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'[EE] Is this snake oil?'
2010\01\18@110302 by William Couture

face picon face
Hi everyone!

My wife and I were at the local home show this weekend, and one of the
exhibitors
was "four leaf energy", which was displaying / selling an energy
saving unit for the
home.

They claim it's a capacitor system that hooks up to your breaker panel
and reduces
the load used by motors, saving energy and money.

It this something real, or "snake oil"?  I'd appreciate your opinion.

Their website is
  http://www.fourleafenergy.com

Check out their brochure and the FAQ, where they try to explain how the system
saves energy.

Thanks,
  Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2010\01\18@113415 by Moreira, Luis A

flavicon
face
Hi,
This seems to offer what they normally do in industry, if you have large
inductive loads you can compensate it by using power factor compensation
systems. In industry where they get severely penalised by the grid for
having a power factor that is not close to 1 (normally 0.98), this
systems will deliver a big cost saving. These systems normally comprise
of capacitor banks that are switch in and out of circuit as required and
control electronics that determines when to switch them. The one we
have, just calculates before hand based on power requirements, what
capacitance is required and when. This makes for a cheaper system but as
it is only an estimate some times it gets switched on when not required
and there goes the power factor again. Other more modern systems do it
in real-time.
For a residential application I'm not that sure it would make that much
difference to your electric bill. If this just has some capacitors and
no control electronics, then I think is a waste of time.
My feeling is that it is "snake oil"
Best Regards
           Luis  
     

{Original Message removed}

2010\01\18@114630 by alan smith

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Typically gives you savings if you have a large number of motors, caps will do a power factor correction...as the NASA document says.  How many large motors do YOU have?  Maybe the AC compressor and the fridge compressor (new ones are more efficient anyway).  But just normal loads..lights, etc...doubt it will make any change to the bill.

Others with thoughts?

--- On Mon, 1/18/10, William Couture <spam_OUTbcoutureTakeThisOuTspamgmail.com> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2010\01\18@121000 by Sean Breheny

face picon face
I think that in the US, residential customers are billed only for real
power, not volt-amps, and are not penalized for having a low
power-factor. Also, as several people have mentioned, most high-power
residential electrical devices are resistive (incandescent lights,
electric stoves, electric heaters, electric hot water heaters,
toasters). The biggest exceptions would probably be fluorescent lights
(both long tube and compact),  the motors in washing machines and
dryers, and anything with a big switching power supply (e.g. TV). I
believe that government regulations are heading in the direction of
forcing many devices to have internal power factor correction anyway,
which would make this device even more redundant.

Sean


On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 11:45 AM, alan smith <.....micro_eng2KILLspamspam.....yahoo.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

>> -

2010\01\18@122708 by AK

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face
Correct, residential customers are only billed for real power used,
regardless of power factor so this capacitor would never pay for
itself.  Also, there's no indication that the residential unit
monitors the home power factor so in fact at night and when you aren't
at home running motors it would be wasteful, giving you a decreased
capacitive power factor instead of reduced inductive power factor. The
claim of increasing the life of appliances and motorized equipment is
also complete bull.  While these systems, when they include real time
monitoring and switching, are used in industrial settings with
benefit, this company is simply trying to ride the 'green wave' of
money out of peoples pockets.


On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 12:09 PM, Sean Breheny <KILLspamshb7KILLspamspamcornell.edu> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

>>> --

2010\01\18@125709 by Vitaliy

face
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AK wrote:
> ..this company is simply trying to ride the 'green wave' of
> money out of peoples pockets.

Classic, I better write this down! :-D

Vitaliy

2010\01\18@131155 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> It this something real, or "snake oil"?  I'd appreciate your opinion.

after reading only your email - it's snake oil
after reading the faq - of course it is!

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2010\01\18@133556 by John Coppens

flavicon
face
On Mon, 18 Jan 2010 12:26:06 -0500
AK <00EraseMEspam.....case.edu> wrote:

> Correct, residential customers are only billed for real power used,
> regardless of power factor so this capacitor would never pay for
> itself.

Well, just to be complete, there are a few things to take into account:

1) Though I don't think they account for the numbers mentioned in the
ad, there are losses in your house that increase if the power factor is
bad. If the current increases, your house wiring and any
transformers _will_ heat up more (for which you _will_ pay), the fuses
_can_ trip faster (as they don't measure the current's angle), and other
secondary effects.

2) There is a tendency for utility companies to start checking the power
factor of residential users (in EU they already do), and impose limits.
Utily companies are interested that everyone use a power factor near
ideal, because else they would have to increase the section of their
cables to avoid overload (=investment...).

So, overall, a reasonable power correction is the green thing to do. I
wouldn't qualify this product as pure snake oil. Though I have my doubts
about the "6% or more" savings announced, but then I don't have a 10 HP
compressor A/C...

John

Note: If you don't compensate the power factor _at_ the motor (as
opposed to installing the unit at the house entry point), the internal
lines will still heat/lose power.

2010\01\18@135154 by Herbert Graf

picon face
On Mon, 2010-01-18 at 11:02 -0500, William Couture wrote:
> Hi everyone!
>
> My wife and I were at the local home show this weekend, and one of the
> exhibitors
> was "four leaf energy", which was displaying / selling an energy
> saving unit for the
> home.
>
> They claim it's a capacitor system that hooks up to your breaker panel
> and reduces
> the load used by motors, saving energy and money.
>
> It this something real, or "snake oil"?  I'd appreciate your opinion.
>
> Their website is
>    http://www.fourleafenergy.com
>
> Check out their brochure and the FAQ, where they try to explain how the system
> saves energy.

Sounds like power factor correction. Industrial power users do this
because they are charged for non unity power factors.

Residential, in almost all locations, is only charged for real power
usage, so this sort of device will deliver ZERO bill savings, in fact it
might actually add a very small amount to the bill due to resistive
losses in the device.

I'd stay away.

TTYL



2010\01\18@135327 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> 2) There is a tendency for utility companies to start checking the power
> factor of residential users (in EU they already do),

If you mean "there is at least one location in the EC where they do" I
can't disprove that, but in my country (netherlands, still in the EC
last time I checked) they certainly don't. I pay for real power only.

Sidenote: Elektor magazine showed some voltage/currents plots for LED
bulbs. Looked very worrying, not just a phase shift but huge current
pulses during just a few percent of the phase.

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2010\01\18@140730 by Spehro Pefhany

picon face
At 11:02 AM 18/01/2010, you wrote:
>Hi everyone!
>
>My wife and I were at the local home show this weekend, and one of the
>exhibitors
>was "four leaf energy", which was displaying / selling an energy
>saving unit for the
>home.
>
>They claim it's a capacitor system that hooks up to your breaker panel
>and reduces
>the load used by motors, saving energy and money.
>
>It this something real, or "snake oil"?  I'd appreciate your opinion.
>
>Their website is
>    http://www.fourleafenergy.com


Residential power meters in North America measure true power, there is no
cost penalty for power factor != 1.

Improving the power factor by cancelling out reactive currents near (ie.
with low resistance wires to) the load will reduce total losses by the
amount of reactive current^2 times the resistance of the wiring back of
the added reactance (the same higher currents will then just circulate
between the load and the power factor correction device).
A heavily-loaded motor will not have that much % reactive current flowing
anyhow.

This might affect the charges by a percent or something like that. Utterly
negligible, IMHO, but technically not lying, just being misleading.

There was a somewhat less dubious device a decade or four ago that used
a triac-- it would reduce the operating power by reducing voltage on motors
that were essentially *idling* (IOW, motors rated much higher (like 5:1)
than their actual operating load), but this is not that. Google on
"Frank Nola"
(NASA) for more info.

>Best regards,

Spehro Pefhany --"it's the network..."            "The Journey is the reward"
EraseMEspeffspaminterlog.com             Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
Embedded software/hardware/analog  Info for designers:  http://www.speff.com



2010\01\18@155630 by John Coppens

flavicon
face
On Mon, 18 Jan 2010 19:52:36 +0100
Wouter van Ooijen <RemoveMEwouterEraseMEspamEraseMEvoti.nl> wrote:

> > 2) There is a tendency for utility companies to start checking the
> > power factor of residential users (in EU they already do),
>
> If you mean "there is at least one location in the EC where they do" I
> can't disprove that, but in my country (netherlands, still in the EC
> last time I checked) they certainly don't. I pay for real power only.

Well, surely I shouldn't have generalized. And yes, I'm sure you only pay
for real power. But do check regulations... I'm quite sure that if you
do, you'll find that there are restrictions, which may not apply to small
residentials. Take into account that the standard the ad refers to, is a
10 HP motor, or 7.5kW motor, which is fairly common in the U.S. (for air
conditioners), but which I doubt you will find in many houses in the
Netherlands. Another reference to the scale of power is the fact that the
small (residential) unit in the ad is rated at 200 A.

I lived in Belgium till 30 years ago, and by then there were the first
indications of power factor control... According to the power
consumption, a different tolerance was permitted (0.8 or so for
residential, if I recall rightly).

John

2010\01\18@162804 by Marechiare

picon face
Vitaliy wrote:
> AK wrote:
>> ..this company is simply trying to ride the 'green
>> wave' of money out of peoples pockets.
>
> Classic, I better write this down! :-D

Classic replies:
Don't bother dude, I had written that a couple of centuries ago! :-)

2010\01\18@163509 by ivp

face picon face
Deja vu first thing in the morning is a spooky thing !!

Very similar enquiry from 22 Dec 2004

[EE] Energy savers such as this for real ?

http://www.piclist.com/techref/postbot.asp?by=thread&id=%5BEE%3A%5D+Energy+savers+such+as+this+for+real%3F+&w=body&tgt=post

One of the posts has a dead EERE link

http://www.eere.energy.gov/

Try a Power Factor search

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/library/resultssearch.aspx

wbr

2010\01\18@165501 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Take into account that the standard the ad refers to, is a
> 10 HP motor, or 7.5kW motor, which is fairly common in the U.S.

But the FAQ states "Apparent Power is what the utility company charges
you." AFAIK that is not true, even in your country? So the thingy is
still 100% snake oil for reducing your bill.

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2010\01\19@010922 by John Coppens

flavicon
face
On Mon, 18 Jan 2010 22:54:03 +0100
Wouter van Ooijen <RemoveMEwouterspam_OUTspamKILLspamvoti.nl> wrote:

> > Take into account that the standard the ad refers to, is a
> > 10 HP motor, or 7.5kW motor, which is fairly common in the U.S.
>
> But the FAQ states "Apparent Power is what the utility company charges
> you." AFAIK that is not true, even in your country? So the thingy is
> still 100% snake oil for reducing your bill.

I had missed that paragraph in the FAQ...

Wow... This could be misinterpreted, I guess:
[
Since providers can only collect money for real power, they try to
maximize the amount of real power delivered by their networks. Therefore,
distribution networks always incorporate electricity meters that measure
apparent power, usually by displaying or recording power factors or
volt-amp-reactive-hours. Many industrial power meters can measure
volt-amp-reactive hours.
]
from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_meter

I guess this means the distributor has those meters, not the subscriber
(At least I hope so ;-)

On the other hand, the 'certification' from Nasa, specifically mentions a
savings in 'Real power' of some 8%. Which is strange by itself, as the
capacitors wouldn't change the real power, only apparent power.

Well, all this got me really started:

http://www.nlcpr.com/nasa_KVAR_testing.pdf
http://www.nlcpr.com/Deceptions1.php

John

2010\01\19@073424 by Spehro Pefhany

picon face

>  Google on
>"Frank Nola"
>(NASA) for more info.

http://tinyurl.com/y8j5dze

Above is a link to a full scan of Popular Science magazine (July 1979),
with an article on Nolan's device starting on page 71.

Great blast from the past ads, such as $3899 for a brand-new 47 mpg
Datsun 210,
(page 2) and only $1,000 for a 17" CRT color tv with a 4" B&W
picture-in-picture feature (Page 84). And more than $400 for a Radio Shack
receiver.

>Best regards,

Spehro Pefhany --"it's the network..."            "The Journey is the reward"
RemoveMEspeffTakeThisOuTspamspaminterlog.com             Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
Embedded software/hardware/analog  Info for designers:  http://www.speff.com



2010\01\19@094942 by William Couture

face picon face
On Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 1:08 AM, John Coppens <EraseMEjohnspamspamspamBeGonejcoppens.com> wrote:

> On the other hand, the 'certification' from Nasa, specifically mentions a
> savings in 'Real power' of some 8%. Which is strange by itself, as the
> capacitors wouldn't change the real power, only apparent power.
>
> Well, all this got me really started:
>
> http://www.nlcpr.com/nasa_KVAR_testing.pdf
> http://www.nlcpr.com/Deceptions1.php

Good links, especially Decptions1.php.  Thanks!

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2010\01\19@235045 by John Coppens

flavicon
face
On Mon, 18 Jan 2010 11:02:19 -0500
William Couture <RemoveMEbcoutureKILLspamspamgmail.com> wrote:

> Check out their brochure and the FAQ, where they try to explain how the
> system saves energy.

I couldn't help myself, and send those guys a message asking:

[Your FAQ states:

"Apparent Power is what the utility company charges you."

As far as I can determine, this is incorrect and misleading. The meters
are designed to measure 'Real power', not apparent power.Why did you
state this on the web page?
]

I was somewhat surprised to get a prompt answer, though the answer
doesn't really address the problem:

[
Four Leaf Energy's website is national and is therefore intended as
general reading for both residential and commercial customers.  The way
billing actually occurs will vary from state to state, type of class
billing, and type of end user.

In all cases though, by localizing the reactive amps on the load side of
the meter for both residential and commercial customers the motors no
longer need to push and pull those amps from the motors to the nearest
power supplier's capacitor, which can often be a few miles away, 60 times
every second.  This obviously reduces heat, current, and strain on the
motors, wires, contactors and breakers. - Which in turn saves on
kilowatts and how most customers are billed.

A great example of this is - try cutting a piece of wood will a circular
saw at the end of a hundred foot extension cord vs. plugged directly into
an outlet and you will see how much harder the saw has to work.  You can
actually measure this with a $20 Kill-o-watt meter and see the difference.
We have met and spoke with many power company personnel and engineers and
they have confirmed that this is an undeniable fact that the motors do
work harder.  

We apologize if you felt the explanation of "Real vs Apparent Power" was
misleading to you.  In all cases our customers do indeed save kilowatts,
and if for any reason they do not, they have our 9 month lower kilowatt
usage guarantee to rely on.  

The manufacturer has over 250,000 satisfied customers and we have hundreds
of local clients that are saving money through our products ability to
reduce kilowatt consumption.  The product is manufacturer warranted for 12
years and guaranteed to produce results with a money back guarantee.

If you are in the Philadelphia area please feel free to stop by our booth
#4 at the Philadelphia Home Show at the Pa. Convention Center all this
week through Sunday and we would be happy to illustrate the technology
1st hand and share some of our clients data and savings testimonials.

We sincerely hope that this helps,
]

Maybe someone in PA can drop in on their booth...

John

2010\01\20@022735 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> We sincerely hope that this helps,
> ]

It sure does! it confirms that for them profit is first, truth is no
issue. I wonder of which sector of the economy this reminds me?

> Maybe someone in PA can drop in on their booth...

drop something very heavy?

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2010\01\20@093729 by William Couture

face picon face
On Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 11:50 PM, John Coppens <johnSTOPspamspamspam_OUTjcoppens.com> wrote:
>
>  <much snippage>
>
> If you are in the Philadelphia area please feel free to stop by our booth
> #4 at the Philadelphia Home Show at the Pa. Convention Center all this
> week through Sunday and we would be happy to illustrate the technology
> 1st hand and share some of our clients data and savings testimonials.
>
> We sincerely hope that this helps,
> ]
>
> Maybe someone in PA can drop in on their booth...

My wife and I saw their booth at the Philadelphia home show, and
it tripped my "too good to be true" meter, but I don't have the EE
knowledge (my degrees are in Physics) to confirm/refute them.
My wife, of course, was in favor of giving them money on the spot
for their magic beans.

It was interesting that the woman doing the demo (motor in a case,
with a kill-a-watt and an ampmeter) couldn't tell me how it worked,
even in laymans terms.  Most people seemed to be very impressed
that the 6 amps drawn by the motor dropped to about 2 amps when
the capacitor was switched in, but my BS meter reminded me that
the motor was still doing the same work, and the same power must
be coming from somewhere.

That's why I tapped the Piclist "hive mind" for an unbiased review.

Thanks!
  Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2010\01\20@121446 by John Coppens

flavicon
face
On Wed, 20 Jan 2010 09:36:57 -0500
William Couture <spamBeGonebcoutureSTOPspamspamEraseMEgmail.com> wrote:

> Most people seemed to be very impressed
> that the 6 amps drawn by the motor dropped to about 2 amps when
> the capacitor was switched in, but my BS meter reminded me that
> the motor was still doing the same work, and the same power must
> be coming from somewhere.
>
> That's why I tapped the Piclist "hive mind" for an unbiased review.

I'm sure there are some gains to be made with the thing, but as far as I
can see from the info gathered, the gadget is not automatic ('the switch
settings were done by a representative' in the NASA doc). So the
compensation will only be good for one combination of loads.

No one seems to mention that, if you compensate the amps for one load
combination of motors, and switch the motors off, the capacitors will
consume those amps (be it with the opposite phase). And most of the
gains will be for the utility company.

Let's leave it at that...

John

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