What is Power Factor and how does it affect you?

Published on Feb 3, 2024

If you have closely examined your electricity bills, you might have observed the term ‘PF’, which means Power Factor.

But what does the term Power Factor mean?

It is a parameter that lets you know how efficiently you use electricity. It is a value between 0 and 1, with a lower value meaning inability to use power efficiently.

In the above picture, it is 0.87, meaning it is using power at 87% efficiency.

How is the power factor calculated?

Power factor (PF) is the ratio of working power, measured in kilowatts (kW), to apparent power, measured in kilovolt amperes (kVA).

Working power is the power that is being converted by the given machine into useful work.

Apparent power, also known as demand, is the machine's total power. It is calculated by kVA = Voltage x Amperes. The result is expressed as kVA units.

The ratio effectively tells you how much % of power is being converted into useful work.

What can be some of the issues leading to low power factor?

There are plenty of reasons some of which are mentioned below:

The AC electric motors consist of inductive winding (coil form of wiring). This usually leads to a low power factor value.

Also if the load on the system varies from time to time, the supply voltage is increased during low loads which leads to magnetizing current and, thus low power factor again.

Harmonics are non-linear distortions of the electrical waveform that can occur in systems with electronic loads, such as computers and other electronic equipment. These distortions can cause an increase in reactive power and reduce the power factor.

Undersized wiring (especially in motor windings) can cause voltage drops and increase the reactive power in the system, which can lower the power factor.
(Reactive power is nothing but the electrical power that flows back and forth between the phase and neutral conductors of a three-phase power supply network but is not capable of performing mechanical work).

Long distribution lines can cause voltage drops and increase the reactive power in the system, which can lower the power factor.

Unbalanced loads can cause uneven distribution of power, which can increase the reactive power component and lower the power factor.

How to fix the power factor?

The most common method to improve power factor is by adding power factor correction capacitors to your power supply system.

However, it is highly important to identify underperforming equipment in terms of power factor. The underperforming could be because of any reason that was mentioned above, but in any scenario, you’re spending more energy than required and thereby paying excess electricity bills than you should be. Hence it is important to identify such underperforming equipment but how do you do it? This is where Soul helps.

Snapshot from the Soul dashboard

The above picture is a section on the Soul dashboard that shows the live power factor values. Using this minute-to-minute tracking, you can easily identify the equipment that is operating on lower power factor values and take the necessary action.

Written by Zodhya

About Zodhya

We are Zodhya, a start-up that provides AI-based tech to reduce energy bills and lower emissions for commercial buildings and industries.