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Australian Electricity retailers are changing the way you are getting billed. In the past, you were being billed by the kW (kilowatt), meaning ‘real-power’ or only the power that was being used.

However, some Australian Energy retailers have begun to charge per rolling maximum kVA.
This means that you will be also paying for power that you are not using!
The famous beer analogy below will aim to explain what power factor is.

  • Active Power (kW) – is the actual liquid, the yummy gold liquid that many of us like to drink.
  • Reactive Power (kVAr) – the white frothy stuff that we do not like to drink and it is only a waste of space in our glass.
  • Apparent Power (kVA) – which is the total space occupied by the beer and the foam in the glass.

So while in the past you were only paying for the power you used (the beer), now you will also be paying for the froth. This means the lower your power factor, the more froth you will be paying for.
This is why it is very important to find out how you can maximize the beer and minimize the froth. One of the easiest and best ways is to use a power factor correction (PFC) unit. Please read on to find out how low power factor affects you and how a PFC unit can help.

How does low power factor affect you?

There are a number of ways a low power factor can impact your system. It can damage and shorten the life of your equipment, it can cause unnecessary breakdowns, but most importantly it can cost you money on your electricity bills!
Australian Utilities are implementing rolling maximum kVA charges for medium and large size facilities. This means they will be penalizing anyone that has low power factor.
Please see the below example that illustrates how much you plan to lose if you have low power factor correction:
If you are a medium sized facility, the following are average figures that affect you:

  • Active Power Consumption: 600 kVA
  • Power Factor: 0.81
  • Apparent power: 740 kVA

This means you will be subject to pay an annual fee $200 /kVA for excessive apparent power.

In this case, the excessive apparent power is 140kVA (740 kVA – 600 kVA)
= 140 kVA x $200.00 /kVA
=$28,000.00 per annum lost!
That is equivalent to a medium-sized family car.

How do you know that you have low power factor?

There are many ways to work out your power factor. The best and easiest way to know this is if you have installed a power quality analyser such as the Janitza UMG 512 on your site, this device will be able to give you an accurate reading on what your power factor is.
Another option is to hire a portable power quality analyser from Fluke and have it installed on your site for a period of time. This device will also be able to give you an accurate reading of your power factor. Please keep in mind that these devices will need to be installed by licensed electricians.
A third option is to contact your electricity retailer and asking them to send you an excel spreadsheet of your energy usage for the month. This can be forwarded to our power quality specialists and we will be able to come back to you and advise you on what your power quality is.
But before you go out hiring or buying power quality devices or calling your retailer, below is an example of machinery and products that cause low power factor:

  • Induction motors
  • Industrial heating furnaces
  • Electrical discharge lamps
  • Pumps
  • Chillers
  • Transformers
  • Any other system that has a wound coil

How can low power factor be combatted?

Low power factor can be combatted by adding a power factor correction unit. Power factor correction units use capacitors to bring the power factor closer to unity, saving you money and prolonging the life of your equipment.
Telegroup is a PFC supplier with over 25 years international experience. Please click the button below to check out their range.

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