Reducing electric bill by increasing power factor?

garygFebruary 20, 2008

Attached is the website that offers a product that claims to reduce electricity consumption by increasing the power factor closer to unity. I am not too electrically oriented.

Any comments?

Smoke and mirrors?

http://www.watts4less.com/faqs.html

Thanx.

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fsq4cw

IÂm skeptical, sounds like snake oil to me. I donÂt feel that they have proved their case.

Caveat Emptor!

IMO

SR

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 9:50AM
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garyg

There was a poster on this forum, I think it was "Brickeye" who was knowledgeable on this subject. Every time I would post questions/answers concerning the cost to run a heat pump, he would always respond with "power factor" in the answer, but wouldn't expand on it. Maybe he can chime in.

Take care.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 9:59AM
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davidandkasie

i have seen several threads on this and other products inthe electrical forum. general consensus is that it DOES work in commercial setups where you have a lot of large motor loads, but will save MAYBE a couple cents in a residential setup. usually not enough to even pay for the deivce nor the install of it. basically it is a large capacitor to smooth out the load, and unless you put one on every device it can never work properly.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 10:41AM
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zl700

These units were sold point-of-use, residentially for years (green item). I dont remember the name of them but it could be plugged into wall with appliance (fridge, washer) into it. Never really took off and I dont recall seeing in home stores or at fairs anymore.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 11:09AM
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garyg

I found this sentence in the 1st paragraph of "KVAR Theory": "The flow of vars, or reactive power, through a watt-hour meter will not effect the meter reading......".

That's all I needed to read. It doesn't do squat for residential homeowners. If it did, we'd all have one.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 11:51AM
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ky114

You can improve power factor with plug-in devices, but it won't help a residential power user a bit. You have a wattmeter on your house - you are already paying the "net" price because you're paying for watts, which is the amount of power used after you deduct for power factor. It is possible that the device described could improve power factor, but it would benefit the power company, not you.

Large commercial users can benefit themselves by improving power factor because they pay things like demand charges that are based on volt-amps.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 11:53AM
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joeplumb

Pure unadulterated garbage. They ought to be arrested for so grossly misrepresenting the facts. The true facts are:
1 You do NOT pay for Volt*AMPS as they imply. You only pay for the actual power you consume, VOLTS*AMPS * POWER FACTOR. The socalled "reactive power" is of no consequence to you. And, by the wqy it is NOT power.
2 Only the power company benefits from this type of device ( a bunch of phase changing capacitors)since it reduces the current over their transmission lines, thus reducing THEIR losses, not yours. You do NOT benefit one iota from this.
2a You pay for the product of Volsxcurrentxpower factor, so you really don't care what the power factor is. For example, let us suppose the PF (power factor) is 0.7 and you use a motor for 5 hours with a current of 10 amperes and a voltage of 120 Volts and you are paying 20 cents per Killowatt hour. Then your cost is
$.20*120*10*0.7*5 hrs/1000=$0.84
Where does this equation tell you that you are paying for the power factor? Thats right, it doesn't.
3 Since the power company benefits from this, let THEM pay for it.
4 Finally, if this device were worth ANYTHING, I would think that they would have documented some cases to bolster their outlandish claims or had the support of an independent testing agency.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 8:27PM
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watts4less

This tread seems to be fairly negative with regards to my company, Watts4Less Electric LLC so I feel it's only right to defend our product...The KVAR Energy Controller. I hold a BS Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado Class of '94 and would gladly talk to anyone regarding the benefits of power factor optimization. Feel free to call me at 904-451-3300. Michael Gonzales

Here is a link that might be useful: Watts4Less

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:02AM
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thull

This is funny- DW is taking a test to become a certified energy manager today, so she's been doing a crash course on some of these EE concepts that us CEs don't get in school. So, I picked up a little by osmosis.

My impression is right in line with the other responses- this device is useless for residential applications that don't include power factor as part of the rate structure.

Let's see Mr. Gonzales refute that.

I thought the Wiki was a good read.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wiki entry on power factor correction

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 11:41AM
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hendricus

"I hold a BS Degree"

My wife has a BS degree and she told me that the words stand for the end product of a large animal.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 11:45AM
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watts4less

Nice post Hendricus... I feel the same way unless you put your degree to use! Thull, read the Department of Energy and also the Washington State University studies at http://www.watts4less.com/kvar_theory.html I have a 3000 sqft home and was spending on average about $325.00 on my electric bill each month here in Florida prior to installing a KVAR Unit. My savings have been approximately 15%. The Wiki article is nice if what we were doing is Power Factor Correction but what we do is Power Factor Optimization. Gregory Taylor, who is the inventor of the KVAR Energy Controller, determined through trial and error that there are 93 different combinations for power factor optimization (single - three phase) for inductive motors. I was a skeptic too until I did my research and decided to install one in my home. Call me and I'll be glad to clarify any questions you may have. -Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: Watts4Less

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 12:15PM
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bryan.spurlock

As a somewhat dis-interrested third party, I would be willing to install a KVAR Unit in my home for 6 months and post the results in this forum. At that time, i will either purchase the item because it works so well i cant live without it, or i will send it back because i saw no benefit at all.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:32AM
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engineeredgarden

I can comment on this subject,since I have been an industrial electrician for 20 years.Poor power factor is created by inductance,and a purely resistive circuit will always be at 100% power factor.The only way to improve power factor on an electrical system is by installing capacitor banks,or by having synchronous motors attached to it.Most plants have to maintain a certain level,or they pay fines.I have been dealing with engineers my whole life,and frequently ask them one question.I tell them "if you're so smart,how about answering a question for me?You can take a horse and a cow -and put them in the same pasture,eating the same grass-and when the horse has a bowel movement,it is in the form of hard,round looking stuff.Then,when the cow does the same,it just splatters all over the ground.Tell me why this is? Most of them say that they don't know the answer,and I always tell them "that just goes to show that you don't know crap.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 12:16PM
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garyg

"As a somewhat dis-interrested third party, I would be willing to install a KVAR Unit in my home for 6 months and post the results in this forum. At that time, i will either purchase the item because it works so well i cant live without it, or i will send it back because i saw no benefit at all."

- How much $$ will you waste to have an electrician wire it into your electrical service, then remove it from the service box?

Engineeredgarden: As a mechanical engineer, my answer to your question would be "Because that's how sh%t happens".
Take care.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 12:50PM
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vacman_20008

In an effort to help explain how a kvar energy savings unit with power factor optimization works Rob and I did a series of videos which we made available on YOU TUBE. Look up "kvar energy savings unit power factor optimization" and you will see how we prove how benficial these products can be. Kvar units on "industrial applications" provide the biggest bang for the buck because of the big motors with a long run time. However kvar units will work on any electric motor, so depending on how many motors you have in your home or business determines how much money you can save, and how energy you can eliminate from being wasted. If the videos don't answer your questions fell free to ask. Rich the vacman.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 8:29AM
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zl700

Oh perfect, Vacman pulled this topic back from the electric forum.

This is a great country, one day your selling vacuum cleaners, the next a pulitzer prize candidate for selling energy savings.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 9:02AM
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bus_driver

This site says there is no savings from such devices.

Here is a link that might be useful: US Department of Energy- Energy Star

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 11:57AM
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vacman_20008

bus driver, how are you? When the other tread ended I was worried I would never hear from you again. I really appreciated some of your insights. Are you familiar with harmonics. Can you point me in the right direction. Thanks Rich

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 10:50PM
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vacman_20008

Is anyone planning on attending the World Energy Engineering Expo in Washington on October 1st. Kvar energy savings is planning on keeping a running forum during the entire event. Ask the experts. Speak with the inventor, meet the CEO. The engineers will be available to answer the most difficult questions. Get ready and do your homework. Have your questions ready because now it's time to _hit, or get off the pot! If ya got 'em smoke 'em....(spaceballs) Have fun, Rich.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 11:33PM
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garymunson-2008

This thread needs to stop. 'Power Factor Correctors' are USELESS in a residential situation. People either unknowledgeable in electric theory (or scammers) take the proven success in industrial situations and use that to part the unsuspecting with their money. Why these work in an industrial setting has to do with the way electric motors function. Take for example a sawmill with a big saw that runs constantly all day. When not cutting wood, the motor is 'idling'. At that moment, a power/phase corrector WILL cut power consumption (as long as you have an industrial power meter that measures and charges you in KVARs). The thieves use this property at home shows with the bare electric motor running on display showing it's current dropping when their device switches into the circuit. The problem in a residential setting is that no motor runs like that. An electrical engineer's job is to be sure motors run at full rated load all the time. At home, no motors run unloaded like in the deceptive display (if that little motor had a load on it, the device would show NO saving). Here's a great more detailed explanation of this scam. http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/powerfactor.html

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 5:56AM
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brickeyee

I was wondering were this Bovine Scatology would show up next.

Unless you are billed by power factor there is NO affect on power used by trying to adjust it.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 11:54AM
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garyg

Nice to see one of my old threads revived.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 7:50PM
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vacman_20008

Brickeyee are you going to the World Energy Rngineering Expo in Washington next week?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:37PM
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miken_2008

An 8 month thread, much ado

Here is a link that might be useful: Air Conditioning and Heating Repair Made Easy

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 11:19PM
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nsboyd1210

I was recently contacted by a friend of mine who owns a restaurant. He had attended a home-show and met a fellow who said he could save him money on his electric bill through power factor correction. He wanted to know if it was legitimate. I contacted the fellow and ironically he lived only a few blocks from me. He agreed to meet me at my house to prove the claim. I isolated everything in my breaker box except my pool pump which was running. We timed the disk in my billing meter for 4 revolutions and was 1 min and 12 sec. He checked the power factor which was found to be .65. He hooked up his power factor correction (capacitor) test box and corrected the power factor to .99. The disk was timed again, and again the duration was found to be 1 min and 12 sec. He was very surprised. I felt sorry for the guy because he had invested quite a bit in his little business only to find it does not work.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:46PM
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davidro1

Thank you. Good test. Good example of a motor.

Summary:

Large motors, when running, mean your current and your voltage are not in perfect synch so the net power you receive is less than the ideal achievable power. But residential users of electricity don't have enough of this to warrant being charged for Volts multiplied by Amps, they just get charged for net Watts.
-- Large users of electricity with motors know about power factor and know how to correct it. And the utility company knows how to charge for the loss too.
--- It is true that power factor is a real thing, but it's not a concern in domestic settings.

HTH
-david

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 1:02AM
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speedymonk

I've been using a licensed KVAR unit since May of 2008. I did a series of tests (same time of day with same equipment running two days in a row-- KVAR on one hour, read the meter. KVAR off one hour and read the meter. The next day I reversed the order. KVAR off one hour, read meter. KVAR on one hour and read the meter. Hot water tank on standby, refrig not running. Only really tested with the heat pump because it had a large motor.

Same results both times. The heat pump used 10% less electricity with the KVAR engaged than with it off. My electric bills have been consistently 9-11 percent lower as a result.

For more info on the tests, go to Tree Hugger forums, Power Correction factor thread. It's all there. Lots of theory why it won't work and can't work, but nobody can answer why it obviously does work based on results I supplied.

The unit does work in home applications. However,unless you have equipment with inductive motors such as heat pumps, AC units, freezers, hot tubs, etc. I would not recommend it. If you have those things-- even new modesl such as I have-- it will save you money. Every little bit helps.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 4:31PM
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ordory

Please visit this page: http://www.boondee.net they have a device to reverse a watthourmeter the model is: B4-88 also in the WEB you could find other device called: Tron Box, this looks like a Capacitor Bank, or KVAR or PFC or PFO or KEC. Question for the Engineers, Realy work a device to reverse a wathourmeter, is the same efect if i use a large KVAR unit in a low voltage circuit (Single Phase 220VAC 30 KVAR unit in Single Phase 110VAC circuit)all this think is for residential users only. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:56PM
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brickeyee

"Lots of theory why it won't work and can't work, but nobody can answer why it obviously does work based on results I supplied."

Since you have no idea if the power consumed on the separate days was the same your results are meaningless.

Resistance heat (like a water heater) already has a power factor of 1. it cannot be improved.
Electric motors have worse power factors, but residential service is NOT BILLED by power factor.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 4:46PM
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speedymonk

"Since you have no idea if the power consumed on the separate days was the same your results are meaningless.

Resistance heat (like a water heater) already has a power factor of 1. it cannot be improved.
Electric motors have worse power factors, but residential service is NOT BILLED by power factor."

Like I said, check the site where I posted the results. I also used a Black & Decker whole house meter that reads exactly what you are using at any given time. Same results.

I don't care whether a house is billed by power factor or not. What I do know is that I use less power when the unit is engaged vs. when it isn't. My bill reflects that. I need no other proof than that, despite the fact I've done the tests.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 9:50PM
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speedymonk

Brickeyee, I do know how much power I consumed on the days the testing occurred. I am one of those anal folk who keep a daily log (generally at 6:30 a.m. give or take 15 minutes) of power consumption.

The first day of testing was Saturday October 11. 24 hours later the meter showed I consumed 46 KWH of power.

The second day of testing was Sunday October 12. 24 hours later the meter showed I once again consumed 46 KWH of power. Similar temps. My results, therefore, are not meaningless. The unit works. That was the second tme I had done the test as recorded on the Tree Hugger forums, but only the first time I had published them. The first time I simply took the readings. The second time (published) I was carefult to record everything that was on/off, temps, times, etc. Short of taking the house into a laboratory, it doesn't get any better for real world testing.

For those who utilize inductive motors such as found on heat pumps, hot tubs, freezers, refrigerators (no, they don't have to be old, either), this unit works well. If you don't have these types of units, don't buy one. You won't really get the benefit.

The results are what they are. Sorry if you are one of those people who refuse to accept results that may run counter to your theory.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:48PM
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garymunson-2008

The reason control of power factor works in industrial settings is that in those cases, large induction devices have greatly varying loads. An example: woodworking shop with large saw running 24/7...only loaded when sawing wood. A power factor control device will save the business money when the saw is not under load. This is the reason the home show demonstrations show the current draw dropping when the device is switched into the circuit with the bare motor running (with no load). In a residential situation, there are NO induction devices running load free (except the odd wall wart not busy charging it's cell phone) so the device is USELESS. VERY EASY to see with the most basic of test equipment (amprobe). Just check the A/C current draw with and with the device attached....NO DIFFERENCE! Snake oil....

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 5:37AM
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bus_driver

This previous thread covers the subject numerous times. But spend your money however you choose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous thread

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:35AM
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davidro1

thank you, guys.

It's a known quantity to Electrical Engineers (all the millions of them worldwide).

Power factor correction is not new, not unknown, not hard to handle. Only necessary under the conditions garymunson-2008 described above.

i can't believe promoters are still hounding us with their "beliefs" and their cute use of instruments. This belongs in a magic show. Or an elementary school science demo, of how instruments can lead one to build a mental model that is incorrect.

If any device saved current, its savings could power another small motor to prove it is saving power that can be reused. That is what busdriver said in his last post in the thread linked to above.

Everything I have written is fair to promoters of p-f devices.

-david

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 9:24AM
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speedymonk

I'm sure glad you fellows pointed out the thing is snake oil. I don't know what I could have been thinking when examining my monthly utility bills and seeing a lower KWH useage. I must have reversed my test results, too, and incorrectly read my B&D whole house meter results when the KVAR was switched on and off.

Thank you. I'll have to figure out some other reason why I am experiencing my 10% average savings. That'll be my new project.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:41AM
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garymunson-2008

Speedymonk...since you mentioned assiduously logging your energy consumption, you may want to check out http://www.welserver.com/ for an interesting device to do the work for you. It's multiple channel operation can provide the cross-indexing with weather conditions to accurately determine any savings strategy. Power factor correction 'theory' is well established enough to be considered fact. It does work but WILL NOT provide savings in a residential setting. Like the 'Burn Water - Brown's Gas' situation, once you get attuned to what's going on with your energy consumption, you end up saving energy automatically by your actions, not by some device plugged in a wall. Another good site to visit that will help you cut your electric bill is http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 4:43AM
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garymunson-2008

Several posts back, Nsboyd had a very good example of proper test procedure. His pool pump test is very telling as you have a motor that will have a consistent load under test. The resistance against the pump by the water is pretty much fixed. If he had done the test running the pump dry (of course this would also ruin the pump seal) he probably would have seen a difference on meter speed rotation since in the unloaded state, the PFC device would have lowered the current draw (but I doubt it would approach 10%). Again I state motors in residential conditions NEVER operate like this. Testing with a heat pump is not as controlled as the current draw can vary between tests with the inside/outside temps constantly varying. Using a recording ammeter will show varying compressor current draw on A/C units which makes for poor test conditions.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 5:17AM
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andrelaplume2

I find this all very interesting. Could he not shut every breaker EXCEPT the one for the heat pump then throw the temp up to some u n reachable temp like 90 degrees, measure for 5 minutes then do the same with the device and see if there is a difference?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 7:51AM
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brickeyee

"...the PFC device would have lowered the current draw"

For only the hundredth time, current is NOT POWER.
Power is the product of in phase current and voltage.
The 'in phase' is what power factor accounts for.

It is possible to lower the voltage to unloaded motors and actually save power.
By lowering the voltage to just above the point were the current starts to climb you can save some power.
It is used on large equipment, and in industrial settings the electric rate IS based on power factor so improving it nets a lower rate from the POCO.
The lower rate is for the power used, just like residential.
The better power factor allows for lower line losses, lower transformer losses, and use of smaller transformers.
The transformer must be sized for the V-A of the load even though a poor power factor results in the kW-hr delivered (dissipated) being smaller than the V-A required.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 12:49PM
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davidro1

i think garymunson knows this and was writing fast and using shortcuts;; in any case it would not ALL go into out-of-phasing Power loss.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:12PM
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