What is Power Factor Correction?

Posted by Jimmy Hovey on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:10 PM

Confused About Power Factor?


A Look At How It Impacts Your Energy Cost

Power Factor Definition You Can Understand?

Power Factor Correction (or PFC) is one of those concepts that many struggle to understand. Too often, it's defined using technical jargon that isn't particularly helpful. I don't know about you, but when the words "vector" and "cosine" are used too often in the literature, I start to tune out.

Unlock the Mystery of Power Factor Correction

In reality, however, power factor correction isn't as complicated as it seems. While the electrical engineers among you may not be satisfied with the following explanation, those of you with other interests may find it unlocks some of the mystery surrounding the whole idea.  

Perfect Power Factor Equals 1.0

Everything that uses electricity to run has a "power factor" that ranges from 0.0 to 1.0.  A device's power factor is the numeric expression of the relationship between "real power" (the energy that performs the work) and "apparent power" (what you see the device doing).

While some devices are able to consistently balance real vs. apparent power (a perfect 1.0 power factor), others - because they are large, complicated or cyclical in nature - draw more electricity than is actually needed to perform their given task.

This extra energy is called "reactive power" and it impacts a device's power factor ratio, i.e. a lower power factor indicates higher reactive power.  Unfortunately, it also forces utility companies to build larger electrical infrastructures to support greater energy use.

Commercial and Industrial Users Pay for Reactive Power

While residential customers aren't charged for their reactive power usage, industrial and commercial customers are.  Utility companies charge a premium for low power factor systems and applications, and businesses are forced to absorb exorbitant energy costs.

How Power Factor Correction Works

Here's where the concept of power factor correction comes in. By installing a properly sized capacitor to run in parallel with electrical systems, companies are able to balance the load that they draw from the electrical grid.  Incoming power from the electrical distribution system is split between the capacitor and the low power factor devices on site.  

The capacitor is able to "correct" the devices' power factor by working alongside them and reducing the amount of reactive power that is required.

Consistent Electrical Draw = Lower Strain On Electrical Grid

Because the electrical draw is more consistent, the strain on the electrical grid is reduced. This means that the utility company doesn't have to ramp up its services to provide extra reactive power, and in the end, charges businesses a lower rate for electrical power.  And lower utility rates equals cost savings for business owners. PFC is money in your pocket - simple as that.

How Can You Correct Power Factor?

Even though I provided a more non-technical explanation, finding opportunities to reduce energy expense through power factor correction requires a technical anlaysis of your facility.  We analyze your facility with a trained, Journeyman electrician who understands the electrical infrastructure in your facility. 

Hovey Electric has been working with and installing capacitors for decades in industrial environments.  Let us do a FREE Analysis of your facility.  Our Energy Needs Safety Analysis focuses on your entire electrical system looking for energy efficient opportunities, potential safety reviews and complete analysis of your power factor in your facility. 

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Topics: power factor correction, reactive power, power management