Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CFLs versus the Generator

Shortly, we will be talking more about ESL technology and the concept of ESL’s "high power factor". Power factor is a measurement of how efficient a device is to "the grid". CFL bulbs are quite energy efficient in regards to reduction in wattage, however, most CFL bulbs are very inefficient in the way they utilize power coming from the electric utility. Most CFL bulbs have a power factor that is .5 to .7. That means a 15W CFL will actually draw around 30 volt-amperes (VA). 1 VA equals 1 watt. The power company must provide the total load in VA not watts. This means that each CFL uses up to double its rated power in the regard to what the utility must deliver to your home. Commercial businesses have power factor included in their utility fees. Residential customers have not had to pay this yet. They will with the installation of smart meters. Also, just because you don't have to pay for this inefficiency it doesn't mean some non-renewable fuel isn't being used up to cover the voltage and current distribution losses caused by the poor power factor of CFL bulbs.

There was a nice article written by EDN News on the impact of CFLs and poor power factor.

In the COMMENTS of this article was a very entertaining YouTube video. It is a a “non-scientific” demonstration of how 540 watts of CFL bulbs draw almost twice the power as a 575 watt incandescent theater lamp and end up choking a 850 watt generator.