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What is Power Factor All About?

This paper discusses the concepts behind what power factor is, what it is measuring, and comparing the
power factors of several different types of circuits. We also discuss how power factor is affected by
harmonic currents. We then review how the power factor can be improved. Finally, we review the
typical power factors seen with AC drives in various configurations. Definitions of various terms are
included to help the reader understand the subject.

1. Resistor Load
2. Inductor Load
3. Motor Load
4. How do power factor correction caps work?
5. What affect do harmonics have on power factor?
6. Can power factor correction caps improve the power factor caused by harmonics?
7. What can an active filter do?
8. Power factors associated with AC Drives
a. Displacement Power Factor
b. Distortion Power Factor
c. Total Power Factor
d. Current in and out of a drive
9. A note about conventions and definitions
a. RSS
b. P
c. Q
d. S
e. S1
f. D
g. N
h. PF
i. PF1
j. PFD
10. The Power Cube
11. A key to understanding the diagrams
a. The circuit diagram
b. The waveform diagram
c. The vector diagram
d. The power diagram

Rick Hoadley
Apr 2005
2

What is Power Factor all about?


Power factor is simply a way to determine what percentage of the current drawn by a piece of equipment
is being used to provide active power (Watts) to the equipment. The ideal power factor is 1.00, where
all of the current is used to transfer energy to the load at every instant of time. Power factor is
something that is unique to AC circuits due to the phase differences that can exist between the line-to-
neutral voltage and the line current. DC circuits don’t have anything like it. To better understand power
factor, let’s look at a few different examples. Check Section 11 to help understand the diagrams.

1. Resistor Load
It
Suppose we have an AC voltage source, like a
Ir
transformer, feeding a resistor as in Fig 1. Let’s
look at the voltages and currents. With respect to V
time, the voltage would look like a sine wave, and
the current in the resistor would also look like a sine Fig 1. Circuit with a resistor load on an AC
voltage source
wave as seen in Fig 3. The important thing is that
the current in the resistor crosses zero at the same
time as the voltage. Showing the same thing using
vectors in Fig 2, the voltage would be along the Ir V
positive x-axis, and the current in the resistor would
Fig 2. Vector diagram of the voltage and current
also be along the positive x-axis. The length of the
vector is the peak value of the sine wave.
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

What does the power look like? With respect to 200.0 200.0

time, we can determine the power by multiplying


100.0 100.0

the voltage by the current. It is also a sine wave,


but at twice the frequency as seen in Fig 4. It
0 0

reaches a peak when the voltage is at its peak, and it


touches zero when the voltage is at zero. So, the -100.0 -100.0

instantaneous power actually is fluctuating but is


always above zero. The average of this waveform -200.0 -200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

is the watts being used by the resistor circuit.


Fig 3. Waveform of the voltage and current –
What is the power factor for this circuit? It would blue is V, green is Ir
be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage
to the total current. For this resistor load since the 10.000k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
10.000k

total current is the same as the resistor current, the


ratio is Ir/It = 50.0/50.0 = 1.00. It can also be 7.500k 7.500k

determined by the cosine of the angle between the


total current and the voltage. For this resistor load, 5.000k 5.000k

the angle is 0 degrees. So, the cosine (0) = 1.00.


This is saying that all of the current is being used to 2.500k 2.500k

provide active power, or watts, to the resistor load.


The average power is PF*It*V = W, or 1.00 * 50.0 -0.200k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
-0.200k

* 100.0 = 5000W. Fig 4. Waveform of watts – red is Ir*V, average


watts is 5000
3

2. Inductor Load
It
If the load on the transformer were just an inductor,
Im
what would be happening? See Fig5. With respect
to time, the voltage and current would be as shown V
in Fig 7. The difference is that the current in the
inductor is lagging the voltage by 90 degrees. Fig 5. Circuit with an inductor load on an AC
Showing the same thing using vectors in Fig 6, the voltage source
voltage would be along the positive x-axis, and the
current in the inductor would be along the negative
y-axis.

What does the power look like? See Fig 8. V


Multiplying the inductor current by the voltage Im
gives us the instantaneous power. Again, we see
that it fluctuates above and below zero. However, Fig 6. Vector diagram of the voltage and current
notice that this time, it reaches a peak a little later
than when the voltage is at its peak, it is at zero
whenever the voltage or the current is at zero, and it
dips down below zero with peaks of the same
magnitude as those above zero! This is saying that 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

some power is absorbed from the source during part


of the cycle, and is returned during another part of 100.0 100.0

the cycle. The average power is zero. Current is


flowing, but zero average power is being supplied. 0 0

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would -100.0 -100.0

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage,


-200.0 -200.0

to the total current. For this inductor load, the ratio 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

is 0/It = 0/30.0 = 0.0. It can also be determined by Fig 7. Waveform of the voltage and current –
the cosine of the angle between the total current and blue is V, brown is Im
the voltage. For this inductor load, the angle is -90
degrees. So, the cosine (-90) = 0.0. This is saying
that 0% of the total current is being used to provide 4.000k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
4.000k

power to the inductor load. The average power is


0.00 * 30.0 * 100.0 = 0.0W. 2.000k 2.000k

0 0

-2.000k -2.000k

-4.000k -4.000k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

Fig 8. Waveform of watts – red is Im*V, average


watts is 0
4

3. Motor Load

Adding the inductor in parallel with the resistor It


gives us a simple model of an induction motor. See Im Ir
Fig 9. Now, there are two branch currents – the
V
resistor current and the inductor current. The
voltage source simply sees the sum of the two Fig 9. Circuit with a resistor and inductor load in
currents. parallel on an AC voltage source

With respect to time, the voltage and currents are as


shown in Fig 11. The resistor current looks the
same as it did before, perfectly in phase with the
voltage. The inductor current, though, is seen to lag Ir V
the voltage by 90 degrees. The total current, then, Im
is the sum of the resistor current and the inductor
current, and is also a sine wave, but it lags the It
Fig 10. Vector diagram of the voltage and
voltage somewhere between 0 and 90 degrees. currents

Showing the same thing using vectors in Fig 10, we


see the voltage and the resistor current along the
positive x-axis. The inductor current is along the 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

negative y-axis. The sum of the two currents is also


shown. The magnitude of the total current is simply 100.0 100.0

the square root of the sum of the squares of the two


currents. For example, if the resistor current is 50A, 0 0

and the inductor current is 30A, then the total


current is sqrt(502 + 302) = 58.3A. If you were to -100.0 -100.0

take a clamp-on ammeter and measure the current


-200.0 -200.0

from the transformer, you would measure 58.3A. 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

But this total current is actually made up of 50A in Fig 11. Waveform of the voltage and currents –
phase with the voltage, and 30A lagging the voltage. blue is V, green is Ir, brown is Im, pink is It
The magnitude of 58.3A by itself does not tell us
the whole story.
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
12.00k 12.00k

What does the power look like? See Fig 12. 10.00k 10.00k

Multiplying the total current by the voltage gives us


the instantaneous power. We see that it fluctuates
7.50k 7.50k

above and below zero. However, notice that this 5.00k 5.00k

time, it reaches a peak a little later than when the


2.50k 2.50k

voltage is at its peak, and it dips down below zero!


This is saying that some of the power is going back 0 0

-1.00k -1.00k

to the source. If we find the average of the power, it 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

will be positive due to the power being used by the Fig 12. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average
resistor. watts is 5000

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would


be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage
to the total current. For this motor load, the ratio is
5

Ir/It = 50.0/58.3 = 0.86. It can also be determined


by the cosine of the angle between the total current
and the voltage. For this motor load, the angle is 31 It
degrees. So, the cosine (31) = 0.86. This is saying Im Ir
that 86% of the total current is being used to
V
provide power, or watts, to the resistor load. 86%
of 58.3A is 50.0A. So the average power is 0.86 * Fig 13. Circuit with a resistor and inductor load in
58.3A * 100.0V = 5000W. parallel on an AC voltage source, the resistance
value has increased 10 times its value in Fig 9
Why is this like a motor? The inductor is the part of
the motor that creates the rotating magnetic field.
The strength of the rotating magnetic field is
determined by how much current flows into the Ir
V
inductor. This can easily be figured out. For
example, if the motor is being fed by 100V at 60Hz, Im It
and the inductor has a value of 8.84mH, then the
Fig 14. Vector diagram of the voltage and
impedance, Z, of the inductor is 2*pi*f*L = 3.33 currents
Ohms. The current that would flow then is I = V/Z
= V/(2*pi*f*L) = 100/3.33 = 30.0A. We see from
this, since 2*pi*L is a constant, that I is
proportional to V/f which is V/Hz. So, if we were 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

to change the frequency of the voltage to the motor


in order to change its speed, we would also have to 100.0 100.0

change the magnitude of the voltage in order to


keep the strength of the rotating magnetic field 0 0

constant. This is why AC motor drives maintain a


constant V/Hz ratio – in order to maintain a -100.0 -100.0

constant strength for the rotating magnetic field that


-200.0 -200.0

is used to produce torque in the motor. 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

Fig 15. Waveform of the voltage and currents –


What we described is a motor running at full load. blue is V, green is Ir, brown is Im, pink is It
When the motor is running at no load, the current in
the resistor decreases to a very small amount as
shown in Fig 13. Now, the total current is made of 4.000k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
4.000k

5A in the resistor, and 30A still in the inductor for a


total of sqrt(52 + 302) = 30.4A. This is why you 2.000k 2.000k

may see a fairly large amount of current going to


the motor even when there is no load on the motor. 0 0

The total current you are seeing is mostly the


magnetizing current. See Fig 14 and 15. What has -2.000k -2.000k

happened to the power factor? The power factor


-4.000k -4.000k

has now gone to 5/30.4 = 0.16. For this motor at no 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

load, the angle is -80.5 degrees. So, the cosine (- Fig 16. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average
80.5) = 0.16. This is saying that only 16% of the watts is 500
total current is being used to provide power, or
watts, to the motor. 16% of 30.4A is 5.0A. So the
average power is 0.16 * 30.4A * 100.0V = 500W.
See Fig 16.
6

4. How do power factor correction caps work?


It
How can capacitors help with the power factor?
Ic
Let’s look at the voltage and current of a capacitor
load on a transformer. See Fig 17. V

With respect to time, the voltage and current would Fig 17. Circuit with a capacitor load on an AC
be as shown in Fig 19. The big difference now is voltage source
that the current in the capacitor is leading the
voltage by 90 degrees. Showing the same thing
using vectors in Fig 18, the voltage would be along
the positive x-axis, and the current in the capacitor Ic
would be along the positive y-axis.

What does the power look like? See Fig 20. V


Fig 18. Vector diagram of the voltage and
Multiplying the capacitor current by the voltage current
gives us the instantaneous power. Again, we see
that power is above and below zero. Notice that
this time, it reaches a peak a little before the voltage
is at its peak, it is at zero whenever the voltage or
the current is at zero, and it dips down below zero 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

with peaks of the same magnitude as those above


zero! This is saying that some power is absorbed 100.0 100.0

from the source during part of the cycle, and is


returned during another part of the cycle. The 0 0

average power is zero. Current if flowing, but zero


average power is being supplied. -100.0 -100.0

-200.0 -200.0

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage Fig 19. Waveform of the voltage and current –
to the total current. For this capacitor load, the ratio blue is V, light blue is Ic
is 0/It = 0/20.0 = 0.0. It can also be determined by
the cosine of the angle between the total current and
the voltage. For this capacitor load, the angle is 2.500k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
2.500k

+90 degrees. So, the cosine (+90) = 0.0. This is


saying that 0% of the total current is being used to 1.250k 1.250k

provide power to the capacitor load.


0 0

How does this help with the lagging power factor


seen with motors? What if we were to add a -1.250k -1.250k

capacitor to the motor load circuit? We would now


-2.500k -2.500k

have three branch currents – current in the resistor, 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

current in the inductor, and current in the capacitor. Fig 20. Waveform of watts – red is Ic*V,
See Fig 21. The total current is the sum of these average watts is 0
three individual currents. When we put them all
together, something is immediately obvious. With
respect to time, the current in the inductor lags by
90 degrees, but the current in the capacitor leads by
7

90 degrees. See fig 23. When those two currents


are added together, they practically cancel each It
other out! If Ic = 20.0A, and Im = 30.0A, then Ic Im Ir
Ic+Im = Iq = 10.0A lagging.
V
What is this like using vectors? See Fig 22. Im is
along the negative y-axis, Ic is along the positive y- Fig 21. Circuit with a resistor, inductor and
axis, and Ir is along the positive x-axis. Adding Ic capacitor load in parallel on an AC voltage
source
to Im gives us a result that is 10.0 along the
negative y-axis. When we add this to Ir, we get a
total current that has a magnitude of sqrt(502 + 102) Ic
= 51.0A. If you were to take a clamp-on ammeter Ir
and measure the current from the transformer, you
would now measure 51.0A. But, this total current is Iq V
actually made up of 50A in phase with the voltage, It
and 30A lagging the voltage, and 20A leading the Im
voltage. The magnitude of 51.0A by itself does not Fig 22. Vector diagram of the voltage and
tell us the whole story. What does the power look currents
like?

Multiplying the total current by the voltage gives us 200.0


0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

the instantaneous power. Again, we see that that


power is above and below zero. However, notice 100.0 100.0

that this time, it reaches a peak just a hair later than


when the voltage is at its peak, and it barely dips 0 0

down below zero. This is saying that a tiny amount


of the power is going back to the source. Power is -100.0 -100.0

only being absorbed by the resistor. There is no


-200.0 -200.0

power being absorbed by the inductor or by the 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

capacitor. You can think of current simply flowing Fig 23. Waveform of the voltage and currents –
back and forth between the capacitor and the blue is V, green is Ir, brown is Im, light blue is Ic,
inductor. pink is It

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would 12.00k


0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
12.00k

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage 10.00k 10.00k

to the total current. For this combined load, the


ratio is Ir/It = 50.0/51.0 = 0.98. It can also be 7.50k 7.50k

determined by the cosine of the angle between the 5.00k 5.00k

total current and the voltage. For this combined


load, the angle is 11 degrees. So, the cosine (11) = 2.50k 2.50k

0.98. This is saying that 98% of the total current is


-0.50k -0.50k

being used to provide power, or watts, to the 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

resistor load. 98% of 51.0A is 50.0A. So the Fig 24. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average
average power is 0.98 * 51.0A * 100.0V = 5000W. watts is 5000

What’s the big deal? This time, the transformer


only has to provide 51.0A of current. Without the
power factor correction cap, the transformer had to
8

provide 58.3A, even though the average power was


the same!

Does this help at no load, too? Yes. For this circuit,


we will have 20.0A of capacitor current leading the
voltage, 30.0A of inductor current lagging the
voltage, and 5.0A of resistor current in phase with
the voltage. Summing these currents, we get 5.0A
in phase with the voltage and 10.0A lagging the
voltage. The total current will now be sqrt(52 + 102)
= 11.1A.

What is the corrected power factor for this no-load


motor? It would be the ratio of the current in phase
with the voltage to the total current. For this motor
at no-load, the ratio is Ir/It = 5.0/11.1 = 0.45. It can
also be determined by the cosine of the angle
between the total current and the voltage. For this
combined load, the angle is 63 degrees. So, the
cosine (63) = 0.45. This is saying that 45% of the
total current is being used to provide power, or
watts, to the resistor load. 45% of 11.1A is 5.0A.
So the average power is 0.45 * 11.1A * 100.0V =
500W. What changed? This time, even though the
wattage is the same whether or not the capacitor is
in the circuit, the total current changed from 30.4A
to only 11.1A! This means better transformer
utilization.

Practically, though, the addition of power factor


correction capacitors to a motor should not cause
the resulting power factor to exceed 0.90, otherwise
self-excitation of the motor may occur during run-
down. This would cause an extreme overvoltage on
the motor terminals. As a rule of thumb, the added
kVAR should not exceed 0.35 of the kW of the
motor.
9

5. What affect do harmonics have on power


factor?
It
Ih
Power converters, such as AC and DC motor drives,
create harmonic currents since they are converting V
3-phase AC power into DC using a diode bridge.
Line current only flows whenever the line-to-line Fig 25. Circuit with an harmonic load on an AC
voltage between the phases exceeds the voltage voltage source
across the DC bus. This results in a line current that
no longer appears sinusoidal. Instead, upon
analysis, the current waveform now contains 5th
harmonic currents along with higher orders. What
does this do to the power factor? As you might
suspect, it reduces the power factor. V
Ih
If the load on the transformer were just harmonic
Fig 26. Vector diagram of the voltage and
currents, as shown in Fig 25, what would be current
happening? With respect to time, the voltage and
current would be as shown in Fig 27. The
difference you see is that the harmonic current
oscillates 5 times faster than the voltage since it is a 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

5th harmonic. Showing the same thing using vectors,


the voltage would be along the positive x-axis, but 100.0 100.0

where do we put the harmonic current? It cannot be


in the y-axis because this is only for 60Hz currents. 0 0

Instead, we need to create a z-axis, making this a


three-dimensional diagram. The harmonic current -100.0 -100.0

will be along the positive z-axis. See Fig 26.


-200.0 -200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

What does the power look like? See Fig 28. Fig 27. Waveform of the voltage and current –
Multiplying the harmonic current by the voltage blue is V, olive green is Ih
gives us the instantaneous power. We see power
fluctuates above and below zero. This is saying that
some power is absorbed from the source during 3.000k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
3.000k

parts of the cycle, and is returned during other parts 1.667k 1.667k

of the cycle. If we find the average of the power, it


will be right at 0! Current is flowing, but zero 0 0

average power is being supplied.


-1.667k -1.667k

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would


be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage, -3.333k -3.333k

-4.000k -4.000k

to the total current. For this harmonic load, the ratio 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

is 0/It = 0/15.0 = 0.0. It can not be determined by Fig 28. Waveform of watts – red is Ih*V,
the cosine of the angle between the total current and average watts is 0
the voltage because they are at different frequencies.
But because the ratio of the currents is 0.0, the
average power is 0.00 * 15.0 * 100.0 = 0.0W.
10

Adding this harmonic current source in parallel with


the resistor gives us a simple model of an AC motor
drive. See Fig 29. There are two branch currents – It
the resistor current and the harmonic current. The Ir Ih
voltage source simply sees the sum of the two
V
currents.
Fig 29. Circuit with a resistor and harmonic load
With respect to time, the voltage and currents are as in parallel on an AC voltage source
shown in Fig 31. The resistor current looks the
same as it did before, perfectly in phase with the
voltage, at 50.0A. The 5th harmonic current has an
amplitude of 15.0A. The total current, then, is the
sum of the resistor current and the harmonic current. Ir V
Ih It
This looks like a sine wave with wiggles. Showing
the same thing using vectors in Fig 30, we see the Fig 30. Vector diagram of the voltage and
voltage and the resistor current along the positive x- currents
axis. The harmonic current is along the positive z-
axis. The sum of the two currents is also shown.
The magnitude of the total current is sqrt(502 + 152)
= 52.2A. If you were to take a clamp-on ammeter
and measure the current from the transformer, you 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

would measure 52.2A. This total current is actually


made up of 50A in phase with the voltage, and 15A 100.0 100.0

oscillating at 300Hz (5 times the 60Hz).


0 0

What does the power look like? See Fig 32.


Multiplying the total current by the voltage gives us -100.0 -100.0

the instantaneous power. Notice that the power has


-200.0 -200.0

peaks above zero and valleys just slightly below 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

zero. This is saying that a small amount of the Fig 31. Waveform of the voltage and currents –
power is going back to the source. If we find the blue is V, green is Ir, olive green is Ih, pink is It
average of the power, though, it will be above zero
due to the power being used by the resistor.
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
12.00k 12.00k

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would 10.00k 10.00k

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage


to the total current. For this load, the ratio is Ir/It = 7.50k 7.50k

50.0/52.2 = 0.96. It can also be determined by the 5.00k 5.00k

cosine of the angle between the total current and the


voltage. For this motor load, the angle is 16.7 2.50k 2.50k

degrees. So, the cosine (16.7) = 0.96. This is


-0.50k -0.50k

saying that 96% of the total current is being used to 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

provide power, or watts, to the resistor load. 96% Fig 32. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average
of 52.2A is 50.0A. So the average power is 0.96 * watts is 5000
52.2A * 100.0V = 5000W. The harmonics do not
add to the real power.
11

6. Can power factor correction caps improve the


power factor caused by harmonics? It
Ic Ir Ih
Let’s try this. We will add a capacitor to our circuit
with the resistor and the harmonic load. See Fig 33. V

The voltage and currents are as shown in Fig 35. Fig 33. Circuit with a resistor, capacitor and
We now have three branch currents – current in the harmonic load in parallel on an AC voltage
source
resistor, current in the harmonic load, and current in
the capacitor. The total current is the sum of these
three individual currents. When we put them all
together, we have an interesting mix of currents. Ic
The capacitor current does not cancel out the It
harmonic current, does it? What is this like using
vectors? See Fig 34. Ir = 50.0A and is along the Ih Ir V
positive x-axis. Ic = 20.0A and is along the positive Fig 34. Vector diagram of the voltage and
y-axis. Ih = 15.0A and is along the positive z-axis. currents
When we add these together, we get a total current
that has a magnitude of sqrt(502 + 202 + 152) =
55.9A. If you were to take a clamp-on ammeter and
measure the total current from the transformer, you 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

would now measure 55.9A. But, this total current is


actually made up of 50A in phase with the voltage, 100.0 100.0

and 20A leading the voltage, and 15A at a 5th


harmonic. The magnitude of 55.9A by itself does 0 0

not tell us the whole story.


-100.0 -100.0

What does the power look like? See Fig 36.


-200.0 -200.0

Multiplying the total current by the voltage gives us 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

the instantaneous power. We see a strange Fig 35. Waveform of the voltage and currents –
waveform. Notice that the power is both above and blue is V, green is Ir, light blue is Ic, olive green
below zero. Power is being drawn from and is Ih, pink is It
returned to the source throughout each cycle. The
average power will be positive due to the power 12.00k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
12.00k

being used by the resistor. There is no power being 10.00k 10.00k

dissipated by the harmonic load or by the capacitor.


You can think of those currents as flowing back and 6.67k 6.67k

forth between the capacitor and the source and


between the harmonic load and the source. 3.33k 3.33k

0 0

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would


-2.00k -2.00k

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

to the total current. For this load, the ratio is Ir/It = Fig 36. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average
50.0/55.9 = 0.89. It can also be determined by the watts is 5000
cosine of the angle between the total current and the
voltage. For this combined load, the angle is 26.6
degrees. So, the cosine (26.6) = 0.89. This is
saying that 89% of the total current is being used to
12

provide power, or watts, to the resistor load. 89%


of 55.9A is 50.0A. So the average power is 0.89 *
55.9A * 100.0V = 5000W. The result is that the
capacitor did not help reduce the total current, in
fact, it actually made it worse by going from 52.2A
total to 55.9A total, with the power factor going
from 0.96 down to 0.89. Not good!

Not only does the addition of power factor


correction caps not help improve the power factor
of a drive, but they can actually cause voltage
instabilities due to system resonances, and can
cause failures of diode bridges and DC bus caps due
to large peak currents through the diodes into the
caps within drives. We do not recommend the use
of power factor correction caps on the same AC bus
as drives. If needed for other inductive loads on the
same AC bus where the drives are located, the
drives should be connected to the bus through a line
reactor or an isolation transformer.

How can we improve the power factor due to


harmonic loads? Two ways. The first way is to
reduce the harmonics themselves. For example, use
a different front end that has less harmonic current
to begin with, like an 18-Pulse system. In our
example, an 18-Pulse drive would create only 2.5A
of harmonics. You can see how the power factor is
improved. What is the other way? We need
something that can cancel the harmonic current,
similar to the way capacitor current can cancel
inductor current. This would be an active filter.
13

7. What can an active filter do?


It
An active filter is able to supply the harmonic Ir Ih
currents needed by the harmonic load. It does this If
by producing the same harmonic current as the load, V
but 180 degrees out of phase. This is also how
active noise reduction techniques work. Fig 37. Circuit with a resistor, active filter and
harmonic load in parallel on an AC voltage
source
If we were to add an active filter to our circuit that
already contains the resistor and the harmonic load,
as shown in Fig 37, the currents with respect to time
would be as shown in Fig 39. When the currents If
are summed, you can see that the active filter
current cancels the harmonic load current. What is Ir V
left is just the resistor current. Using vectors, the Ih
resistor current is along the positive x-axis, the Fig 38. Vector diagram of the voltage and
harmonic load is along the positive z-axis, and the currents
active filter is along the negative z-axis. See Fig 38.
The total current is equal to the resistor current.

What does the power look like? See Fig 40. It is 200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
200.0

exactly the same as the circuit with the resistor load


only in Fig 4. 100.0 100.0

What is the power factor for this circuit? It would 0 0

be the ratio of the current in phase with the voltage


to the total current. For this load, the ratio is Ir/Ir = -100.0 -100.0

50.0/50.0 = 1.00. It can also be determined by the


-200.0 -200.0

cosine of the angle between the total current and the 0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

voltage. For this total load, the angle is 0 degrees. Fig 39. Waveform of the voltage and currents –
So, the cosine (0) = 1.00. This is saying that all of blue is V, green is Ir, olive green is Ih, purple is
the current is now being used to provide power, or If. Note: It = Ir since If cancels Ih
watts, to the resistor load. The average power is
1.00 * 50.0 * 100.0 = 5000W. 12.00k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
12.00k

10.00k 10.00k

In fact, active filters are able to provide leading


power to cancel the reactive inductor currents in 7.50k 7.50k

addition to canceling the reactive harmonic currents. 5.00k 5.00k

2.50k 2.50k

-0.50k -0.50k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m

Fig 40. Waveform of watts – red is It*V, average


watts is 5000
14

8. Power factors associated with AC Drives 2.00


0.00

1.80
0.20

Leading
1.60
What kind of power factor can we expect to see for 0.40

0.60
1.40
an AC drive when operating between no load and
0.80
1.20
full load? The total current drawn by an AC drive
1.00
is made up of the real current Ir, fundamental 0.80
reactive current Iq, and harmonic current Ih. So we 0.60

Lagging
can actually examine three types of power factor. 0.40 6-Pulse

The displacement power factor would be the ratio of 0.20


18-Pulse
Passive Filter
Ir/I1 where I1 is the RSS of Ir and Iq. The distortion 0.00

power factor would be the ratio of I1/It. The total 0 25 50 75 100

power factor is the product of the two, Ir/It. For a Fig 41. Displacement Power Factor, PF1, for a
typical, buffered AC drive (one that has a DC link 6-pulse drive, 18-pulse drive, and 6-pulse drive
choke between the diode bridge rectifier and the DC with a passive filter vs % Load
bus caps), we will plot the three power factors for a 2.00
0.00
6-Pulse drive, an 18-Pulse drive, and a 6-Pulse drive 1.80
0.20
with a passive filter.

Leading
1.60
0.40

1.40
0.60

a) With respect to the displacement power factor, 0.80


1.20

the 6-Pulse and 18-Pulse drives have power factors 1.00

very close to 1.00 all the way from no load to full 0.80

load. See Fig 41. There is very little inductance in 0.60


Lagging

0.40 6-Pulse
the circuit, and the fundamental of the line current is 18-Pulse
0.20
phased very close to the line voltage. The 6-Pulse Passive Filter
0.00
drive with a passive filter, though, has a large 0 25 50 75 100

amount of leading power factor due to the line Fig 42. Distortion Power Factor, PFD, for a 6-
connected capacitors that are part of the filter. pulse drive, 18-pulse drive, and 6-pulse drive
with a passive filter vs % Load
b) Regarding distortion power factor, the 18-Pulse
drive and the 6-Pulse drive with a passive filter 2.00
0.00
have power factors very close to 1.00 all the way 1.80
0.20
from about no load to full load, since the total
Leading

1.60
0.40

harmonic current distortion, Ithd, is between 5% 1.40


0.60

and 10% throughout that range. See Fig 42. The 6- 1.20
0.80

Pulse drive, though, does not have very good 1.00

distortion power factor due to its Ithd being between 0.80

0.60
40% at full load and 105% at no load.
Lagging

0.40 6-Pulse
18-Pulse
0.20
c) The total power factor, which is the product of Passive Filter
0.00
the displacement power factor and the distortion 0 25 50 75 100

power factor, gives a more complete picture. See Fig 43. Total Power Factor, PF, for a 6-pulse
Fig 43. The 18-Pulse drive is closest to unity drive, 18-pulse drive, and 6-pulse drive with a
throughout the load range. The 6-Pulse drive drops passive filter vs % Load
off as the load decreases, reaching 0.75 at about
25% load. The 6-Pulse drive with the passive filter
shows a large leading power factor, again due to the
line connected capacitors that are part of the filter
design.
15

Clearly, the 18-Pulse drive has the least impact on


the power grid system to which it is connected.
Another method to achieve similar results to an 18-
Pulse drive is to add an active filter to the drive
system as we discussed earlier.

d) How can more current come out of a drive than


is going into it? This question often comes up when
making current measurements on an AC drive. We
might see that there is 100A on the output of the
drive going to the motor, but only 45A on the input
to the drive. How can this be? Where is the extra
power coming from?

The answer to this is found in examining the power


at the input and the power at the output of the drive.
There is more to power than simply the amount of
amps flowing in the wires. Power factor has a big
effect, too.

The input to the drive looks like a resistor load with


some harmonics. It has a total power factor of
about 0.93. The motor connected to the output of
the drive looks like a resistor load in parallel with
an inductor load. It has a power factor of about
0.85. Using these numbers, let’s look at each
section of the drive as power flows from the input to
the drive, to the DC link in the drive, and out to the
motor. See Fig 44, 45.

We will start at the motor since that is where the


load is located. Let us say we are operating at half
speed, full torque. This would mean that the output
frequency is at 30Hz, the output voltage is at
230Vac, and the output current is at 100Arms as an
example. Let’s keep track of the watts. The watts
going into the motor would be:

Vmotor = 230 volts


Imotor = 100 amps
pf = 0.85
Wmotor = V*I*pf*sqrt(3) = 33,861 watts

If the motor has an efficiency of 94%, then 94% of


33,861 = 31,829 watts is being converted into
horsepower at its shaft.
16

The inverter section of the drive has a typical 40000


efficiency of 97.5%. That means the watts into the 35000

inverter is 33,861/0.975 = 34,729 watts. The losses 30000


25000
in the inverter would then be 34,729 – 33,861 = 868
20000
watts. 15000
10000
If the DC bus voltage is 648Vdc, then the average 5000

DC current in the bus is W/Vdc = 53.6Adc. 0


Input Converter Bus Inverter Output Motor Shaft
Amazing, but you see that the average amps is Power Losses Power Losses Power Losses Power

about half of the output amps, mostly because the


voltage is so much higher. Summarizing the watts Fig 44. Power and power losses at each section
of an AC Drive. Note that the power out is the
in the DC bus:
same as the power in minus the losses.

Vbus = 648 volts


Ibus = 53.6 amps 700 648

Wbus = 34,729 watts 600


480
500

What about the input to the drive? The diode bridge 400

300
converter has a typical efficiency of 99%. This 230
200
means the watts into the converter is 34,729/0.99 = 100
100 45.4 53.6
35,080 watts. The losses in the converter would 0.93 0.85
0
then be 35,080 – 34,729 = 351 watts. Line Line Line pf Bus Bus Motor Motor Motor pf
Volts Amps Volts Amps Volts Amps

The input power to the converter is 35,080 watts. If Fig 45. Chart of V and I at each section of an AC
the line voltage is 480Vac, and the input power Drive. Note that the watts is about the same in
factor is 0.93, then the input current is each section. Remember that the line and motor
W/(V*pf*sqrt(3)) = 45.4Aac. Summarizing: are 3-phase power, the bus is DC power.

Vline = 480 volts


Iline = 45.4 amps
pf = 0.93
Wline = 35,080 watts

Fig 46 pulls all of this together.

AC Line In CONV DC Bus INU AC Motor Out Motor Shaft


Voltage 480 Vrms 648 Vdc 230 Vrms
Power Factor 0.93 pf 0.85 pf
Current 45.4 Arms 53.6 Adc 100.0 Arms
KW 35.1 KW 0.4 34.7 KW 0.9 33.9 KW 2.0 31.8 KW
KVA 37.7 KVA 39.8 KVA
531 Max Vrms
Efficiency 0.990 0.975 0.940
Horsepower 45.4 hp 42.7 hp
Speed 889 rpm
Torque 252.0 ft-lb
Fig 46. Chart of V, I, pf, kW at each section of an AC Drive system. The drive itself is the Converter (CONV), DC
Bus, and the Inverter (INU). The AC Line In is the feed to the drive. The AC Motor Out is the feed from the drive
to the motor. Motor is the motor itself. Shaft is the power out of the motor shaft. Operation is at half speed, full
load.
17

What is this saying? In reality, there is more power


(Watts) going into the drive than coming out of the
drive to the motor. We have 3-phase power coming
in at a certain power factor, and 3-phase power
going out to the motor at a different power factor.
Also, there are losses along the way. Power is
based on the type and magnitude of voltage,
magnitude of current and the power factor. Power
is not simply proportional to the magnitude of
current.

If there were no losses at all within the drive, then


the power out would equal the power in. Taking the
power factor into account, the output current would
again be higher than the input current.

Even at full speed, full load, power factor comes


into play as is shown in Fig 47 below.

AC Line In CONV DC Bus INU AC Motor Out Motor Shaft


Voltage 480 Vrms 648 Vdc 460 Vrms
Power Factor 0.93 pf 0.87 pf
Current 92.9 Arms 109.7 Adc 100.0 Arms
KW 71.8 KW 0.7 71.1 KW 1.8 69.3 KW 4.2 65.2 KW
KVA 77.2 KVA 79.7 KVA
531 Max Vrms
Efficiency 0.990 0.975 0.940
Horsepower 92.9 hp 87.3 hp
Speed 1778 rpm
Torque 257.9 ft-lb
Fig 47. Chart of V, I, pf, kW at each section of an AC Drive. Operation is at full speed, full load.

One other interesting operating point would be at


full speed, half load. See Fig 48.

AC Line In CONV DC Bus INU AC Motor Out Motor Shaft


Voltage 480 Vrms 648 Vdc 460 Vrms
Power Factor 0.93 pf 0.60 pf
Current 45.5 Arms 53.7 Adc 71.0 Arms
KW 35.2 KW 0.4 34.8 KW 0.9 33.9 KW 2.0 31.9 KW
KVA 37.8 KVA 56.6 KVA
531 Max Vrms
Efficiency 0.990 0.975 0.940
Horsepower 45.5 hp 42.8 hp
Speed 1790 rpm
Torque 125.4 ft-lb
Fig 48. Chart of V, I, pf, kW at each section of an AC Drive. Operation is at full speed, half load.

Comparing these charts, you can follow how the


various parameters change. In summary, the
current isn’t the whole story. You also need the
voltage and power factor to determine power.
18

9. A note about conventions and definitions

When reading literature about the physics involved with power and power factor, the following
conventions are typically used.

a. RSS is the square Root of the Sum of the Squares of identified numbers.
For example, the RSS(3,4) would be the sqrt(32 + 42) = 5. This is used to
add the magnitudes of vectors that are orthogonal to each other (meaning
that the vectors are along different axes in the xyz plane).

b. P is often used to signify active power, real power, and is the current in
phase with the voltage times the voltage. This would be Ir*V in the above
examples. The letter P was selected because it stands for Power. The
units are Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). The average value of P is usually
positive, signifying a net transfer of energy from the source to the load.
The average value of P can also be negative, signifying a net transfer of
energy from the load to the source (for example, during stopping and
braking operations, overhauling loads, lowering a hoist, etc).

c. Q is often used to signify fundamental reactive power. This is the


50/60Hz current due to inductors and capacitors (the current along the y-
axis) times the voltage. In the above examples, where the sum of Ic and
Im gives us Iq, this would be Iq*V. This has also been called Px. The
letter Q was selected because it follows P in the alphabet. The units are in
volt-amp reactive (VAR) or kilovolt-amp reactive (kVAR). The average
value of Q is zero, so the net transfer of energy to the load is nil.

Capacitor banks that are used to help correct for lagging power factor are
rated in kVAR. The conversion from kVAR to uF for a 480V, 60Hz
power grid system, is 1kVAR = 3.8uF for each of the three caps connected
in delta, or 11.5uF for each of the three caps connected in wye.

d. S is often used to signify apparent power. This is the total current


times the voltage. In the above examples, this would be It*V, where It
included Ir, Im, Ic and Ih. It has also been called Pa. The letter S was
selected because R followed Q in the alphabet, but R was already selected
to stand for resistance so they went to the next letter, S. The units are in
volt-amps, or VA. S = sqrt(P2 + Q2 + D2).

e. S1 is the fundamental apparent power. This is similar to S except that


harmonic currents are not included. The current would be called I1 and
would only include Ir and Iq.

f. D is often used to signify harmonic power. This is the harmonic current


times the voltage. So this would be Ih*V in the examples. It has also
been called PH. D was selected because harmonic loads cause distortion in
the voltage waveform. The units are in volt-amp reactive, VAR and
19

kVAR. The average value of D is zero, so the net transfer of energy to the
load is nil.

g. N has been used to signify nonactive power. This is the RSS of the reactive power
and the harmonic power, so N = sqrt(Q2 + D2). The currents involved are Iq and Ih. The
units are in volt-amp reactive, VAR and kVAR. This used to be called “fictitious power”.
The average value of N is zero, so the net transfer of energy to the load is nil.

h. PF, total power factor, is the ratio between active power and apparent power, or P/S.
Since P = Ir*V, and S = It*V, then PF = P/S = Ir*V/It*V = Ir/It. Its value can range from
0.0 leading to 1.00 to 0.0 lagging. These are the values of cosine (x) where x can range
from +90 degrees (90 degrees leading) to -90 degrees (90 degrees lagging). We often
break power factor into two portions: displacement power factor and distortion power
factor.

i. PF1, displacement power factor, is the ratio of P/S1. In other words, this
only refers to fundamental (50 or 60Hz) current and power. This is the
Ir/I1 ratio. This would be the only power factor seen when circuits only
include resistors, inductors and capacitors. If there is no harmonic current,
then I1 = It. If there is no fundamental reactive current, then I1 = Ir and PF1
= 1.00.

j. PFD, distortion power factor, is the ratio of S1/S. In other words, this is
the I1/It ratio where It includes the total fundamental current, I1, and the
harmonic current, Ih. The Total Harmonic Current Distortion (THID or
Ithd) of a system is the ratio of the harmonic current to the total
fundamental current. If there is no harmonic current, then I1 = It, Ithd = 0,
and PFD = 1.00.

If the Ithd is known, then PFD = 1.000

sqrt(1/(1+Ithd2)). For example,


0.990

0.980
using the chart shown, if Ithd = 35%, 0.970

then PFD = 0.944. 0.960

0.950

0.940

0.930

0.920

0.910

0.900

0.890

0.880
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50

k. Total power factor is then PF = PF1 * PFD . Or, using the currents only,
this would be Ir/It = Ir/I1 * I1/It.

l. Typically, lagging power factor has a positive value, and leading power
factor has a negative value. However, some power monitors reverse this
convention so that lagging power factor is negative and leading power
factor is positive. You will need to check the instrument to determine
20

what conventions are being used to report leading and lagging power
factor.

m. For a more in-depth discussion, please refer to IEEE Std 1459-2000,


“IEEE Standard Definitions for the Measurement of Electric Power
Quantities Under Sinusoidal, Nonsinusoidal, Balanced, or Unbalanced
Conditions”.
21

10. The Power Cube

The Power Cube puts all of this together into a single diagram. The equations that define all of the
different vectors are listed below.
REACTIVE
Current
y-axis

Ih

D
Iq

It
Q
In
S N
I1
S1
Ir
P x-axis
REAL
Current
z-axis
(in phase with line voltage, V)
HARMONIC
Current
For 3-Phase, Non-Sinusoidal, Balanced Systems
(approximations, where Vthd < 5%)

Active Power = P = V*Ir (kW)


Reactive Power = Q = V*Iq (kVAR)
Apparent Power = S = V*It (kVA)
Fundamental Apparent Power = S1 = V*I1 (kVA)
Harmonic Power = D = V*Ih (kVAR)
Nonactive Power = N = V*In (kVAR)

S = sqrt(P2 + Q2 + D2) It = sqrt(Ir2 + Iq2 + Ih2)

Total Power Factor = PF = P/S = PF1 * PFD = Ir/It


Displacement Power Factor = PF1 = P/S1 = Ir/I1 = cos (angle between Ir and I1)
Distortion Power Factor = PFD = S1/S = I1/It = cos (angle between I1 and It)

Ithd = Ih/I1 PFD = sqrt(1/(1+Ithd2))

Real power in a balanced 3-phase circuit = 1.732*Vline-to-line*Iline*PF


22

11. Key to understanding the diagrams

The following example and description will help you understand the waveforms and the diagrams used
in this paper.

a. The Circuit Diagram


This is a simple, single-phase AC circuit. It shows an AC voltage source on the left, a capacitor load
with current Ic, a resistor load with current Ir, and an harmonic current load with current Ih. The total
current from the voltage source is It. It is the vector sum of the three currents.

It
Ic Ir Ih

b. The Waveform Diagram


This shows what the voltage and the individual currents look like with respect to time.
The blue sinewave is the voltage V, 100Vrms, with a peak of 141V. It is running at 60Hz (three full
cycles within 50ms).
The green sinewave is the resistor current Ir, 50Arms. Notice that it is in phase with the voltage V.
The light blue sinewave is the capacitor current Ic, 20Arms. Notice that it leads the voltage by 90
degrees.
The yellow sinewave is the harmonic current Ih, 15Arms. Its frequency is 5*60Hz which is 300Hz.
The bright pink waveform is the total current It. It is a sum of Ir, Ic and Ih.

0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m


200.0 200.0

V
It
100.0 Ir 100.0

0 0

Ih Ic
-100.0 -100.0

-200.0 -200.0
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m
23

c. The Vector Diagram


This shows the same voltage and currents above, but with their vectors.
The blue voltage is along the positive x-axis.
The green Ir is along the positive x-axis.
The light blue Ic is along the positive y-axis.
The yellow Ih is along the positive z-axis.
The bright pink It is the vector sum of the other currents, and is the diagonal of the cube defined by the
other currents.

Ic
It

Ih Ir V

d. The Power Diagram


This shows the instantaneous power of the circuit.
The red waveform is the product of It*V.
The average value of this waveform is the watts, the real power, dissipated by the circuit, and is shown
here with a dashed dark red line. The area within the waveform above this line is equal to the area
within the waveform below this line. Due to the scale, the other waveforms are much smaller.

0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m


12.00k 12.00k

10.00k 10.00k

6.67k 6.67k

Average Power

3.33k 3.33k

0 0

-2.00k -2.00k
0 12.50m 25.00m 37.50m 50.00m