Power Factor

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Instantaneous power is proportional to instantaneous voltage times instantaneous current. AC voltage causes the current to flow in a sine wave replicating the voltage wave. However, inductance in the motor windings somewhat delays current flow, resulting in a phase shift. This transmits less net power than perfectly timematched voltage and current of the same RMS values. Power factor is the fraction of power actually delivered in relation to the power that would be delivered by the same voltage and current without the phase shift. Low power factor does not imply lost or wasted power, just excess current. The energy associated with the excess current is alternately stored in the windings’ magnetic field and regenerated back to the line with each AC cycle. This exchange is called reactive power. Though reactive power is theoretically not lost, the distribution system must be sized to accommodate it, which is a cost factor. To reduce these costs, capacitors are used to “correct” low
power factor. Capacitors can be thought of as electrical reservoirs to capture and reflect reactive power back to the motor.


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