Snakes. Bugs. Enclosed spaces. “Fear Factor” reality TV contestants face these common threats each week.

So what scares food plant and to-day reality check involves a fear of operating losses-and one key area is energy efficiency. That’s why it’s important to conquer that fear and investigate your building’s power factor.

Power factor is the ratio of real power to apparent power. Put another way, pow- er factor is a measure of the efficiency of an electrical distribution system, the high- er the power factor, the more efficient the use of electrical power. Of course, it’s important for two reasons: 1) to avoid utility penalty fees and, 2) increase electrical sys- tern capacity at the facility.

Power factor is measured from 0 to 1 and is either inductive or capacitive. Inductive impedance is called “lagging” because the current waveform.

Most industrial facilities have an inductive power factor because most electrical loads are inductive due to use of induction mo­tors, electric welding equipment, fluores­cent ballasts and transformers. A low power factor means that a facility is relying on more reactive power, or non­working producing power. This results in the need for larger conductors and transformers to accommodate the additional current.

ESI Group recently conducted an elec­trical service analysis for a food ingredient manufacturer. The goal was to determine if a power factor correction could gain this operator the additional service capac­ity needed to install a new process. In the end, ESI helped the manufacturer by rec­ommending metering at switchboards and motor control centers. The metering data showed an average power factor of .88. ESI calculated that the energy saved if the power factor was raised to .9 or .95 would not be sufficient capacity for their new pro­cess. ESI recommended the customer install a second service to accommodate the new loads. We also recommended they imple­ment a high efficiency motor replacement program. The customer will see 4% to 8% energy savings per motor replaced.

By Robin Wolff
ESl’s Robin Wolff has more than 20 years experience as a senior electrical engineer.