Alert for Consumer Energy Scams

Open4Energy has been exposing consumer energy scams for three years now. Although the product names change regularly, the majority of the scams fall into one of three categories; free energy scams; renewable energy scams; and power factor correction scams. The scams follow a typical pattern; giving a true energy fact; an abductive distortion of this fact; suggestion of a conspiracy to hide the products saving potential; and concluding with a must buy now financial appeal.

I have included this summary in the hope that the open source community will do it's bit to raise awareness in the community of this unfortunate activity, and help us stamp it out whenever we can.

Free Energy Scams
Energy Fact: Pioneer researcher Howard Johnson began investigating magnetism in 1942 as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, studying Bohr's work on the electron. His US Patent #4,151,431 was filed in December 1973. But the offer of downloadable plans to build a Magnetically Powered Generator - based on this patent is a scam. The patent expired in 2009, friction prevents any possibility of perpetual motion, and the idea you can build a real home generator using these plans is ridiculous.

Renewable Energy Scams
Energy Fact: Residential solar panels and Small Scale Distributed Wind turbines are legitimate renewable energy solutions. But any plans to build your own solar panel out of silicon is a scam. It is possible to reduce the installation costs of solar with some DIY, but you always require a permit and a licensed electrician for connecting to the grid. The guide to small scale wind is simple; higher is better. Only consider wind systems that have been approved by the Distributed, and qualify for a state subsidy where available.

Power Factor Correction
Energy Fact: Power factor is the ratio of the real power flowing to the load to the apparent power in the circuit. It is easy to misunderstand the meaning of this term and think that increasing power factor by 25% will save 25% of the electricity bill. Although this ratio can be altered using capacitors, doing so will not save a residential rate payer a single penny. We are grateful to PG&E who gave us this public statement on residential power factor correction.

“The internal energy losses in the power factor correction capacitor(s) and wiring may offset or exceed any external energy savings in the home or business.” Charles Middelton, PG&E Engineer.

As the difficult economic times continue to bite into consumers' budgets we at Open4Energy are delighted to have the support of Smart Energy Portal to bring this growing problem of consumer energy scams (link is to Wiktionary) to the attention of the energy industry.

The part that has me most troubled is that a mere 4.4% of the visitors seeking information on a scam (they spend 52 seconds reading the page - real readers) go on to explore a page that will help them learn how to save electricity or a page with information on real products. I would have expected this to be much higher? Why, I ask myself, would you take the trouble to find a product that you think will save electricity, go to the Internet, do a search, find a page like ours, spend 52 seconds reading it, and then ignore all the quality information being offered for free?

Trystan, keep up the excellent work, and thanks for helping us spread the word on this nasty topic!


Robert Wall's picture

Re: Alert for Consumer Energy Scams

Power Factor Correction.

Many people might not realise that this could cost quite a lot if you do hang capacitors across the mains with the intention of 'improving' your power factor. As pointed out above, the domestic consumer (in the UK at least) pays for real power, there is no cost and no penalty for taking reactive (virtual) power. But the system is generally inductive, adding capacitors will tend to set up a resonant circuit and increase the system voltage, which could reduce the life of each and every appliance connected.

So although the energy supplier will be happy for you to improve their power factor for them, there is absolutely no advantage to you in doing so.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.