Power factor is probably not a common phrase a person will hear throughout their life. But surprisingly it can be an interesting subject to learn and understand. Plus, knowing what power factor is and how it affects many different things can help you later in life, especially when a time comes when generators and load banks may be required for a home or business that you are involved in. You never know, it could also help reduce your future electricity bills.
So, lets cover the basics of what the phrase power factor means. Well, this is a term that applies to the supply and delivery of electric power. Although more complex, this is a simple way of describing it.
When going into more detail, its important to note that there are two key components that are involved. These are working power and reactive power.
Working power is the actual current that is consumed. And is expressed in kilowatts (kW). Reactive power is required to sustain the electromagnetic field. Unlike working power, reactive power does not show up on any meters. And is measured in kilovolt-amperes (kVA). The power factor is the kW divided by kVA, which will always be between the number zero and one.
Industries that require the use of generators or transformers, will use generators that are rated in kVA. KVA is the total required capacity that includes working and reactive power, known as apparent power.
So, why is it important to learn or even be able to understand power factor?, well power factor is ultimately responsible for total energy costs. Therefore if you are able to improve the power factor then this will improve overall efficiency and therefore result in increased savings. Other benefits of improving the power factor can be anything from reducing energy and distribution costs to increased availability of capacity to serve working power requirements.
Although its simple to explain the benefits of improving power factor, lets look into the reasons of where a poor power factor can occur. And the steps required in order make improvements.
The main reason for a low power factor is usually down to inductive loads. Because the power factor is defined by the ratio of kW to kVA, low power factor is present when kW is small in relation to kVA.
Inductive loads can range from induction motors, induction generators and transformers. It is these loads that are common within industrial buildings and plants.
There is also a way to increase the power factor, by using other components, similar to those that lower it. Such as capacitors and synchronous generators. These are consumers of reactive power and therefore increase the power factor.
So, although at the very basic level, here are ways that can be used to help improve your power factor:
- Consider installing capacitors
- Carry out regular maintenance, that involves regular replacement of broken or in-efficient motors.
- Avoid or reduce the idling time and the use of long-term light loaded motors.
So if you are looking to save on household bills, or considering a generator rental, then its vital that all the bases are covered and no stone unturned. Carrying out research and understanding what is required may help reduce the likeliness of any power failures or under working generators.