By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I discuss ads that sound “too good to be true” – especially those that claim to cut home electricity bills.
Ask the Expert – SoftStartRV no-cut install
If you missed this live-streamed event on March 23, with Danny Rahner from SoftStartRV discussing his new installation method that doesn’t require you to cut any air conditioner wires, only make splices, you can watch it here.
I keep seeing advertisements for these “clean power” products, even in your articles. Do you promote them? Have you ever used anything like this? And the most important question is “do they work”? —Sanford R.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And yes, it certainly is that. I’m going to put this type of product into the same category with magnets on your car’s gas lines. Those supposedly “polarize” the hydrocarbons in the fuel and improve MPG. We would all like there to be a simple and affordable way to improve our miles per gallon, or cut our home electricity bills. However, there’s simply no way that any of these products work at all. It’s just wishful thinking on your part, and a big scam on their part.
Do you control the advertisements?
No, I do not. And neither does RVtravel.com. Once a webpage is signed on to AdSense, some robot algorithms in the background decide what types of advertisements readers would respond to. So there’s lots of adverts for electrical things in my RVelectricity column.
Now, as soon as we see a wrong or objectionable ad pop up, one of our IT wranglers can block that one ad directly. However, just like robot phone callers trying to warn you that your car warranty is about to expire, even if you block one phone number, they have computer callers with thousands of other phone numbers they can call from. It’s a never-ending battle, sorry to say.
The best you can do is notify us in the comments, or send a screenshot with the URL link to the product to diane(at)rvtravel.com. We will quickly block the offending ad – at least until it pops up again with a different URL. Yes, there was the month of the earwax removal adverts (with totally gross pictures) that we battled to remove. And I hope they’ve been eradicated from theses webpages.
What do they claim that’s not true?
The premise is that somehow “dirty energy” is causing the power company to overcharge you, so if you clean it up with this little gadget on the wall, you’re electric bill could drop by up to 90%.
That’s right, the claim is that your $100 per month electric bill would suddenly drop to $10, which is absolutely not true. It’s just a scam to separate you from your hard-earned money.
How do I know this is too good to be true?
Well, I’ve actually done this sort of analysis on an industrial level where we’ve had to install huge capacitor banks to get the power factor closer to unity, and that is indeed a thing. The reason why this is done is that industrial plants operate a lot of 3-phase electric motors which have large inductances. [Inductance: The property of an electric conductor or circuit that causes an electromotive force to be generated by a change in the current flowing. —Oxford Languages] That extra inductance wastes a lot of energy in the power lines and transformers that doesn’t show up on the meter.
And that’s why power companies will charge industrial companies extra if their power factor gets too low. That shows up as wasted power that they want large industrial companies to pay for. See the diagram below that shows the foam on the beer as wasted power.
These huge capacitor banks are used to get the power factor closer to 100%, which helps the power company not have to install larger transformers and conductors for the wasted power that doesn’t perform any useful work.
However, residential houses are not assessed extra charges by the power company for running too many inductive loads (like big industrial motors). So there’s nothing to be gained by correcting your power factor, even if you could afford a few thousand dollars worth of capacitors and switch gear. So these sort of gadgets do nothing useful at all, except to make the “inventor” rich.
In the final analysis, there’s no such thing as “free” energy…
Just like running your car on water, or the free energy Tesla generators you see on YouTube, all of these gadgets are simply scams, including gadgets to save on home electricity bills. So don’t fall for them, even if they inadvertently show up in one of my RVelectricity articles.
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play (and shop) safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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