The night the lights went out at the Super Bowl

Feb 14, 2013


Is it possible that the results of Super Bowl XLVII, America’s most watched game, could have been affected by a neglected piece of building conservation technology? You watched it. We all watched it as San Francisco almost came back to win the game, almost entirely because of a power outage that changed the game’s momentum.

The missing piece of technology is called Power Factor Correction, and it should be considered for all large buildings and condominiums. This equipment is designed to arrest any surge or lightning strike so that breakers won’t trip, circuits won’t fry, and motors won’t heat up as much, allowing them to last much longer. Equipment such as stadium lights that shut down due to a municipal outage will cycle back on much faster after repair. 

You may be asking what a power factor is, and why does it need correcting? The simple explanation is that the "dirty energy", or waste energy, coming from the grid is far too nonspecific for your facilities’ actual needs. The equipment affected most by this issue includes all inductive loads such as motors, pumps, and ballasts. Constant smaller electronic spikes and surges inherent in raw grid energy is given off as heat, which can eventually damage valuable equipment. This power inefficiency is caused by a delay between when demand begins to move electrons through the circuit (voltage) and when they actually move (current). The ratio used to describe the amount of energy used and not lost is called “Power Factor”. Proper power conditioning can save from 5% to15% of the energy used on inductive loads and will eliminate power factor penalties and some demand charges from your bill. Less building surges will also protect your lighting systems, reducing ballast and bulb loss. LED lighting will likely last well beyond its typically long lifespan. Additional motor and ballast heat may be removed by air conditioning.

Large building owners should consider the protection and savings to be found by utilizing Power Factor Correction. The long term cost savings speak for themselves. The conservative return on investment for most Power Factor Correction installations is generally within 2 years, and larger applications with higher motor loads will perform even better. 

Actual electrical savings will depend on the amount and type of inductive loads within your facility and existing power factor. The process requires a careful inspection of your facility, billing statements and usage patterns to best determine how to bring your Power Factor to near 100%. Certain specialized systems are capable of cycling the additional captured harmonics (waste energy) back into usable power whereas many less expensive systems do not.

Post authored by Scott Milne
National Energy Technologies LLC


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