Scam Opinion by Open4Energy
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The "PowerworX e3 Whole Home Energy management System" claims costs saving of 5% - 15% depending on your inductive load by optimizing your homes power factor and reducing the amount of energy your homes motor loads use, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, pool pumps, vacuum cleaners, furnace blower motors, fans etc. PowerworX e3 further claims to reduce surges, spikes and electrical noise!
This review is limited to our opinion on consumer power factor correction. We urge consumers to be diligent in understanding their needs for surge protection. The PowerworX e3 is sold through a network of resellers, who in many cases have limited expertise in power factor correction, and in some do not understand the issues at all. The claims made are often by well meaning people who do not know better, and all the more concerning because of the sincerity attached to them. Sincere does not save energy!
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. Note that the issues we raise are only applicable to home owners. Commercial companies and industrial users can use power factor correction for the improved reliability of their electrical equipment & to save electricity.
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".
Mr Steve Fish, CEO of KVAR Energy Savings Inc. also contacted me. He said "we are a professional organization and will take back any KVAR product that fails to reduce the electricity bill by less than our guarantee of 6%". According to KVAR, they capture and store the reactive power (var's) generated by an electric motors while it runs. We agreed to run tests with KVAR to quantify any reduction in electricity, but they have declined to follow up on the offer.
I suggest that all consumers be vigilant when investigating "var" or KVAR related electricity savings in their home. Call your Utility and ask their opinion - they really will work with you!
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.
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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