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What is power factor?

In electrical engineering, the power factor of an AC electrical power system is defined as the ratio of the real power flowing to the load to the apparent power in the circuit, and is a dimensionless number in the closed interval of −1 to 1. A power factor of less than one means that the voltage and current waveforms are not in phase, reducing the instantaneous product of the two waveforms (V × I). Real power is the capacity of the circuit for performing work in a particular time. Apparent power is the product of the current and voltage of the circuit. Due to energy stored in the load and returned to the source, or due to a non-linear load that distorts the wave shape of the current drawn from the source, the apparent power will be greater than the real power. A negative power factor occurs when the device (which is normally the load) generates power, which then flows back towards the source, which is normally considered the generator.

In an electric power system, a load with a low power factor draws more current than a load with a high power factor for the same amount of useful power transferred. The higher currents increase the energy lost in the distribution system, and require larger wires and other equipment. Because of the costs of larger equipment and wasted energy, electrical utilities will usually charge a higher cost to industrial or commercial customers where there is a low power factor.

Linear loads with low power factor (such as induction motors) can be corrected with a passive network of capacitors or inductors. Non-linear loads, such as rectifiers, distort the current drawn from the system. In such cases, active or passive power factor correction may be used to counteract the distortion and raise the power factor. The devices for correction of the power factor may be at a central substation, spread out over a distribution system, or built into power-consuming equipment.

Neutron Energy offers solutions that enable commercial and industrial energy customers, metered in KVA and kvarh (normally stated as Maximum demand and reactive power charge), to reduce their reactive energy consumption and costs by as much as 25%.

We are also the only company in South Africa that can offer Power Factor Correction Services on a Rental basis, incorporating our fully comprehensive maintenance contract (an industry first).

A feature many corporates has found invaluable for annual budgeting, CAPEX and peace of mind in respect of maintenance purposes.

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