Understanding power factor is not that hard. We have some very common example from the real life you will understand for sure, but first let’s start with some introduction of power factor.
To understand power factor, we’ll first start with the definition of some basic terms:
kW is Working Power (also called Actual Power or Active Power or Real Power). It is the power that actually powers the equipment and performs useful work.
kVAR is Reactive Power. It is the power that magnetic equipment (transformer, motor, relay etc.) needs to produce the magnetizing flux.
kVA is Apparent Power. It is the “vectorial summation” of KVAR and KW.
Example From the Real Life
Let’s look at a simple analogy in order to better understand these terms….
Let’s say it’s friday evening, and you are with your friends at your favorite pub after really hot day. You order up a big mug of your favorite beer for you and for your friends. The thirst-quenching portion of your beer is represented by KW (the big pic on top).
The total contents of your mug, KVA, is this summation of KW (the beer) and KVAR (the foam).
So, now that we understand some basic terms, we are ready to learn about power factor:
Power Factor (P.F.) is the ratio of Working Power to Apparent Power.
Looking at our beer mug analogy above, power factor would be the ratio of beer (KW) to beer plus foam (KVA).
Thus, for a given KVA:
- The more foam you have (the higher the percentage of KVAR), the lower your ratio of KW (beer) to KVA (beer plus foam). Thus, the lower your power factor.
- The less foam you have (the lower the percentage of KVAR), the higher your ratio of KW (beer) to KVA (beer plus foam). In fact, as your foam (or KVAR) approaches zero, your power factor approaches 1.0.
Our beer mug analogy is a bit simplistic. In reality, when we calculate KVA, we must determine the “vectorial summation” of KVAR and KW. Therefore, we must go one step further and look at the angle between these vectors.
The “Power Triangle” illustrates this relationship between KW, KVA, KVAR, and Power Factor:
Note that in an ideal world looking at the beer mug analogy:
- KVAR would be very small (foam would be approaching zero)
- KW and KVA would be almost equal (more beer; less foam)
There are dosen of tools and technical articles/guides published at EEP that can help you to understand power factor and its controlling. Hope these can help:
- Power Factor Correction Calculation (MS Excel Spreadsheet)
- Size of Capacitor For Power Factor Improvements
- How Power Factor Corection Works
- Capacitor Banks In Power System
- Economic advantages of power factor correction