Common myths relating to the benefits of power factor correction

Not all the claimed benefits of Power Factor Correction are true. Alpha Power Solutions provides factual information on these technology-related myths.

Certain companies which offer PFC solutions often make claims on the benefits of this technology, which are often fake and entirely not true. Let us look at two claims that have been identified as beneficial but are not the case.

Power factor correction explained

Power factor correction (PFC) is the process of improving a low power factor present on a power system by installing power factor correction (PFC) equipment and increasing the ratio of active power to apparent power.

What are the main benefits of PFC?

The main benefit of a well-designed power factor correction system is a reduction in reactive and apparent power drawn by an industrial or commercial entity from the grid and this results in a reduction in electricity costs incurred by these entities.

False Claims

What false claims have been identified relating to the benefits of PFC intervention?

  1. The first false claim is that power factor correction equipment significantly reduces the fuel consumption of stand-alone diesel generators in installations with a poor power factor.

While it is true that a PFC intervention will reduce the amount of reactive power (also called imaginary power) circulating through a Genset alternator, this will not result in a significant reduction in fuel (diesel) consumption. 

In a perfect world, where there are no transmission losses in the alternator nor the electrical distribution system.

No fuel is burnt to generate the reactive power drawn by an electrical installation. The electrical consumption’s reactive power component is a circulating, “imaginary” current: it simply circulates between the generator alternator and the induction loads installed on site.

But our world isn’t ideal and whenever current flows through an electrical conductor, “heat” or “watt” losses are incurred.  In most installations with relatively small distribution networks (fairly short cable lengths and correctly sized conductors), these losses represent not more than a fraction of a percentage of the total kWh consumed by the installation.

Therefore, a well-designed PFC system will only result in a reduction in fuel consumption of no more than 1%, at most!

  1. The second false claim is that a power factor correction intervention significantly reduces electrical installations’ carbon footprint, whether connected to the grid or fed from a stand-alone Genset.

reduction in carbon footprint is only achieved when there is a reduction in kWh consumed by a plant for a specific production level.  Since power factor correction equipment only reduces some of the transmission or heat losses, which are expressed in kWh (and in most instances only in the supply transformer or alternator), reductions in carbon footprint are minimal.

Why choose Alpha Power Solutions

As a corporate member of the Southern African Association for Energy Efficiency  Confederation  (SAEEC), an associate member of the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa (ECASA) and with a Tier 1 Energy Services Company (ESCo) recognition level with the South African National Energy Development Institute  (SANEDI), we are in the best position to give you and your business the energy efficiency knowledge and savings you need. Contact us for any other questions you may have and which we haven’t covered here.

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