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The "EcoPower4 by EcoTrust Energy" claims to conserve energy, protect against surges, spikes, and line noise through the use of "power conditioning". A cost-effective solution that is amazingly maintenance-free, and an environmentally responsible product that helps protect the earth.
It is important that we are clear on the distinction between a product that scams consumers by exaggerated claims of electricity saving through pfc and a product that scams consumers by claiming it does pfc when it does not. We are of the opinion that the pfc products listed above (we will cover product quality and performance separately) are a technology capable of performing pfc.
It is also important to understand that the issues we raise are only applicable to home owners. Commercial companies and industrial users do require power factor correction for the improved reliability of their electrical equipment, to save electricity, and to save on their electrical bill.
Based on the above information it could sound logical that a pfc technology would save money for a home owner. But this is NOT a correct conclusion at all. Improving a consumers power factor will mostly save a "negligible" amount of electricity. I have correct my earlier opinion of "NO saving" to "usually negligible" thanks to an informative discussion with the founder of V-Blox Mr David Mulvaney.
There is truth in the fact that our homes have devices which consume electricity at lower power factors. As an example we know that "CFL light bulbs" have a Power factor of between 55% and 70%, while incandescent light bulbs have a power factor of 100%. All electric motors, including fridges, air conditioners, fans and computers generate reactive power which will affect their power factor.
When the power factor is less than 100% it means that there is a phase shift between voltage and current. Consumer tariffs are based on Real Power, only the electricity actually consumed by a device. The consumer electrical tariffs include provision for the losses which this "out of phase" might cause the electricity supplier.
It is true that electricity suppliers need to manage their distribution networks, and that power factor IS one of the factors that impacts their distribution losses. It is also true that large industrial users are charged a penalty for a net power factor of less than 85%. But distribution losses will not typically be solved by consumers. They are aggregate issues that can only be solved by the utility companies "the smart grid" in partnership with industry and device manufacturers.
Power factor and power factor correction are indeed subjects that we should be aware of, but it is "near fraud" when excessively marketed to home owners as a way to save money on their electricity bill.
With regard to the claims on surges, spikes and noise we suggest you speak to your utility company about this. The needs will vary from state to state, depending on weather, lightening strikes, and other such factors. These electrical variables should be compared to the actual devices (computers etc) that you have powered by each electrical circuit.
We have an overview on "Power Factor" and the definitions for real power, apparent power and reactive power for those who would like to understand more of the technical details on this topic.
If you are uncertain as to the accuracy of open4energy's opinion we suggest you review this study by ScienceDaily - (Dec. 18, 2009) "If you've seen an Internet ad for capacitor-type power factor correction devices, you might be led to believe that using one can save you money on your residential electricity bill. However, a team including specialists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have recently explained why the devices actually provide no savings by discussing the underlying physics".
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