What Is Power Factor?

Power factor is a measure of how effectively electrical power is being used in a system or building. This is displayed as a number between 0 and 1, 1 being 100% use. For example, if you have a power factor of 0.8, it means 80% of the power is being used effectively, with 20% being wasted or not turned into useful work.

A simple way to understand what power factor is and how it is calculated is the beer analogy, cleverly thought up by FuseCo.

The Head “The Reactive Power “doesn’t quench your thirst, in electrical terms, its only purpose is to establish magnetic and electric fields in equipment such as motors, transformers, welding sets, in fact, anything with capacitive or inductive loads. It doesn’t do any productive work.

The Beer “The Real Power” does quench your thirst in electrical terms it’s the bit that does the actual productive work.

The Pint “The Apparent Power”, in electrical terms is the total of the Reactive and Real
Power is the bit you pay for.

The power factor ideally should be 1 (also called unity, in reality even with power factor
correction you will never get to 1 but you will get very close). This is a ratio:

% Power Factor = The Beer / (The Beer + Head)

% Power Factor = Real Power (kW) / Apparent Power (kVA)

How To Improve Power Factor

Power Factor

You can reduce the size of the Reactive Power (The Head) by installing Power Factor Correction and in doing so you will have more of the power you are paying for, the Apparent Power, available as Real Power.

The other disadvantage of having too much head, Reactive Power, is that it causes undue stressing of electrical equipment impacting the life of that asset as well as causing voltage dips (“brownouts”)

There are a few different correction solutions and devices available. One example is a capacitor bank. Capacitor Banks are commonly used in industrial and commercial settings.

How They Work:
• Function: Capacitor banks supply leading reactive power (capacitive power) to counteract the lagging reactive power (inductive power) typically caused by inductive loads such as motors, transformers, and fluorescent lighting.
• Operation: When capacitors are connected to the electrical system, they act like small energy storage devices that release and absorb electrical energy. This helps to balance the reactive power in the system, effectively reducing the total amount of apparent power (kVA) needed.
Benefits of Power Factor Correction

Reduced Electricity Bills – By using more of the electricity that you are paying for, you ultimately reduce your waste which in turn reduces your electricity costs.

Improved Energy Efficiency – Improving your power factor and reducing wasted energy will improve your overall energy efficiency and add to your sustainable efforts.

Lower Current Flow – With a higher power factor, the current flow in the electrical system is reduced for the same amount of real power. Lower current flow reduces losses in transmission and distribution lines, improving overall system efficiency.

Reduced Heat Generation – Lower current flow also reduces the heat generated in cables and transformers, which reduces the risk of overheating and extends the lifespan of equipment.

Stable Voltage Levels & Reduced Drops – Power factor correction helps maintain stable voltage levels in the system, which is crucial for the reliable operation of electrical equipment. Furthermore, it reduces voltage drops along transmission lines and ensures that all parts of the system receive adequate voltage.

Reduced Carbon Footprint – As this improves your overall energy efficiency by reducing waste power, it ultimately contributes to a lower carbon footprint. Reducing the required energy generation to meet the same demand, reduces greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.