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The Power Cube The "Power Qube" by Power Cube LLC claims to conserve energy, protect against surges, spikes, and save money on the electricity bill through power factor correction.

I spoke with the founder Steve this morning to discuss his unit, in particular why it was different from the many power factor correction scams we cover. The conversation concentrated on three aspects of product. One: Manufacture standards and UL certification (I noticed the wording on the web site said "related standards) I wanted to know exactly what this meant. Two: The technical capabilities of the unit, in particular could it correct power factor correction when plugged in to a residential 30A circuit. Three: Assuming that the unit will adjust power factor, would this result in a reduced electrical bill to YOU.

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. I would like to be clear here - this unit has been tested (test data to be supplied) and IS capable of correcting power factor.

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 might sound logical that corrected power factor WILL 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, and according to PG&E in California, “the internal energy losses in the power factor correction capacitor(s) and wiring may offset or exceed any external energy savings in the home or business.” Charles Middelton, PG&E Engineer.

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.  It all boils down to how YOUR utility is billing YOU for your electricity, in particular does your meter slow down when power factor is corrected, or does it not? The utilities claim that their charges to you are not affected by power factor. But, PG&E have new electronic smart meters, and it is possible that your meter (despite what your Utility states) will show less electricity used!

I did ask Steve if he would send me a unit to test in California. He replied "I could buy a unit if I wanted to test it .. I am satisfied that our testing demonstrates that it works" Hmm, I am not convinced, why would you not jump at the offer to have the #1 site on net, offering to do FREE testing, and to publish the results.

I also asked explicity what was meant by "Design related Standards" - in particular I asked "is the unit UL certified." The answer (after Steve explained that it was not required) was NO. With regard to this section on the site, I admire Steve for saying up front that the unit is made in China.  But the section about "design related standards" followed by US certification codes is the type of associative web misinformation that we expose! Why not write the facts - "we have designed the unit to meet the regular US standards, but have been advised we do not need to have our manufacturing standards externally certified." The whole point of the standards, is to demonstrate that something has been tested as compliant, and particularly so for electrical goods manufactured in China!

Our homes do generate reactive power. We all have electric motors (some more than others) and most of us have CFL light bulbs. 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.

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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