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The "Plug and Save" claims to conserve energy, protect against surges, spikes, and line noise through the use of "power factor correction". The product looks quite similar to the Power Mizer 1200 so I am curious where it is being manufactured.
It is important that we are clear on the distinction between a product that scams consumers by false claims of electricity saving and a product that scams consumers by being technically incapable of pfc. We are of the opinion that the plug and save is a scam because it claims to save money.
It is also important to understand that the issues we raise are mainly 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.
If you are a residential rate payer - PLEASE PAY ATTENTION - Your Utility does not charge you for reactive power (pf of less than 100%) and you will save NOTHING - not a penny - no farthings - not a nickel - zilch - I do so hope you believe us!
It is true that most homes have electric motors and other devices which generate reactive power and lower power factor. We know that CFL light bulbs have a Power factor of between 55% and 70%. All electric motors, including fridges, air conditioners, fans and computers generate reactive power which will affect a circuits power factor.
Power factor is a technical term - it relates to the alignment of Volts and Amps - see our post on reactive power for a more detailed technical discussion - in simple terms it has NOTHING to do with the power of your electricity - despite the usual meaning of the word power!
I know it sounds logical that power factor correction will save money for home owners. But this is NOT correct at all. Improving a consumers power factor will probably save nothing, and may well cost you money - they do use electricity to charge and discharge their capacitors - and to no purpose for residential users.
Mr Mulvaney, a manufacturer of commercial pf technology contacted me regarding his company and said "I want you to know we do not recommend power factor correction in homes and I will be the first to tell you that savings if any would be negligible".
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.
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