Plug and Save: Another power factor correction scam?

Let's get one thing straight: I think the Plug and Save is a waste of money!  That's why I was so surprised when I Googled "Save Electricity" and it turned out to be the second hit.  I question the validity of a search engine if a company can simply "game" their search ranking to get high on the rankings and then offer no insight on to how their product works.  The device claims "Save Electricity Bills by up to 40%".  This is complete and utter b.s.!  So what is the Plug and Save?

The Plug and Save seems to be a Power Factor Correction device. But I can't be absolutely sure, because on the joke of a website they have they don't really say what Plug and Save is.  By the way, the website looks eerily similar to many other websites that we've covered on our Renewable Energy Scam post.

We covered the topic of power factor correction over a year ago in our post, "Can improving Power Factor help your Energy Bill?"  Our answer: NO!  I gave a semi-technical explanation of why these devices don't help residential customers in that post where I stated:

The power factor correction devices are said to improve Apparent Power.  However you don’t pay your utility for Apparent Power.  You pay them for Real Power (Watts). (Watts = Power Factor * Apparent Power) Apparent Power is defined as the total power in an AC circuit, both dissipated AND returned! ( view the power triangle and description of Apparent, Real and Reactive power).  This means that if you currently have a poor power factor, your  Apparent Power is higher, but all this means is that you are returning more unused electrons to the utility!  But since they only charge you for used electrons (dissipated electrons = Real Power = Watts) you don’t give a hoot about your Apparent Power!

The worst part about the Plug and Save website is that they have a link to a video from a local Atlanta news station, CBS 46, who has NO CLUE WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT!  Just because you see it on TV doesn't make it true.  The CBS 46 news cast states that electrical motors in your house pull in kW that they don't use and this just magically flows out of your house.  The "magic" device saves these wasted kW for later use.  What!!?  Are you serious CBS 46?  Just because you can make a silly animation doesn't make it true.

It's not just me who says that these devices don't work.  The highest authority on these matters in the U.S., the Department of Energy, says on the Energy Star page that power factor correction devices don't work!

You may see people claim on the internet that these devices work for them, but do you believe everything you read on the internet?  Some people actually believe that these devices do work for them, yet when I ask them to explain how, they can't.  If you can't get a reasonable explanation of how something saves you energy, then DON'T BUY IT!  Until I get a reasonable explanation of how power factor correction saves residential users money, I'm not buying it either.

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ckmapawatt's picture
Stephen, The problem with comparing a home year over year is that weather has such a huge impact in our energy consumption, and weather changes constantly. The ONLY way to test this is to have two identical set ups, one with the PFC device and one without, and run them through the same scenarios. For example, you could have two sample circuits, each with a mini-fridge, electric fan, and lamp. Then turn each one off and on at the same time for the same periods of time throughout the day. Then you can compare the total energy consumption. I agree, it would make sense for Popular Science or Scientific American to do one of these studies. Regarding residential wind turbines you can check out this category: There are many that are commercially available, the problem is that most residential locations don't have a high enough wind speed to justify getting one.
Excellent article, thanks.....however, I would also ask if someone independent and yes, skeptical like you would try the unit in your home or someones home and see what the result is? I agree with you, I would like to understand how it works, but I also know from selling proprietary items to the computer industry that I could not always explain to my customers how it worked, but I could demonstrate results....I, like you would like to see some independent results as I also feel that if this does work, the US government would be well advised to put one in every home in America and we would immediately reduce our dependency on foreign oil by some significant %! So, I remain skeptical.... So, would you consider doing a demo for the rest of us and report back? Thanks, Steve Durand
ckmapawatt's picture
Steve, If you pay for the product and installation costs I may consider a demo :) The only problem is that it would be difficult to prove any energy savings resulted from a Power Factor Correction (PFC) device. How would you know the home dwellers weren't just more vigilant at turning off the lights or turning off the AC if they knew they had an "energy saving system" installed (a.k.a. Placebo effect). The only way to truly analyze if these devices work is to have two identical houses (or sample electrical circuits mimicking a home) and have a PFC device on one of the set-ups. Then (and only then) you could compare if it saves any money.


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