installation?


That isn’t at all difficult to understand.


Most devices use an induction coil, such as a motor, for example, or any device that uses a motor, draws and uses two types of power – one being reactive power and the other being working power.


Now, the working power is the power used to actually work, that is to lift or move a load, to turn a motor, whatever the device’s function may be.


The working power is the power that is used to actually accomplish the function of a piece of equipment. But most devices with an induction coil also use energy to generate an electromagnetic field that is essential to their operation.


The power used for these electromagnetic fields is called reactive power.


Now when this power is drawn from a distant source, which is the transformer of your power company, what happens is that there is a considerable loss of energy along the line which can result in massive losses in terms of power.


Just how efficient your home installation is, is expressed in terms of the Power Factor.


In simple mathematical terms, the Power Factor is how the real amount of power used by appliances in your home compares to the total billed amount of power used by your home.


In other words, the Power Factor is the relation between the total power used by your home and the working power used by the appliances in your home.


Ideally, this power factor would be in the range of 1, which is, unfortunately, almost completely impossible.


There are devices that have a power factor 1, like lighting devices, for example, but most other devices, especially those that use induction coils, because of the higher reactive power that they use, generally have a power efficiency of .2 or even less.


Just where does the wasted energy which is represented by a lower power factor go?


After all, if you have a power factor .7, which is the average in most homes, where is the excess energy disappearing to?


Well, it goes out in heat, mostly.


Your devices get hotter, your electronic circuits and circuit boards generate more heat, and the wires in your home and the wires leading to your home also generate a certain amount of heat.


So basically what is happening here is that a percentage of the power supplied to your home has been turned into heat and radiated away from the appliances, circuit boards and wires.


This not only represents a considerable loss in terms of money paid for energy, but it also leads to wear on your appliances,  reducing their life span, and in certain extreme cases this heating up can cause electrical fires in the wiring of your home.


These days however there are devices called power savers that are used to prevent this, and to correct the power factor up to about 9.5 (which is almost perfect, actually).


These power savers use boards of harmonic resistant capacitors that in fact act as a source of reactive power.


Since this source of reactive power is very close to the appliances using that power, this massively reduces the amount of power wasted by the system as heat.


It also causes most of the devices to run cooler and can lead to saving as much as twenty five percent of the power usage in your home or commercial or industrial installation.