Power Saver scam brought to you by Today Tonight and ACA

Today Tonight and A Current Affair both ran stories on 'Power Saver' devices at the end of January. Proponents claim that these devices will save up to 40% off residential electricity bills.

The problem is, these devices are scams. They will do nothing for your high electricity bill. They will just line the pockets of the likes of Earthwise Power Savers Pty Ltd who is behind the product featured on Today Tonight.

ACA has since removed all links from its website for the device that they promoted. For some reason the Today Tonight one is still on-line.

What are these 'dirty electricity' power savers?

As put by serial commentator on these scams, Dan of dansdata.com, puts it like this:

There are many, many "power saver" products on the market. Most are little plug-in things, but there are also versions like the Oz Power Saver that are hard-wired in the breaker box.

They should not be confused with plug-in standby power eliminators like the EcoSwitch (which actually do save power).

What do they claim to do?

The sales pitch is about cleaning up your power. The Earthwise site talks extensively about 'dirty electricity' to convince readers of the need for their device and to 'demonstrate' that it actually does something useful.

On Today Tonight, they came across surprisingly well. This is because most of the time they were not actually telling fibs:

It's a power factor correction unit. - Geoff Hourigan

It reduces the current. - Greg Paxton

And here in lies the problem. The business owner says it himself, it is a power factor correction unit.

Power factor correction does not reduce residential electricity bills

Residential customers, and most small businesses up to about $30,000 per annum in spend, do not pay for poor power factor. So, even if this device does correct power factor, it will not change your bill.

Power factor correction will reduce your apparent power consumption. It does not affect real power (what you are billed for).

Don't get me wrong: power factor is real. For large consumers (such as office buildings and heavy industry), power factor correction will often cut a component of the bill. These sites pay for their peak power consumption in kilovolt amperes (kVA) as well as their real power consumption in kilowatt hours (kWh).

Have a look at your bill. If you do not pay for peak demand in kVA you will not benefit from power factor correction.

So at one level the story is actually true, and this is what makes the scam so compelling. Even as an engineer who has worked in this area for several years, the Today Tonight story didn't actually reek "scam" as much as I though it would.

A quick phone call to any respected electrical engineer (or one of the network power companies) would have set the reporter straight.

It is a disgrace that Today Tonight and ACA air this material. Energy consumption is a confusing topic which most find hard to grasp.

Now, many people will end up paying a shonky company over $1,000 to install something that does not work.

UPDATE - 2013 and beyond

The company discussed above re-appeared in 2012 as "Save My Power." In 2013 the company behind it all listed for insolvency. Read our updated blog post here - check the comments for the insolvency link.

 

- Ryan McCarthy.

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