What Is Power Factor Correction?

Power factor correction is an easy way for consumers and business owners to optimize their electricity usage and significantly reduce their electricity bills.  Yet this method of energy conservation is often overlooked because few people understand how it works.

An Overview of Power Factor Correction

Power factor is the ratio of real power to apparent power used by a circuit.  When someone plugs an appliance into an electrical supply, the power factor varies based on the amount of electricity that the appliance requires.  That fluctuation causes instability in a home’s power grid and leads to wasted electricity.

To reduce this waste and regulate the power factor, a power factor correction capacitor (PFCC) can be installed. The capacitor enables the electrical system to run more efficiently, so that less electrical input is necessary to power the home or business.

The device attaches to the main service entrance, the electrical panel, the equipment itself or all three, depending on the desired level of regulation.

Proper Installation of PFCC’s

If the main reason for correcting the power factor is to lower electric bills, the PFCC can be placed at the main service entrance.  This “fixed bank” approach improves the power factor and reduces electric bills.  But this method can also shorten the lifespan of the PFCC, particularly if the power usage varies daily.

A better plan for homes and businesses where power needs fluctuate frequently is to place PFCC’s directly on the equipment itself, or to install an AutoTune system at the main service entrance or breaker box.  It is important to have a qualified professional assess individual building needs and build a corresponding strategy for power factor correction.

Advantages of Power Factor Correction

Because power factor correction streamlines the function of the electrical system, it has multiple financial advantages for consumers and business owners:

  • Reduced electrical usage, which lowers electric bills
  • Elimination of power factor penalties on power bills
  • Longer life for electrical appliances, reducing replacement costs
  • Potential eligibility for green building tax credits and other government incentives

It is important to note that PFCC’s are not surge protection.  To maximize the benefits of power factor correction, it is best to pair PFCC’s with a comprehensive surge protection system, such as a Transient Voltage Surge Suppression (TVSS) unit.

Consumers can use power factor correction to supplement their other energy conservation efforts.  The result will be added savings on electrical bills and longer life for electrical equipment.