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Power factor is an important term in electrical engineering. Most of the electrical appliance design, power supply and costs incurred on power are mainly based on this term. As you move ahead in this post, you would gain a comprehensive understanding of what power factor is, why power factor comes into the picture, how to calculate power factor and methods for power factor correction. Besides, you will see how easily you can calculate power factor online too.
Power factor is the ratio of real power to the apparent power of an electrical circuit. It means when out of the total useful power given to a circuit how much power is to its fullest purpose. Thus, the power factor of a circuit is an indicator of the efficiency of electrical equipment connected to the circuit.
Now, let us understand what this true power, apparent power, etc. are and why there exists a gap between the power supplied to the power utilized in an electrical circuit.
We all know that an electrical circuit is a closed loop with a source of power and the loads or electrical equipment connected to it which utilize the power generated by the source. When talking in terms of power factor, the electrical circuit would be in a broader sense – from the power supply station to your home or office or industry. In this loop, much electrical equipment comes into the picture – fans, TVs, motors, AC, transformers, washing machines, inverters, air coolers, air humidifiers, refrigerators, iron boxes, water heaters and many more.
All this equipment contains resistance and inductance in varying proportions. For example, a fan may have lesser inductance part than a water heater or a motor. Thus depending on their inductance part, they draw more current. For now, please understand that electrical equipment that has higher inductance would draw more sudden current due to its magnetic nature.
Thus, when power is being supplied into your home or office, all this equipment draws current as per their basic electrical property of inductance and use this current for magnetizing, which does no other real work, and is a mere waste of electrical energy. This causes a variation in the power supplied and power actually utilized in a circuit. This ratio is termed as power factor.
At any instant, the power supplied to an AC circuit is a sum of two components:
While the real power P is measured in watts (W), reactive power Q is measured in reactive volt-amperes (var). The complex sum of these two is the complex power S, expressed in volt-amperes (VA). When we say ‘apparent power’, it means that we are mentioning the magnitude of this complex power S.
Power factor, which is the ratio of real power to the apparent power is cos θ = P or real power/S or apparent power.
Now that we understood that power factor less than one means wastage of electrical supply for utilities or power distribution companies, as well as a burden to consumers as more than required power is drawn by their equipment for which they have to shell out more electrical charges to the power supplier.
Hence, power factor correction is highly needed. There are certain techniques through which companies and customers improve their power factor. Irrespective of the size and type of the method adopted for power factor improvement, the principle underlying it is the same.
The main reason for the power factor is the inherent inductance of electrical equipment. Hence the remedy is to add capacitance in the circuit for which power factor improvement is needed. Such capacitors that are devised to improve the power factor of a circuit are called power factor correction capacitors. These capacitors nullify to their best the effect of inductances of the load causing poor power factor to the circuit.
Power factor correction has many more benefits too:
Power factor calculation involves many complex calculations. Besides, when studying three-phase loads, the number of formulae and calculations get more than doubled. Power factor correction needs the calculation of capacitance value of power factor correcting capacitors, which is also a time consuming and numerically loaded task.
If you are looking for an all in one solution that calculates the power factor, apparent power, reactive power, and the value of correction capacitor at a go, CalculatorHut’s Power Factor calculator fits the purpose just right! All that you need to do is enter the value of real power, current, and voltage for either a single phase circuit or a three-phase circuit, and then click ‘Calculate’. All the values related to power factor and its correction are displayed to you in no time.
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