What is Power Factor Correction?

Malcolm Tatum

Power factor correction is a process that has to do with managing the essential traits of electric loads that are used to create a power factor of less than one. The main purpose of power factor correction is to ensure that the level of power transmission taking place is within safety limits set for the application involved. Power suppliers make use of power factor correction to ensure that home and public building systems are not overloaded, and that manufacturing facilities have an adequate flow of power to operate heavy machinery.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

There are two basic ways of engaging in power factor correction. One approach relates to the management of power utilized at the end user level. With this application, a homeowner may utilize various devices to minimize or eliminate unnecessary power usage in the home. This may include the installation of such devices as energy saving appliances, or sensors that automatically turn lights off when no one is in the room.

A second approach to power factor correction involves the work of the power supplier to ensure the transmission network is functioning at optimum efficiency. This will mean ensuring that the level of power generated and distributed is within the safety limits for the network, and is not likely to overload one or more sections of the power grid. This approach often includes fail safe mechanisms that help to compensate when problems arise in one section of the grid, by containing the problem and not allowing it to spread to other sections.

There are both active and passive means of managing power factor correction. The use of capacitor banks occurs with passive PFC and helps to correct nonlinear electrical loads and stabilize the flow of current. Active PFC usually employs a system that controls the amount of power utilized by a load, keeping the balance as close to unity as possible.

The advantages of power factor correction apply to both the end user and to the supplier. For suppliers, adjusting the nature of the power flow to keep it within acceptable limits means less time, expense, and lost revenue resulting from system failures. End users who choose to engage in power factor correction enjoy the benefit reduced power bills, as well as preventing extra wear and tear on electrical devices around the home or office.

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