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The "Watts Now ESD™ (energy saving device)" claims to SAVE up to 25% on your electric bills! Low Priced and designed for a quick simple installation! It states - tired of paying high electric bills? Cut your electrical expenses without changing the way you live! But this is not the full story, in fact you can not save electricity unless you do change something!
It claims to capture the current that is used to create electromagnetic fields in motors and sends it back to the motors in your home or office, reducing the amount of electricity the motors have to draw from the utility company.
Looking at the picture of the device, and at the web site it appears that the company is a reseller, writing a new twist on power factor correction, which is as factually incorrect on power factor as any I have read. It may well be the same device being sold by Kill-a-Watt Saver which we covered recently.
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.
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.
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.
Mr Mulvaney 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". Noticing that his company is on a list of "imitation KVAR products" published by a KVAR distributor, I listened to his version of the story. I will be writing a separate posting on how it seems that the real pfc scams have developed. I did find all he said to be professional and reasonable.
There is clearly an issue here, and Mulvaney did acknowledge that their resellers were capable of "overzealous selling" - I suggest that all consumers be vigilant when investigating "var" or KVAR related savings in their home.
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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