In AC systems, "Power Factor" is the ratio of volt-amps to watts. To get volt-amps, you also multiply volts times amps. With a resistive load, such as an incandescent lamp, volts times amps equals watts. All of the power gets dissipated heating up the lamp filament to make it glow. In this case, volt-amps is equal to watts, giving a ratio of 1:1, or 100%. With inductive loads like transformers, electric motors, fluorescent lamps, etc., there is very little resistance. Something called "reactance" limits current flow. Larger currents flow with little power being dissipated. With a power factor of 50%, double the current would flow. For example, a 40 watt incandescent lamp draws 0.33 amps. (40 watts / 120 volts = 0.33 amps) This bulb, being a resistive load, has a power factor of 100%. A single tube fluorescent lamp rated at 40 watts may draw double the current of the 40 watt incandescent, but still only use 40 watts of real power. This fixture has a power factor of 50%.Additional Input from Contributors:
THIS DOESN'T MATTER IN HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY. If a factory has a Power Factor of 95%, then it will draw 105% of the current it would draw if it were at 100%, or a Powerfactor of 1 (also called unity).The electric companies charge large industrial customers more for inefficient systems, i.e. Power Factor lower or higher than 1 (100% efficient). They do not charge individual homes for this, so you can't save money by correcting your power factor.
Also see the related Question WHAT IS REACTIVE POWER? by clicking on the link below:
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