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Anyone heard of the Powergard?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

I get this newsletter sent to me every day and at the top, there's a random ad.  Today's was for a device called the Powergard.  The website says:

 

Quote:
POWERGARD - Plug it in, turn it on, SAVE Energy, SAVE Money!

Save 10% and more on your monthly utility bill

or your money back!

No installation required - just plug-n-save!
Often pays for itself in less than one year!
Increases motor and appliance life!
Reduces power surges!
UL, CE and RoHS tested and listed!

It also says it conserves the amount of power drawn from your local utility company "by storing otherwise lost electricity caused by inductive motors..."

 

What do you guys think?  My first impression is to be skeptical.

post #2 of 36

Every thing I have read about these type of things says SCAM. The engineering behind them defies all knowledge and reality.

 

Will most likely never pay for itself

Has nothing to do with power surge protection

Nothing to do with motor life

I don't know about the certification but would check up on it - if any of the rest made any sense which it does not. Probably certified to not blow up too often.

 

There is no way they work except for the company/salesman who is trying to unload it on you. 

post #3 of 36

Definitely a scam.

 

Sounds like it's playing on the notion of inductive / capacitive loads that have no power factor correction.

 

It's almost certainly a box containing a switch, resistor and capacitor to provide a voltage to turn on the LED.

 

I've got a cheap watt meter that derrives it's power that way.  It uses the resonance in the RC network to tap off a few volts and a tiny bit of current that powers the meter chip and LCD display.  It was cheaper than putting a small transformer in there.

 

Of course, it could have some big capacitors in there to correct a big inductive power factor error but then it's not connected to the offending motor so when the motor's not running the big capacitors are now creating a capacitive power factor error...  Your AC or fridge motor doesn't run all the time as it's governed by a thermostat so when it's not running your Powergard is over correcting for a reactive load that it wasn't sized properly to correct in the first place.

 

Power factor correctors are used in industry where reactive power from big motors is a problem and can cause power supplies to overload with reactive current or make the utility bill higher. The solution for an automatic power factor corrector that isn't built into the offending bit of kit are the size of a wardrobe and have a bunch of capacitors the size of coke cans with some sensing electronics and a bunch of relays to switch in the right number of "coke cans" to correct the reactive power seen on the line.  The key is that you need the right capacitance to correct for the type / size of motor in use.  There isn't a one size fits all as the makers of the Powergard seem to think.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_factor

 

Quoting the Wiki on the random addition of power factor compensators to a power line, it says this:

 

"In a worst case, reactive elements can interact with the system and with each other to create resonant conditions, resulting in system instability and severe overvoltage fluctuations. As such, reactive elements cannot simply be applied at will, and power factor correction is normally subject to engineering analysis."


Which basically means, don't go bolting big capacitors or inductors on the power grid unless you have to and you've measured what it is you are correcting.

 

Most modern kit is power factor corrected these days (even computer switch-mode power supplies that used to be the worst offenders for presenting highly capacitive loads).  CFL bulbs can still be a problem though but as they consume very low amounts of power anyway the issue of apparent power is largely moot.  Some cheap mofified sine wave inverters don't like driving CFLs or other fluorescent tubes because they present a capacitive load to the nasty "sawn-off" sine wave output they have that can cause the mod-sine harmonics to heat up the bulb's electronics.  The cheap wattmeter I mentioned started to make a burning smell when plugged into such a mod-sine inverter... That's how I came to take it apart to find out how it worked and why it almost caught fire :D

post #4 of 36

I have a Powergard in my house, it is a powerfactor correcting capacator, like those in use for many years in industrial settings. It has worked very well, average summer reduction in my consumption of electricity is 45% and in the winter about 25 to 30%. I was amazed!

post #5 of 36

Wow - you must have industrial sized motors running things around there. Be much more informative if some data was given.

 

This sounds like a backhand advertisement for Powergard. Kind of like, put this little pill in your gas tank and get 100 mpg. 

 

 

post #6 of 36

I'm with you Russ. If people could save 45% on their electric bill, you could not keep the lid on that. This is highly suspect!

post #7 of 36

Residential meters don't even measure reactive power.  For that you need a special electric meter that measures not kWh but kVARh (reactive power VAs).  The power companies only bother measuring it for large industrial customers where they are charged for kVARh as it means they have to deliver more current for the same power.  The question about these gadgets has been asked at the Energy Star site and their response was:

 

ENERGY STAR does not qualify any Power Factor Correction Devices. Please send us an email at logomisuse@energystar.gov if you see one that claims to be ENERGY STAR certified.

Power Factor Correction Devices claim to reduce residential energy bills and to prolong the productive life cycles of motors and appliances by reducing the reactive power (kVAR) that is needed from the electric utility.

We have not seen any data that proves these types of products for residential use accomplish what they claim. Power factor correction devices improve power quality but do not generally improve energy efficiency (meaning they won't reduce your energy bill). There are several reasons why their energy efficiency claims could be exaggerated. First, residential customers are not charged for KVA-hour usage, but by kilowatt-hour usage. This means that any savings in energy demand will not directly result in lowering a residential user's utility bill. Second, the only potential for real power savings would occur if the product were only put in the circuit while a reactive load (such as a motor) were running, and taken out of the circuit when the motor is not running. This is impractical, given that there are several motors in a typical home that can come on at any time (refrigerator, air conditioner, HVAC blower, vacuum cleaner, etc.), but the unit itself is intended for permanent, unattended connection near the house breaker panel.

For commercial facilities, power factor correction will rarely be cost-effective based on energy savings alone. The bulk of cost savings power factor correction can offer is in the form of avoided utility charges for low power factor. Energy savings are usually below 1% and always below 3% of load, the higher percentage occurring where motors are a large fraction of the overall load of a facility. Energy savings alone do not make an installation cost effective.

 

energystar.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/energystar.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php

 

Repeat after me: "Power factor plugs for your home are a waste of money".

post #8 of 36

Cynthia added this to the products list today with a pretty "sale-able" description. Far be it for me to say that someone is trying to use this forum to sale a scam, but I would be careful about this one. I added a note to see the forum discussions under the product list. Now can someone tell me why I have 2 different profile depending on when I sign in?

post #9 of 36

Hi Brian and AccordGuy.

 

I reported the offending item - this clown seems to keep on trying. Maybe they really believe it works but if so they either can't or don't read the meter. 

post #10 of 36

Thanks so much for all your opinions on the Powergard and for making note of it in the product database.

 

A while back, I started a conversation about how Huddler should deal with greenwashed products: http://greenhome.huddler.com/forum/thread/464/how-should-huddler-deal-with-greenwashed-products

 

It's a very similar question with the idea of a scammy product that says it's green and isn't (or simply doesn't do anything) and whether or not to leave it in the system.  I'd really love to get your feedback in that thread!

 

 

post #11 of 36

I have a PowerGard and it has paid for itself. My home and appliances (including pool pump) is older. I am not an electrical engineer but the unit uses both the active and reactive power that is ent to the home thus improving efficiency. I disagree with the comments of the other posts that say it's a scam. This has not been my experience at all, but everyone has their own opinion, mine is based on my own experience.

post #12 of 36

Like you say Cynthia - everyone has their own opinion - mine is based on science and engineering - as I have noted before, if anyone can provide engineering documents showing this works OK - until then I recommend against wasting the money.

 

 

post #13 of 36

I have actually talked to some people who have been using them for a couple of years. They say if you use 1,000 kWh per month or more it can really save a lot of money. If you are in a home that uses both gas and electric and your electric bill is not that high, it would still save money, but it would take longer to pay for itself. They have a large house and use two of them because their home is all elecric and they use over 2,000 kWh a month. They said when they plugged them in the first month they saved almost 20%. I thought it would be a great alternative to having a similar device INSTALLED by an electrician to do the same thing at the circuit breaker box (PowerSave 1200) because you can unplug it and take it with you when you move. They are supposed to last for many years and will eventually "make you money". I watched one of those meters that measures electrical usage actually drop measurably after the unit was plugged in another outlet on the same circuit. It was explained to me that it is a capacitor that stores the energy flowing into your house (and subsequently to all of you appliances) that is not required to operate whatever is running at the moment and releases it at high demand times, causing the appliances to run "cooler" and thus helping them to possibly last longer as well. The cost of two of them was similar to the cost of one PowerSave 1200, but I wouldn't have to pay an installer. I am just waiting to see if my husband goes on strike before I spend any extra money - but I am PLANNING to get a couple of them for my all electric home.

post #14 of 36

Please do - the supplier will be very happy at least.

 

Nice part about many 'green' things - they work with kind of a magic you know! 

post #15 of 36

 I found this review of the  above   device.

 

If this is the [Power-Saver 1200 you were referring to then don't waste your money. All the unit does is reduce the reactance (watt-less power) of the load. It is just a variable capacitor to correct the power factor due to inductive loads. In the video they use an amp-meter when they should have used a power meter. You cannot measure AC power with an amp-meter because you need to know the phase angle between the voltage and current. The only energy you will save with this unit will be the IR losses in the wire, which should be insignificant. There are two graphs and an explanation of power factor here from a previous thread.

 

post #16 of 36

 

I cannot comment specifically on the products already discussed. Nor do I go along with telling someone that their unit will save $XX.xx without researching the facility or home where the unit is supposed to be installed. One needs to assess the inductive loads and verify at least “snap shot” power factor readings and probably 3rd through 11th level harmonics before trying to push the product on someone. I am thinking that a Fluke 1735 Power Logger would be more than adequate for investigative purposes, or an Omega HHM98P would suffice as well.
 
I also agree, that too much power factor correction is an undesirable situation.
 
By the way, EnergyStar is not going to put a rating on a capacitance unit because it uses no additional energy. In and of itself it adds no load, so why would they look at it.
 
The ROI payback is going to vary with every house. No two homes are exactly the same or use identical amounts.
 
There are a couple of quality products available that can be added to the residential setting that include surge/spike protection (MOV’s), RLC type harmonic filters, and light load capacitance, all in one unit. They should be installed by a professional electrician, because they hook up inside the main distribution panel, and to fulfill warranty requirements. I am also aware of one unit that is coming out soon that will carry an RoHS label.
 
This isn’t all about saving $20 on your electric bill. It’s about protecting the investment someone has already made in quality home electronic equipment. It’s about responsible energy management on the individual level that translates into a reduced carbon footprint. One drop of water at a time can grow into a flood.
post #17 of 36

This has become far too technical for me and I would venture to say 99% of people reading this. That is not productive in a forum to share information in. I read practical's note above twice and I still have little idea what they are saying. The best I can infer, is that it may save a little energy and that is our responsibility. However, primarily, it will protect our home electronics. If I am wrong please, correct me.

 

 

If I am right, is is important to quantify the savings and or protection. We all have limited resources ( some , more than others), Conservation, as with all things, needs to be prioritized.  This last input, did not help at all in that. I am also guessing there are more cost effective ways to protect our electronics. However, I am always open to being corrected. I can only ask that it be done in simple enough language, so that an average person reading this might be able to take something away from it.

post #18 of 36

I don't know how to play the harmonica either.

 

Protection for expensive electronic equipment is available and the scam type of capacitor systems are not in that group. 

 

For a home that typically doesn't need it any power factor correction is excessive. The only home that would benifit is one with industrial grade motors and that is being charged for electricity on an industrial basis.

Copied from Accordguy's post - First, residential customers are not charged for KVA-hour usage, but by kilowatt-hour usage. This means that any savings in energy demand will not directly result in lowering a residential user's utility bill. 

 

Since the things do not lower your electric bill the possibility of a ROI is non existent.

 

At the residential level, responsible energy use and reducing the carbon footprint is better handled by the types of lighting selected (plus turning off when not in use), energy efficient appliances, method of heating & cooling, solar water heating etc than getting into the power suppliers area.  

 

 

post #19 of 36

I have a powergard and it works. It uses both the active and reactive power sent by the utility. It has the same component parts that commercial/industrial users have had installed for many years. It brings the KVAR value closer to 1, improving overall efficiency of all appliances.

post #20 of 36

I have reached the point where I don't believe this thread can really advance further anymore. I think there is enough here to make an educated decision ( that and I am getting bored, because I see no advancement). I seems most agree that it does not work, and they back it up with the only data that I can understand or seem realistic. Cynthia thinks it works and I am still not sure what practical said. I think all but cynthia can agree that there is probably more cost effective ways to cut energy use. If I put anyone in a wrong category, I am sorry.

post #21 of 36

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Practical View Post

 

There are a couple of quality products available that can be added to the residential setting that include surge/spike protection (MOV’s), RLC type harmonic filters, and light load capacitance, all in one unit. They should be installed by a professional electrician, because they hook up inside the main distribution panel, and to fulfill warranty requirements. I am also aware of one unit that is coming out soon that will carry an RoHS label.
 
This isn’t all about saving $20 on your electric bill. It’s about protecting the investment someone has already made in quality home electronic equipment. It’s about responsible energy management on the individual level that translates into a reduced carbon footprint. One drop of water at a time can grow into a flood.


These are a different class of device.  MOV (metal oxide varistors) are primarily lightning surge arrestors.  My solar charge controller has them for that purpose, they are common in telephone master sockets and are the basic element of every "surge protector" mains extension strip and plug you can buy.  They are good for protecting expensive equipment like computers from surges and spikes on the mains.

 

Harmonic filters are also sometimes included in these power strips & plugs and they are also useful for filtering out radio interference causing problems with audio kit and so on.  It might contain a very small value capacitor (different from a power factor correcting type) and a inductor wound on a ferrite donut.

 

Actually, lots of laptop power supplies now have these ferrite "blobs" molded into the DC power lead near the plug where it goes into the laptop to stop radio interference escaping from the computer and being broadcast in the house (either down the wires or straight into the air) as they operate at various frequencies of a few hundred MHz to a couple of GHz.  The power supply cube itself is also a culprit, switching at a few kHz and could upset AM radios nearby.

 

The RoHS label just means it is safe to throw in the trash (or rather it is safe to recycle).  It stands for the "Restriction of Hazardous Substances" directive and for electronic kit means that they used lead-free solder and less hazardous plastics that don't emit dangerous gas when heated in use or incinerated when destroyed.

 

As Practical said, "one drop of water at a time can grow into a flood" but rather than plug in a "wonder-sponge", you'd save a lot more of the planet by turning off the taps...

 

The post about the PowerSave 1200 (or whatever - they're all the same) was even funnier...  "It was explained to me that it is a capacitor that stores the energy flowing into your house (and subsequently to all of you appliances) that is not required to operate whatever is running at the moment and releases it at high demand times".  That's the salesman who didn't even quite get the power factor script right.  Yes, the idea is that the capacitor stores out of phase energy that goes back to the inductive load later but we're talking about within the space of one half-cycle of mains (1/120th of a second), not later that night!! 

 

I might just give up and start selling these things myself - there's obviously gold in them thar green hills!!!

post #22 of 36

Thanks AccordGuy,

 

We appreciate your input. In depth technical knowledge is a good thing - whether people want to listen to it is another question altogether.

 

I think you are right, 'there's gold in them thar hills'. Like PT Barnum reportedly said, "there is a sucker born every minute". 

 

People are too often attracted by the BS of a salesman who knows no more about the subject than they do and end up wasting their money while telling other people how great it is.

post #23 of 36

just read another forum, that went on and on and on. It has several electrical engineers, who got out their books and showed that not only will it not save you money, it may cost you. It seems a poor power factor means free energy because residential  home are not charged that way. While these may lower amps, it will not lower watts used. Amps are not power and we are charged only for watts used. That is how they put it in English. By the way the inventor (per this forum) is not an engineer but a vocational school graduate. Not to knock these schools. Seriously Cynthia , If these things worked as advertised, do you really believe that we would even be having this discussion? It would be on the news, sold by large companies and on and on.

post #24 of 36
The things to remember is the devices you put them on. They supposedly work well on motors and not so much on electronic devices. Motors are very funny in that they start up with what is called "in rush current" and from what I understand this device smooths out this start up demand. Years back I bought them for a regional home improvement company I was working at, and I was told this from the Mfg'er. We never had any user issues but the cost was heafty.
post #25 of 36
Hi Almo1631 - welcome to the Greenhome Huddler!

As regards the in rush current during startup I have read the claim - even in one university study that was paid for by some huckster.

For residential uses EnergyStar flat out says there is nothing to these things and if anyone sees one bearing the EnergyStar logo it should be reported. The link is http://energystar.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/energystar.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=4941&p_created=1204908170

Again, for residential uses these things (power factor improvement devices) are just someone trying to separate you from your money by whatever means. 

They are used industrially - last plant I designed we had a series of 5,000 kW (5 mW) motors operating with power factor improvement. They were useful and required due to industrial billing methods where you pay for actual power used. Redidential meters don't work that way. 

Edited by Russ - 7/28/2009 at 06:39 pm GMT
post #26 of 36
The power factor or PF rating you refer to is on all motors even the ones in your home. Lets see
the dryer, the oven fan, the vent hoods, the some bathroom vents, the air conditioners and I'm sure I forgot a few.
Now lets look at Energy Star what makes you think the same technology is not simular to the power gard in some devices?? How do you think the merchandise get's to be Energy Star?? I'm sure its overall rating involving power usage and performance.

I do agree with you in that these devices are costly. I don't agree with your industrial assesment. If any motor on startup uses 5 times the curent to get started then if you reduce that down to three times you end up with a net savings which is the basis for the item.
post #27 of 36
The extra current used in starting a motor (in rush current) is a totally different topic than power factor which the devices sold are touted to control. The 'inrush' current lasts for seconds - the larger the motor the more seconds. The amount of power potentially saved will be very minimal for that case. PF could be a consideration anytime current is being drawn except startup.

Manufacturers consider power factor in the design of just about everything anymore it seems from what I read. The small add on unit the hucksters sell to easily use in your home is on top of that - kind of like trying to squeeze a lemon the 5th & 6th time.  

The industrial assesment is 100% correct - I have spent much money on that type of equipment over the years. There you are not buying a system such as in a computer or frig. You are buying components which you make into a system and because of that you take care of the PF in your own system design. If you don't do PF correction in an industrial setting the charges per mW drawn are typically much higher. This is unlike residential power meters where PF is not considered in billing.
post #28 of 36
Most residential power meters measure only kWh, not kVAh or kVarh. So, for a residential user (kWh only meter), any degree of in-house power-factor correction has 0 benefit to the customer. Look at your meter and you will then know.

If you have a residential power-meter that does record reactive power, and power-factor, then you probably live somewhere where air-conditioning is important. Your A/C should be power-factor corrected, if not, then you should pay. Fix it if it's broke. A quality A/C's compressor & blower should incorporate suitable sized pf correction capacitors.

The most common cause of poor pf is a constantly running lightly loaded induction motor. Blowers are bad. Again, you should pay... and shame on you.

Quality fluorecent lighting ballasts are pf corrected. Cheap CFLs are not.

Commercial & industrial installations usually have power meters that in some way record reactive power, and poor power-factor is penalized. Poor power factor is often indicitive of a poorly designed & operated facility, or perhaps simply lacking of a good electrician's attention.

BTW I manage a small electric utility company (reseller).

M
post #29 of 36
@mountain - good points all!

Regarding industrial power factor - the last plants I operated used in the range of 100 Mw producing high grade iron ore, There power factor is important due to the sheer volume of power consumed.

We had our own captive power generation as well as sold to the gird. We spent good money on power factor improvement equipment as it was in our best interest. 
post #30 of 36
I have seen the ads for Powergard and was thinking about buying one.  I know nothing about electricity.  I talked to my brother who is an engineer who was here for the holiday, and he mentioned a lot of the complicated things about power and formulas and such as talked about in this blog.  He said probably an amp and voltmeter test that they use in the ad video probably would be useless, and could measure refraction going in any direction, and could even be adding energy.  He also said maybe the way to evaluate it as a line conditioner was to use an oscilliscope and see if the 2 different waves were more harminous.  Whatever that means.  Has anyone tried that or have any thoughts about it?
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