What is Power Factor?

Power factor is a somewhat esoteric concept.

This article briefly explains what power factor is and why it is important to ensure that it is properly corrected for most business people who may not be familiar with those concepts.

In simple terms power factor refers to the difference between kW (real power) and kVA (apparent power) drawn by your plant at any point.

Power factor is the ratio of kW divided by kVA.  If the two are the same, then the ratio will be one or close to one.  If the kVA value is larger than the kW value, then the ratio will decline.  So power factor is normally quoted in terms of a number that is less than or equal to one, or alternatively as a percentage.  For example, a power factor of 0.99 is quite good, but 0.8 or less is quite bad.

The closer the power factor is to one (or 100%), the better.

What Causes Bad Power Factor?

Without getting too technical, poor power factor is caused by the voltage and current sine waves becoming out of synch with one another.  This is usually caused by whats known as “inductive loads”, examples of which are large motors starting, induction furnaces and induction heating, welding, certain types of lighting, air-conditioners, fridges etc.

In those circumstances, the apparent power consumption (kVA) will increase and the power factor ratio will become smaller than one.

Why is Power Factor Relevant?

The main reason why power factor is relevant to most people is due to its potentially large effect on their monthly electricity bill.  Commercial and industrial users usually pay both for energy consumed (kWh) during the month, as well as for maximum demand which is measured in kVA.

Maximum demand is the maximum amount of apparent power drawn by the plant during the month, as measured by the council billing meter.  If the power factor is poor at the point of maximum demand, then you will be charged a much higher than necessary maximum demand fee for that month!

What Can be Done about Poor Power Factor?

By installing suitable power factor correction equipment, your power factor can be held to a value close to unity.  This can even be done when the load is highly dynamic, provided sophisticated equipment is used.

What are the Benefits?

Very often the savings achievable are significant!  Many customers report that  installing power factor correction resulted in the highest savings of all other similar electricity cost reduction initiatives they tried.

Monthly Savings Calculator

If you have a power factor problem and are wondering what sort of savings are possible, please fill in the form below to get a rough estimate of monthly savings that could be achieved if you install suitable power factor correction equipment.  Please Contact Us if you would like to discuss the matter further.