Electrical Test Equipment to Test the Power Factor

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Energy costs are increasing rapidly every day. In this world of rising energy prices, sitting on the brink of exhausting them, it is necessary to search for ways to reduce the consumption of energy and other overhead expenditure related to it. You need to know what energy is, in order to make a detailed plan to minimize its consumption.

Energy basically consists of two major components: power and demand. The unit of measurement of power is Watt. For billing, a more convenient unit called kWh is used which specifies the amount of energy expended in an hour. Demand or apparent power is measured in kVA. This value does not take into consideration the efficiency or how much work is done when this energy is delivered. To determine the demand, a digital multimeter along with a current probe can be used to measure the current and voltage. The product of these two quantities will give you the demand of a circuit. However, this method is not very accurate as both current and voltage have to be measured at the same instant.

Efficiency of a circuit is very important for any electrical facility- be it domestic or commercial. At 100% efficiency, the demand and the power are exactly same. But this is just the ideal case and cannot happen in reality. Usually power is less than demand. The ratio of the power and demand is called the power factor, which is usually measured on a scale ranging from 0-1.0.

Power factor is very important as it affects your billing. Utility companies will provide you with kVA and bill you with Watts. If the power factor is less than 1.0, the utility suffers a loss and hence generation and transmission costs are increased, which in turn, leads to additional charges billed to the consumer. Low power factor can be caused when a circuit includes loads such as capacitors and inductors that are reactive in nature. Some such common circuits are transformers, cables, and motors etc. Harmonic currents can also be the reason for low power factor. One more contributing factor which significantly lowers the power factor is ‘Imaginary Power’.

Now that you have detailed knowledge about power factor and how a low power factor can be outrageously expensive, you can move on to the next step – devising a strategy to lower consumption, cut costs, and create an efficient system.

First step is to monitor the baseline readings of your system. This requires you to simultaneously measure current and voltage, along with the values of power, demand, and power factor associated with them. A regular digital multimeter is incapable of doing this. For this you need specialized electrical test equipment. For this you can use Megger meter, Dranetz, Doble or Fluke power quality meters. They are specifically designed for this purpose and can test single phase, multi-phase, and split phase configurations. Then you need to record data and observe it over a given duration. With some simple math, you can estimate your long term energy usage. This method can be a bit tedious, especially for commercial facilities. However there are many devices available in the market that can solve this problem. These are called power loggers and they automatically record and analyze data. Although this method will take time, it is very accurate and you will get complete details about your power consumption.

With the developing technology, power quality meters have also diversified. You can get anything from an entry level basic power measuring meter to automatic meter that can do everything from recording to analyzing. Depending upon your requirements and your budget, you can decide which one best suits your needs. We stock all power quality meters, loggers and analyzers from all major manufacturers. You can easily buy, rent, or lease electrical test equipment from us.