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The relationship between power factor and hormonics

Guest Billy

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Guest Billy
I am a new member, I want to know the relationship between power factor and hormonics. Does an inductive circuit also contain harmics? if so, if I improve the power factor, what's happen to the harmonics? Thx for replying!!
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Hello Billy, welcome to the forum.


Firstly, by definition, power factor is the ratio of KW to KVA and gives an indication of how much of the current drawn by a load is being efficiently utilised by the load. A power power factor does not necessarily affect the end user, but definitely has an affect on the supply. The power meter still turns at the same rate indicating the KW used. A poor power factor will increase the loses in the distribution system. Perhaps if the power authorities charged for amps (or KVA) rather than KW, then this power factor would take on a different meaning.

There are two contributing components to a poor power factor

  • Inductive current

  • Harmonic current

Inductive current is effectively passenger current that increases the total supply current but does not contribute to the KW consumed by the customer. If the customer has a usage of say 100KW and a pf of 0.5, then the KVA would be 200 and so the current draw is double what it would be if the power factor was 1.0 The result of this is that his power meter still runs at the same speed, but the power lost in the distribution system is four times what it should be. It also means that the transformer supplying this customer needs to be larger than necessary. (transformers and generators are rated in KVA not KW) This all contributes to a lower overall efficiency in the distribution system. Inductive current can be due to motors, transformers etc. Inductive current can be easily neutralised by adding capacitive current. - this can introduce other problems such as resonance but that is a different story.

Harmonic current is due to distortions in the current waveform and in todays world, this is very common. Typical sources of harmonic curents are solidstate circuits such as computers, variable speed drives, UPS's, flourescent lightind and other forms of discharge lighting. Almost anything electronic connected to the supply is going to cause harmonic current to flow due to the rectifiers in the powersupply. Harmonic currents are cumulative and will lead to increased supply losses also.

The inductive and harmonic currents are totaly independant curents and can exist in isolation, but can also coexist on a supply depending on the connected load.

A poor power factor could be the result of harmonics from lights and computors, plus inductive currents from motors. Some equipment such as flourescent lighting can contribute both harmonic currents due to their discharge nature, and inductive current due to their inductive balast.

Power factor correction by adding capacitors will reduce the inductive current, but will not reduce the harmonic current. Harmonic current correction is much more complex and is best done as part of the equipment design. Electronic correction units are available, but expensive.

Best regards,


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  • 8 years later...
I am a new member, I want to know the relationship between power factor and hormonics. Does an inductive circuit also contain harmics? if so, if I improve the power factor, what's happen to the harmonics? Thx for replying!!





There are three (3) entities identified as Power Factor—

  1. True Power Factor
  2. Displacement Power Factor
  3. Distortion Power Factor

True Power Factor is the product (multiplication) of the Displacement Power Factor x Distortion Power Factor


Another way of stating this is: True Power Factor is the ratio of Average Power to Apparent Power (Avg. Pwr / Apparent Power)


or Pavg/(Vrms x Irms)




A technical paper produced by EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) ... entitled : HARMONICS AND HOW THEY RELATE TO POWER FACTOR

discusses the subject in greater detail. This paper can be found at the below link.


You will need to have the means for reading a PDF file, i.e. Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader

(free download from...... http://acrobat.9-pdf-software.com/Visit My Website)




Additionally, I think you will find the below reference links to be helpful to you as well.


Power Factor



Distortion Power Factor




Kind regards,



".......the question is the first step to acquiring knowledge."



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