1. LEIC (todo)

1.1. Power in Resistive and Reactive AC Circuits

Consider a circuit for a single-phase AC power system, where a 120 volt, 60 Hz AC voltage source is delivering power to a resistive load: (Figure below)


Ac source drives a purely resistive load.


In this example, the current to the load would be 2 amps, RMS. The power dissipated at the load would be 240 watts. Because this load is purely resistive (no reactance), the current is in phase with the voltage, and calculations look similar to that in an equivalent DC circuit. If we were to plot the voltage, current, and power waveforms for this circuit, it would look like Figure below.


Current is in phase with voltage in a resistive circuit.

Note that the waveform for power is always positive, never negative for this resistive circuit. This means that power is always being dissipated by the resistive load, and never returned to the source as it is with reactive loads. If the source were a mechanical generator, it would take 240 watts worth of mechanical energy (about 1/3 horsepower) to turn the shaft.

Also note that the waveform for power is not at the same frequency as the voltage or current! Rather, its frequency is double that of either the voltage or current waveforms. This different frequency prohibits our expression of power in an AC circuit using the same complex (rectangular or polar) notation as used for voltage, current, and impedance, because this form of mathematical symbolism implies unchanging phase relationships. When frequencies are not the same, phase relationships constantly change.

As strange as it may seem, the best way to proceed with AC power calculations is to use scalar notation, and to handle any relevant phase relationships with trigonometry.

For comparison, let’s consider a simple AC circuit with a purely reactive load in Figure below.


AC circuit with a purely reactive (inductive) load.


Power is not dissipated in a purely reactive load. Though it is alternately absorbed from and returned to the source.

Note that the power alternates equally between cycles of positive and negative. (Figure above) This means that power is being alternately absorbed from and returned to the source. If the source were a mechanical generator, it would take (practically) no net mechanical energy to turn the shaft, because no power would be used by the load. The generator shaft would be easy to spin, and the inductor would not become warm as a resistor would.

Now, let’s consider an AC circuit with a load consisting of both inductance and resistance in Figure below.


AC circuit with both reactance and resistance.


At a frequency of 60 Hz, the 160 millihenrys of inductance gives us 60.319 Ω of inductive reactance. This reactance combines with the 60 Ω of resistance to form a total load impedance of 60 + j60.319 Ω, or 85.078 Ω ∠ 45.152o. If we’re not concerned with phase angles (which we’re not at this point), we may calculate current in the circuit by taking the polar magnitude of the voltage source (120 volts) and dividing it by the polar magnitude of the impedance (85.078 Ω). With a power supply voltage of 120 volts RMS, our load current is 1.410 amps. This is the figure an RMS ammeter would indicate if connected in series with the resistor and inductor.

We already know that reactive components dissipate zero power, as they equally absorb power from, and return power to, the rest of the circuit. Therefore, any inductive reactance in this load will likewise dissipate zero power. The only thing left to dissipate power here is the resistive portion of the load impedance. If we look at the waveform plot of voltage, current, and total power for this circuit, we see how this combination works in Figure below.


A combined resistive/reactive circuit dissipates more power than it returns to the source. The reactance dissipates no power; though, the resistor does.

As with any reactive circuit, the power alternates between positive and negative instantaneous values over time. In a purely reactive circuit that alternation between positive and negative power is equally divided, resulting in a net power dissipation of zero. However, in circuits with mixed resistance and reactance like this one, the power waveform will still alternate between positive and negative, but the amount of positive power will exceed the amount of negative power. In other words, the combined inductive/resistive load will consume more power than it returns back to the source.

Looking at the waveform plot for power, it should be evident that the wave spends more time on the positive side of the center line than on the negative, indicating that there is more power absorbed by the load than there is returned to the circuit. What little returning of power that occurs is due to the reactance; the imbalance of positive versus negative power is due to the resistance as it dissipates energy outside of the circuit (usually in the form of heat). If the source were a mechanical generator, the amount of mechanical energy needed to turn the shaft would be the amount of power averaged between the positive and negative power cycles.

Mathematically representing power in an AC circuit is a challenge, because the power wave isn’t at the same frequency as voltage or current. Furthermore, the phase angle for power means something quite different from the phase angle for either voltage or current. Whereas the angle for voltage or current represents a relative shift in timing between two waves, the phase angle for power represents a ratio between power dissipated and power returned. Because of this way in which AC power differs from AC voltage or current, it is actually easier to arrive at figures for power by calculating with scalar quantities of voltage, current, resistance, and reactance than it is to try to derive it from vector, or complex quantities of voltage, current, and impedance that we’ve worked with so far.


  • In a purely resistive circuit, all circuit power is dissipated by the resistor(s). Voltage and current are in phase with each other.

  • In a purely reactive circuit, no circuit power is dissipated by the load(s). Rather, power is alternately absorbed from and returned to the AC source. Voltage and current are 90o out of phase with each other.

  • In a circuit consisting of resistance and reactance mixed, there will be more power dissipated by the load(s) than returned, but some power will definitely be dissipated and some will merely be absorbed and returned. Voltage and current in such a circuit will be out of phase by a value somewhere between 0o and 90o.

1.2. True, Reactive, and Apparent Power

We know that reactive loads such as inductors and capacitors dissipate zero power, yet the fact that they drop voltage and draw current gives the deceptive impression that they actually do dissipate power. This "phantom power" is called reactive power, and it is measured in a unit called Volt-Amps-Reactive (VAR), rather than watts. The mathematical symbol for reactive power is (unfortunately) the capital letter Q. The actual amount of power being used, or dissipated, in a circuit is called true power, and it is measured in watts (symbolized by the capital letter P, as always). The combination of reactive power and true power is called apparent power, and it is the product of a circuit’s voltage and current, without reference to phase angle. Apparent power is measured in the unit of Volt-Amps (VA) and is symbolized by the capital letter S.

As a rule, true power is a function of a circuit’s dissipative elements, usually resistances ®. Reactive power is a function of a circuit’s reactance (X). Apparent power is a function of a circuit’s total impedance (Z). Since we’re dealing with scalar quantities for power calculation, any complex starting quantities such as voltage, current, and impedance must be represented by their polar magnitudes, not by real or imaginary rectangular components. For instance, if I’m calculating true power from current and resistance, I must use the polar magnitude for current, and not merely the "real" or "imaginary" portion of the current. If I’m calculating apparent power from voltage and impedance, both of these formerly complex quantities must be reduced to their polar magnitudes for the scalar arithmetic.

There are several power equations relating the three types of power to resistance, reactance, and impedance (all using scalar quantities):


Please note that there are two equations each for the calculation of true and reactive power. There are three equations available for the calculation of apparent power, P=IE being useful only for that purpose. Examine the following circuits and see how these three types of power interrelate for: a purely resistive load in Figure below, a purely reactive load in Figure below, and a resistive/reactive load in Figure below.

Resistive load only:


True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a purely resistive load.

Reactive load only:


True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a purely reactive load.

Resistive/reactive load:


True power, reactive power, and apparent power for a resistive/reactive load.

These three types of power — true, reactive, and apparent — relate to one another in trigonometric form. We call this the power triangle: (Figure below).


Power triangle relating appearant power to true power and reactive power.

Using the laws of trigonometry, we can solve for the length of any side (amount of any type of power), given the lengths of the other two sides, or the length of one side and an angle.


  • Power dissipated by a load is referred to as true power. True power is symbolized by the letter P and is measured in the unit of Watts (W).

  • Power merely absorbed and returned in load due to its reactive properties is referred to as reactive power. Reactive power is symbolized by the letter Q and is measured in the unit of Volt-Amps-Reactive (VAR).

  • Total power in an AC circuit, both dissipated and absorbed/returned is referred to as apparent power. Apparent power is symbolized by the letter S and is measured in the unit of Volt-Amps (VA).

  • These three types of power are trigonometrically related to one another. In a right triangle, P = adjacent length, Q = opposite length, and S = hypotenuse length. The opposite angle is equal to the circuit’s impedance (Z) phase angle.

1.3. Calculating Power Factor

As was mentioned before, the angle of this "power triangle" graphically indicates the ratio between the amount of dissipated (or consumed) power and the amount of absorbed/returned power. It also happens to be the same angle as that of the circuit’s impedance in polar form. When expressed as a fraction, this ratio between true power and apparent power is called the power factor for this circuit. Because true power and apparent power form the adjacent and hypotenuse sides of a right triangle, respectively, the power factor ratio is also equal to the cosine of that phase angle. Using values from the last example circuit:


It should be noted that power factor, like all ratio measurements, is a unitless quantity.

For the purely resistive circuit, the power factor is 1 (perfect), because the reactive power equals zero. Here, the power triangle would look like a horizontal line, because the opposite (reactive power) side would have zero length.

For the purely inductive circuit, the power factor is zero, because true power equals zero. Here, the power triangle would look like a vertical line, because the adjacent (true power) side would have zero length.

The same could be said for a purely capacitive circuit. If there are no dissipative (resistive) components in the circuit, then the true power must be equal to zero, making any power in the circuit purely reactive. The power triangle for a purely capacitive circuit would again be a vertical line (pointing down instead of up as it was for the purely inductive circuit).

Power factor can be an important aspect to consider in an AC circuit, because any power factor less than 1 means that the circuit’s wiring has to carry more current than what would be necessary with zero reactance in the circuit to deliver the same amount of (true) power to the resistive load. If our last example circuit had been purely resistive, we would have been able to deliver a full 169.256 watts to the load with the same 1.410 amps of current, rather than the mere 119.365 watts that it is presently dissipating with that same current quantity. The poor power factor makes for an inefficient power delivery system.

Poor power factor can be corrected, paradoxically, by adding another load to the circuit drawing an equal and opposite amount of reactive power, to cancel out the effects of the load’s inductive reactance. Inductive reactance can only be canceled by capacitive reactance, so we have to add a capacitor in parallel to our example circuit as the additional load. The effect of these two opposing reactances in parallel is to bring the circuit’s total impedance equal to its total resistance (to make the impedance phase angle equal, or at least closer, to zero).

Since we know that the (uncorrected) reactive power is 119.998 VAR (inductive), we need to calculate the correct capacitor size to produce the same quantity of (capacitive) reactive power. Since this capacitor will be directly in parallel with the source (of known voltage), we’ll use the power formula which starts from voltage and reactance:


Let’s use a rounded capacitor value of 22 µF and see what happens to our circuit: (Figure below)


Parallel capacitor corrects lagging power factor of inductive load. V2 and node numbers: 0, 1, 2, and 3 are SPICE related, and may be ignored for the moment.


The power factor for the circuit, overall, has been substantially improved. The main current has been decreased from 1.41 amps to 994.7 milliamps, while the power dissipated at the load resistor remains unchanged at 119.365 watts. The power factor is much closer to being 1:


Since the impedance angle is still a positive number, we know that the circuit, overall, is still more inductive than it is capacitive. If our power factor correction efforts had been perfectly on-target, we would have arrived at an impedance angle of exactly zero, or purely resistive. If we had added too large of a capacitor in parallel, we would have ended up with an impedance angle that was negative, indicating that the circuit was more capacitive than inductive.

A SPICE simulation of the circuit of (Figure above) shows total voltage and total current are nearly in phase. The SPICE circuit file has a zero volt voltage-source (V2) in series with the capacitor so that the capacitor current may be measured. The start time of 200 msec ( instead of 0) in the transient analysis statement allows the DC conditions to stabilize before collecting data. See SPICE listing "pf.cir power factor".

           pf.cir power factor
           V1 1 0 sin(0 170 60)
           C1 1 3 22uF
           v2 3 0 0
           L1 1 2 160mH
           R1 2 0 60
           # resolution stop start
           .tran 1m     200m 160m

The Nutmeg plot of the various currents with respect to the applied voltage Vtotal is shown in (Figure below). The reference is Vtotal, to which all other measurements are compared. This is because the applied voltage, Vtotal, appears across the parallel branches of the circuit. There is no single current common to all components. We can compare those currents to Vtotal.


Zero phase angle due to in-phase Vtotal and Itotal . The lagging IL with respect to Vtotal is corrected by a leading IC .

Note that the total current (Itotal) is in phase with the applied voltage (Vtotal), indicating a phase angle of near zero. This is no coincidence. Note that the lagging current, IL of the inductor would have caused the total current to have a lagging phase somewhere between (Itotal) and IL. However, the leading capacitor current, IC, compensates for the lagging inductor current. The result is a total current phase-angle somewhere between the inductor and capacitor currents. Moreover, that total current (Itotal) was forced to be in-phase with the total applied voltage (Vtotal), by the calculation of an appropriate capacitor value.

Since the total voltage and current are in phase, the product of these two waveforms, power, will always be positive throughout a 60 Hz cycle, real power as in Figure above. Had the phase-angle not been corrected to zero (PF=1), the product would have been negative where positive portions of one waveform overlapped negative portions of the other as in Figure above. Negative power is fed back to the generator. It cannot be sold; though, it does waste power in the resistance of electric lines between load and generator. The parallel capacitor corrects this problem.

Note that reduction of line losses applies to the lines from the generator to the point where the power factor correction capacitor is applied. In other words, there is still circulating current between the capacitor and the inductive load. This is not normally a problem because the power factor correction is applied close to the offending load, like an induction motor.

It should be noted that too much capacitance in an AC circuit will result in a low power factor just as well as too much inductance. You must be careful not to over-correct when adding capacitance to an AC circuit. You must also be very careful to use the proper capacitors for the job (rated adequately for power system voltages and the occasional voltage spike from lightning strikes, for continuous AC service, and capable of handling the expected levels of current).

If a circuit is predominantly inductive, we say that its power factor is lagging (because the current wave for the circuit lags behind the applied voltage wave). Conversely, if a circuit is predominantly capacitive, we say that its power factor is leading. Thus, our example circuit started out with a power factor of 0.705 lagging, and was corrected to a power factor of 0.999 lagging.


  • Poor power factor in an AC circuit may be "corrected", or re-established at a value close to 1, by adding a parallel reactance opposite the effect of the load’s reactance. If the load’s reactance is inductive in nature (which is almost always will be), parallel capacitance is what is needed to correct poor power factor.

1.4. Practical Power Factor Correction

When the need arises to correct for poor power factor in an AC power system, you probably won’t have the luxury of knowing the load’s exact inductance in henrys to use for your calculations. You may be fortunate enough to have an instrument called a power factor meter to tell you what the power factor is (a number between 0 and 1), and the apparent power (which can be figured by taking a voltmeter reading in volts and multiplying by an ammeter reading in amps). In less favorable circumstances you may have to use an oscilloscope to compare voltage and current waveforms, measuring phase shift in degrees and calculating power factor by the cosine of that phase shift.

Most likely, you will have access to a wattmeter for measuring true power, whose reading you can compare against a calculation of apparent power (from multiplying total voltage and total current measurements). From the values of true and apparent power, you can determine reactive power and power factor. Let’s do an example problem to see how this works: (Figure below)


Wattmeter reads true power; product of voltmeter and ammeter readings yields appearant power.

First, we need to calculate the apparent power in kVA. We can do this by multiplying load voltage by load current:


As we can see, 2.308 kVA is a much larger figure than 1.5 kW, which tells us that the power factor in this circuit is rather poor (substantially less than 1). Now, we figure the power factor of this load by dividing the true power by the apparent power:


Using this value for power factor, we can draw a power triangle, and from that determine the reactive power of this load: (Figure below)


Reactive power may be calculated from true power and appearant power.

To determine the unknown (reactive power) triangle quantity, we use the Pythagorean Theorem "backwards," given the length of the hypotenuse (apparent power) and the length of the adjacent side (true power):


If this load is an electric motor, or most any other industrial AC load, it will have a lagging (inductive) power factor, which means that we’ll have to correct for it with a capacitor of appropriate size, wired in parallel. Now that we know the amount of reactive power (1.754 kVAR), we can calculate the size of capacitor needed to counteract its effects:


Rounding this answer off to 80 µF, we can place that size of capacitor in the circuit and calculate the results: (Figure below)


Parallel capacitor corrects lagging (inductive) load.

An 80 µF capacitor will have a capacitive reactance of 33.157 Ω, giving a current of 7.238 amps, and a corresponding reactive power of 1.737 kVAR (for the capacitor only). Since the capacitor’s current is 180o out of phase from the the load’s inductive contribution to current draw, the capacitor’s reactive power will directly subtract from the load’s reactive power, resulting in:


This correction, of course, will not change the amount of true power consumed by the load, but it will result in a substantial reduction of apparent power, and of the total current drawn from the 240 Volt source: (Figure below)


Power triangle before and after capacitor correction.

The new apparent power can be found from the true and new reactive power values, using the standard form of the Pythagorean Theorem:


This gives a corrected power factor of (1.5kW / 1.5009 kVA), or 0.99994, and a new total current of (1.50009 kVA / 240 Volts), or 6.25 amps, a substantial improvement over the uncorrected value of 9.615 amps! This lower total current will translate to less heat losses in the circuit wiring, meaning greater system efficiency (less power wasted).

2. Navy (todo)

2.1. Power in AC Circuits

You know that in a direct current circuit the power is equal to the voltage times the current, or P= E x I. If a voltage of 100 volts applied to a circuit produces a current of 10 amperes, the power is 1000 watts. This is also true in an ac circuit when the current and voltage are in phase; that is, when the circuit is effectively resistive. But, if the ac circuit contains reactance, the current will lead or lag the voltage by a certain amount (the phase angle). When the current is out of phase with the voltage, the power indicated by the product of the applied voltage and the total current gives only what is known as the APPARENT POWER. The TRUE POWER depends upon the phase angle between the current and voltage. The symbol for phase angle is Θ (Theta).

When an alternating voltage is impressed across a capacitor, power is taken from the source and stored in the capacitor as the voltage increases from zero to its maximum value. Then, as the impressed voltage decreases from its maximum value to zero, the capacitor discharges and returns the power to the source. Likewise, as the current through an inductor increases from its zero value to its maximum value the field around the inductor builds up to a maximum, and when the current decreases from maximum to zero the field collapses and returns the power to the source. You can see therefore that no power is used up in either case, since the power alternately flows to and from the source. This power that is returned to the source by the reactive components in the circuit is called REACTIVE POWER.

In a purely resistive circuit all of the power is consumed and none is returned to the source; in a purely reactive circuit no power is consumed and all of the power is returned to the source. It follows that in a circuit which contains both resistance and reactance there must be some power dissipated in the resistance as well as some returned to the source by the reactance. In Figure 1 you can see the relationship between the voltage, the current, and the power in such a circuit. The part of the power curve which is shown below the horizontal reference line is the result of multiplying a positive instantaneous value of current by a negative instantaneous value of the voltage, or vice versa. As you know, the product obtained by multiplying a positive value by a negative value will be negative. Therefore the power at that instant must be considered as negative power. In other words, during this time the reactance was returning power to the source.

navy mod2 00225
Figure 1. Instantaneous power when current and voltage are out of phase.

The instantaneous power in the circuit is equal to the product of the applied voltage and current through the circuit. When the voltage and current are of the same polarity they are acting together and taking power from the source. When the polarities are unlike they are acting in opposition and power is being returned to the source. Briefly then, in an ac circuit which contains reactance as well as resistance, the apparent power is reduced by the power returned to the source, so that in such a circuit the net power, or true power, is always less than the apparent power.

2.1.1. Calculating True Power in AC Circuits

As mentioned before, the true power of a circuit is the power actually used in the circuit. This power, measured in watts, is the power associated with the total resistance in the circuit. To calculate true power, the voltage and current associated with the resistance must be used. Since the voltage drop across the resistance is equal to the resistance multiplied by the current through the resistance, true power can be calculated by the formula:

For example, find the true power of the circuit shown in Figure 2.

navy mod2 00227
Figure 2. Example circuit for determining power.

Since the current in a series circuit is the same in all parts of the circuit:

O19. What is the true power in an ac circuit? O20. What is the unit of measurement of true power? O21. What is the formula for calculating true power?

2.1.2. Calculating Reactive Power in AC Circuits

The reactive power is the power returned to the source by the reactive components of the circuit. This type of power is measured in Volt-Amperes-Reactive, abbreviated var.

Reactive power is calculated by using the voltage and current associated with the circuit reactance.

Since the voltage of the reactance is equal to the reactance multiplied by the reactive current, reactive power can be calculated by the formula:

Another way to calculate reactive power is to calculate the inductive power and capacitive power and subtract the smaller from the larger.

Either one of these formulas will work. The formula you use depends upon the values you are given in a circuit.

For example, find the reactive power of the circuit shown in figure 4-10.

Since this is a series circuit, current (I) is the same in all parts of the circuit.

O23. What is the unit of measurement for reactive power? O24. What is the formula for computing reactive power?

2.1.3. Calculating Apparent Power in AC Circuits.

Apparent power is the power that appears to the source because of the circuit impedance. Since the impedance is the total opposition to ac, the apparent power is that power the voltage source "sees." Apparent power is the combination of true power and reactive power. Apparent power is not found by simply adding true power and reactive power just as impedance is not found by adding resistance and reactance.

To calculate apparent power, you may use either of the following formulas:

For example, find the apparent power for the circuit shown in figure 4-10.

Recall that current in a series circuit is the same in all parts of the circuit.

O25. What is apparent power? O26. What is the unit of measurement for apparent power? O27. What is the formula for apparent power?

2.1.4. Power Factor

The POWER FACTOR is a number (represented as a decimal or a percentage) that represents the portion of the apparent power dissipated in a circuit.

If you are familiar with trigonometry, the easiest way to find the power factor is to find the cosine of the phase angle (Θ). The cosine of the phase angle is equal to the power factor.

You do not need to use trigonometry to find the power factor. Since the power dissipated in a circuit is true power, then:

If true power and apparent power are known you can use the formula shown above.

Going one step further, another formula for power factor can be developed. By substituting the equations for true power and apparent power in the formula for power factor, you get:

Since current in a series circuit is the same in all parts of the circuit, IR equals IZ. Therefore, in a series circuit,

For example, to compute the power factor for the series circuit shown in figure 4-10, any of the above methods may be used.

Another method:

If you are familiar with trigonometry you can use it to solve for angle Theta and the power factor by referring to the tables in appendices V and VI.

As stated earlier the power factor can be expressed as a decimal or percentage. In this example the decimal number .6 could also be expressed as 60%.

O28. What is the power factor of a circuit? O29. What is a general formula used to calculate the power factor of a circuit?

2.1.5. Power Factor Correction

The apparent power in an ac circuit has been described as the power the source "sees". As far as the source is concerned the apparent power is the power that must be provided to the circuit. You also know that the true power is the power actually used in the circuit. The difference between apparent power and true power is wasted because, in reality, only true power is consumed. The ideal situation would be for apparent power and true power to be equal. If this were the case the power factor would be 1 (unity) or 100 percent. There are two ways in which this condition can exist. (1) If the circuit is purely resistive or (2) if the circuit "appears" purely resistive to the source. To make the circuit appear purely resistive there must be no reactance. To have no reactance in the circuit, the inductive reactance (XL) and capacitive reactance (XC) must be equal.

The expression "correcting the power factor" refers to reducing the reactance in a circuit.

The ideal situation is to have no reactance in the circuit. This is accomplished by adding capacitive reactance to a circuit which is inductive and inductive reactance to a circuit which is capacitive. For example, the circuit shown in figure 4-10 has a total reactance of 80 ohms capacitive and the power factor was .6 or 60 percent. If 80 ohms of inductive reactance were added to this circuit (by adding another inductor) the circuit would have a total reactance of zero ohms and a power factor of 1 or 100 percent. The apparent and true power of this circuit would then be equal.

O30. An ac circuit has a total reactance of 10 ohms inductive and a total resistance of 20 ohms. The power factor is .89. What would be necessary to correct the power factor to unity?