Effects of Power Factor



To properly understand the purpose of the Power-Save 1200 or the RS-200, you need to have a working understanding of power factor, electricity and the route it takes to get from the power plant to your home appliances. You also need to understand why some of your home appliances are naturally more efficient than others.


The power company probably generates electricity at several different power plants. The plants may burn coal or gas to produce energy, or they may use flowing water or wind to spin turbines that generate electricity. The electricity flows through wires and transformers, and all the power plants, homes, and businesses in the area are connected in a huge grid.


Electricity flows through this grid all the time, and power is delivered instantly on demand to appliances in homes, schools and businesses. Each building has a circuit breaker box and a power meter that measures that demand, and the electrical company uses this meter to determine power usage and bills accordingly.


On a basic level the term “power factor” is used as a measure of efficiency for a given appliance or an entire house. Some appliances are extremely efficient and can convert 100% of the electricity they use into heat or light. Stoves, oven, and electric lights are all highly efficient appliances, and most have a power factor of 1.


Other devices use motors to perform tasks and functionality.  These include refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, dishwashers, pool pumps and hot tubs, air conditioners and heat pumps, and most other large appliances.


Motors use electricity in two different ways. Every motor operates through the use of an electromagnetic field and a long coil of wire that causes the magnetic shaft of the motor to turn. The electricity needed to create this magnetic field is called reactive power. The electricity needed to keep the motor spinning and perform the required task is called real power. When a motor first starts up, it needs a burst of electricity to charge the magnetic field to start it spinning. Then it uses a smaller amount of power to continue spinning.


Reactive power causes many motor-driven appliances to have a power factor lower than 1. This means these appliances are losing energy and therefore not putting out an amount of work or energy that is less than the amount of energy they take it. Some highly inefficient appliances have a power factor as low as 0.2, meaning the device wastes 80% of the electricity it uses to perform its task. The average home has an overall power factor of 0.77. This means that the average family is not actually using 23% of the electricity they pay for.


The need for reactive power to start motor-driven appliances results in brief power surges and spikes all over the power grid. Inside your home electrical system, there are also spikes in various places as different appliance start up or power down. Electrical spikes often result in energy being lost to heat. Any time a motor becomes hot, it is using extra electricity that is going to waste.


Power companies know that surges and spikes waste electricity, so they use banks of capacitors. These are components that are capable of storing electricity and then releasing it when necessary. The use of capacitors helps prevent power surges from overloading transformers and substations on the power grid. The capacitors smooth out power usage throughout the power grid.


The Power-Save brings this same technology into your home electrical system, using capacitors to supply power on demand and catch electricity that could otherwise be wasted.


This is the same type of technology that highly efficient Energy Star appliances use to conserve electricity, but a single Power-Save device can make your entire house run more efficiently.