Air conditioner usage affects voltage
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: This scorching summer a strange phenomenon was witnessed in the state power sector. There was an unprecedented spurt in ‘reactive power drawal’ in the system. If the normal reactive power (the power that regulates voltage in the system) sucked out of the system is 50 megavolt amperes reactive (mvar), during March and April it shot up to a whopping 150 mvar.
The result: huge voltage drops that had necessitated hours of undeclared load-shedding. This anomalous functioning of the power system has given rise to a serious suspicion: Are major electronic brands adhering to the stipulated ‘power factor’ standards. The power factor standard for electronic goods and appliances is 0.9 or unity; anything less means more reactive power drawal.
It is electronic goods with inductive power motors — air-conditioners, fridge, fan, irrigation pumps, even LED and CFL lamps — that swallow reactive power. “These goods are supposed to have capacitors installed to stabilise reactive power,” said a top KSEB official.
“I think it is time we take out samples of electronic appliances and check their power factor. There is a high chance that major brands are slipping in standards, that their goods have a power factor far less than unity,” the official said.
Inductive power motors have long been in use and KSEB has installed capacitor banks to offset the fall in reactive power, which is necessary to regulate voltage in the system. If the reactive power is too low, inductive loads such as transformers will be unable to maintain voltages necessary for the generation of electromagnetic fields causing voltage collapse.
“But this year the drawal was shocking,” said M Sivasankar, the KSEB chairman and MD. “It could be mainly because of the large number of air-conditioners that have been put into use this summer,” Sivasankar said. The unprecedented heat could also be blamed. The compressor of a fridge, for instance, will have to work longer than normal to adjust to the heat outside this time.