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Is This Product a Scam?

09/27/2009 2:44 PM

See http://www.fourleafenergy.com/faq.html . I saw this company's product at a home show. The device is some kind of capacitor that is attached to your electric service panel by a breaker. It costs about $400. They claim it saves 8% to 25% on your electric bill by saving electricity used by motors in such things as HVAC, dish washer, clothes washer, etc. I can't find any similar products which makes me think it's not true. Anybody heard of this? Will it really work?

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#1

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 3:26 PM

Not really my forte, but here goes: The product is probably for real, and the basic principles as described on the website you mentioned are accurate and are often used in industry. However, the savings you might make on this will depend on how often you run motors and the price you pay for reactive energy. Quite often residential customers do not pay for reactive energy directly - if you are billed per kWh only, and not on kVAh or maximum demand kVA, then you probably will not see a saving in monetary terms. Remember, it only works with reactive loads, which in residential set-ups are mostly motors - add pool motors to your list (modern lighting runs fairly close to unity power factor, I'm told). It might come in handy if your cable size is proving to be close to the limit for your current being drawn, typically an issue after expansions at your home. In all cases, your utility would probably be able to advise you, as long as you speak to a technical person (i.e. not accounts!).

DO NOT INSTALL YOURSELF - get an electrician unless you really know what you're doing and are legally allowed in you country to perform house wiring! BTW, I really hope that the panel wiring on the site (http://www.fourleafenergy.com/residentialproducts.html) is not a typical example - shudder!

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#2

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 3:59 PM

Its just another 'Green Energy' Scam device.

The thing that makes the few dummies that do buy them think that they are saving big money with one is that at the same time they install it they do a home energy use audit and switch loads of power waisting lights and other devices over to high efficiency devices that do in fact save energy. And also start managing their power usage more effectively as well. But the mystery box gets the credit for the saving not the actual new real energy saving devices and better energy conservation practices.

The typical home will never see enough power factor correction form it to ever pay for it in offset power savings in your lifetime and that of your children, and grandchildren either.

Go buy a PFC capacitor for $5 from a electric motor shop and your just as far ahead.

Switch out your known inefficient power using devices and use better power consumption management and you will see the same big savings that the box claims you will get. But without the $400 box!

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 6:34 PM

I wouldn't call it a scam as much as a waste of your time. Spending that much money on something like that is a waste.

WIKIPEDIA: Power Factor:

Anything that has a low power factor (think capacitive or inductive circuits, example: electric motors) has you paying more than a circuit with a high power factor. The power factor is the ratio between real power and apparent power. Circuits with more apparent power have a lower power factor. When you get your bill from the electric company, you are paying for both real power and apparent power. This is unfortunate, because with a simple capacitor or inductor, you can just be paying for real power and see a real reduction in the bill.

Power factor correction for motors or devices that need to be specifically calculated should be left to electrical engineers that will give you a hand. tcmtech is right that there are MUCH cheaper alternatives to saving power than what that website is offering.

...Oh! And don't go into an electronic store without someone knowledgeable and trustworthy who can point you in the right direction. Store personnel will have you leaving with something more expensive than you need, they are trained to do so. Good luck!

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#12
In reply to #4

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/28/2009 1:13 AM

Standard moving disc energy meters only measure true power. Improving power factor in the domestic situation only assists the Supply Authority and then only up to a point as distribution loads are calculated at 0.8 PF lagging for good reason as shown below.

In commercial and industrial installations the situation is different, even if the Supply Authority doesn't measure and penalise low PF. The inductive load and associated inrush current on large fluorescent lighting circuits when the power factor correction caps have been removed can easily trip the breaker.

Back to the domestic situation. For inductive loads at the end of long cables such as water pumps, controlling power factor can bring the circuit within voltage drop requirements for the given cable size, but you need to know what you are doing and control the PF rather than just make it lead.

Unless Supply Authorities decide to play a little scam of their own on us with the newer generation electronic meters, the SCAM BOXES can at times do more harm than good. If power factor goes into lead as happens at night on rural lines (due to line capacitance), the voltage of the system becomes unstable, rising high enough to burn out appliances. Yes that is why appliances (TVs, DVDs etc) fail at night. The problem is so severe that switchable line reactors (inductors) are installed on long lightly loaded feeders to prevent leading power factor and the attendant high voltages occurring.

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#22
In reply to #12

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/28/2009 11:21 AM

Emjay - thanks for the heads-up on long, lightly-loaded lines going lead. I'd never heard of this, but it does make sense.

Cheers!
DZ

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 7:55 PM

Exactly, it will never pay for itself.

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#3

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 5:16 PM

Direct from the company's website

"The KEC units are designed specifically for motor run applications."

As most of the residential load is resistive by nature there is very little benefit, certainly not enough to ever pay for the $400 unit in the first place over the units life.

Don't waste your money on it for your home.

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#26
In reply to #3

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/28/2009 6:04 PM

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Some good advice was given and I've learned something. Thanks for sharing.

http://reversephonelookupfree.com/

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#5

Re: Can anyone tell me if this product is for real?

09/27/2009 6:36 PM

These things play on the ignorance of folks who think motors are completely inductive. An unloaded motor's cost to operate can be lowered by adding a capacitor, but why run an unloaded motor if you don't have a huge production line. When I turn on my table saw, the motor is pretty inductive for about 10 seconds till I run a 2" piece of wet oak through, and then the motor starts to look pretty resistive. When I finish cutting, and the motor is back to mostly inductive, I turn it off. How long would it take me to pay for this thing? And why is it so expensive?

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#7

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/27/2009 8:38 PM

For me, I would like to advice not to buy these devices. I have a unit in my home and it does not really help you to save on your electrical bill. It just a capacitor, that had been calculated at certain load to improved your power factor at your home. Anything that has a low power factor, you will be paying more for the bill. Power factor correction for your house need to be specifically calculated base on each individual equipments.

If you use less load in your house, your electricity will be charging your capacitor instead of helping you to save energy it waste more energy. I have done some test in my house and found that during my normal power consumption, with the refrigerate in standby stage, the current is higher about 0.5 Amps or 120 watt higher. This means that I will be wasting about 120 watt/hr

Only with the refrigerate running (Compressor running), the unit able to help you to save about 1.2 Amp or 288 watt. If you use more load, the unit not able to save any energy.

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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 1:20 AM

See my above post. You make the error of measuring current alone, which is easy. A watthour meter is needed as it ignores reactive current exactly the same way the energy (kilowatt hour meter) meter does. Watthour meters have a voltage coil at 90 degrees to the current coil.

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#8

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/27/2009 8:40 PM

Not an obvious scam because it IS a power factor correction device. Just not really practical for home use. As others have said, it will never pay for itself in savings unless you have large inductive loads and your utility is hitting you with heavy PF penalties. Possible I guess, but I've never seen it happen in a residential setting.

Commercial versions usually have a bank of capacitors which are automatically switched in/out to maintain a near unity PF with varying loads. If you just connect a large capacitor to your panel, it will draw reactive current ALL THE TIME, even when all the motors are off. Not really a good solution if that is all that comes in their $400 box.

If the $400 device they are selling contains a microprocessor to analyze and correct PF on a real time basis by switching several capacitors in/out of service, it is a slick piece of engineering! Still not worth the cost for home use.

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#9

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/27/2009 9:34 PM

Utilities do not charge residential customers a power factor penalty. So if this is for your home, you won't save a dime.

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#10

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/27/2009 9:46 PM

SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM SCAM

Power factor is NOT SEEN BY YOUR ENERGY METER! Industrial plants, where poor power factr can affect the UTILITY'S energy delivery costs, are assessed a PENALTY for having poor power factor. This penalty is assessed by virtue of a DIFFERENT METER, called a kVAR meter, that records the reactive power used in the plant as a result of poor power factor. Adding specific engineered Power Factor Correction (PFC) capacitors to an inductive load, such as a motor, will REDUCE THE PENALTIES, but it will NOT SAVE MEASURABLE ENERGY FORM YOUR KWH METER CHARGES.

These scam artists will show you how Amps are reduced, and allow you to believe that this leads to a reduction of kW, but it is just untrue. there is a very VERY slight reduction in transmission losses from reducing the amp-related voltage drop in wires feeding inductive loads, but the amount of losses in a properly sized electrical wiring scheme of a residence is so low as to be difficult to measure. So technically, you can save 25% of these losses, but the losses themselves are infinitesimally small, so 25% of virtually nothing is still virtually nothing!

the other danger in adding capacitors to a system is that of OVER correcting. Reactive power issues only take place in inductive loads such as motors. Good PF correction practices means only applying the capacitors when the motors are running, usually by controlling them with the same device that turns the motor on and off. In a household, most of your offending motors are on things such as refrigerators and fans, which cycle on and off by themselves. If you correct the power factor by adding VARs with capacitors and those motors shut off, the capacitors are STILL adding VARs and will create potential hazards that can destroy power supplies for sensitive electronics, i.e. your TVs, computers and other very expensive appliances. To prevent this, these scammers put in such a small capacitor that it is not even doing anything for the inductive loads!

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#11

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 12:17 AM

It's a scam (contextually speaking).

Assuming that the thing works, it won't save you a PENNY if it's used at home. The only users who MIGHT benefit from this are industrial ones, period. (I'm an electrical engineer, and power-factor correction is partof what I do).

If I were you, I'd report these guys. If the guys at the show weren't Four Leaf Energy but dealers or resellers instead, call Four Leaf. If they ARE Four Leaf (and who knows ... they may only be pretending to be).

OK, scratch that ... I've just read on their 'About Us' page on their website that they're women- and minority-owned and that they have these on their homes and it saves them tons of money. Gilding the lily is often associated with scamming.

Tell you what ... I'm in Canada, but I ride a high horse when it comes to this kind of thing. I'll try to find the State agency that handles consumer fraud in Pennsylvania and I'll put the agency on these bozos' trail.

Mike ... If the PA agency can't do anything because I'm Canadian or because I haven't witnessed their sales pitch or been suckered into buying a unit, are you willing to carry on where I leave off? I'm always happy to do this kind of thing, but I might not be able to do it alone.

Cheers!

DZ

P.S. It gets better ... The Certifications web page says that it's NASA-tested.

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#16
In reply to #11

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 9:25 AM

The Certifications web page says that it's NASA-tested.

The basic circuit was not only NASA tested but NASA developed, if I recall (back in the 1970's). The circuit "works" but does nothing useful in a home environment, for reasons you and others have explained.

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#21
In reply to #16

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 11:17 AM

Hi, Blink.

Yes, it was developed by some institute or other by some fellow named Nola (hence it often being called 'Nola technology'). The concept's been taken up by PEC (Power Equipment Corp.) somewhere on the US West Coast; and it's been GREATLY enhanced by a UK firm named Somar (their product's called Somar Integra), which is used on AC induction motors.

Cheers!
DZ

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#18
In reply to #11

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 10:58 AM

DZ, Thank you but I will handle the complaints. I'm the one they were trying to rob. I am trying to get in touch with the Valley Forge Convention Center manager to lodge a complaint and maybe get them removed from the show. I am also filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Agency. Hopefully something will come of it. I wonder how many people they've scammed. Thanks again for your help. Mike

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 11:13 AM

Hi, Mike.

Excellent! This kind of scammer deserves a good stpomin on, as far as I'm concerned.

Re. Consumer Protection ... if it's anything like what we have here up in Canada's Province of Quebec, they won't be able to help you. For one thing, their mission may be to get you your money back if something doesn't work as advertized, or to enforce your legal guarantees, etc.

This thing is more of a fraudulent representation thing, so you may want to call a commercial-fraud agency for this. Another possibility would be to call police, but I'd go the commercial-fraud route to start. That may be federal or that may be State, but there's one out there somewhere.

Good luck! And keep us posted on what happens.

DZ

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#23
In reply to #20

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 11:33 AM

DZ, I don't know what or where a commercial fraud agency is. Mike

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 12:07 PM

Hi again, Mike.

And hhhmm .. I've just been to the PA Attorney General's website. The Consumer Protection Agency is there under 'Consumers', but it seems to say that its mission is to mediate between consumers and sellers, so they won't help much. You could give them a try, though .. they might point you in the right direction. Otherwise, call the Attorney General's main line.

A likelier possibility: the FBI! They've got an Internet fraud section:

http://www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/internetschemes.htm#busfraud

That section says that it's focussed on credit-card scams, Nigerian fraud letters, etc., but the fact that Four Leaf is announcing its product AND ITS APPLICATION FOR HOMES makes it 'wire fraud', in my eyes. That's a federal offense ... perhaps it has to be inter-State to be federal, but its being on the Internet makes it so.

To lodge a complaint with the FBI, go to its Internet Crime Complaint Center:

http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

I'd start with the FBI. The Attorney General is more of a getting your money back or getting your warranties enforced kind of thing rather than a fraudulent business one.

Cheers! And do let us know what's happening as things develop. This is an educational thing for us in how to fight consumer fraud. I've already made a citizen's arrest and called the cops on guys selling 'stolen' stereo equipment out the back of their van, etc., and I'm interested in knowing how this kind of thing works out.

DZ

P.S. This must be a first for CR4 ... sending the US Feds in, hahahaha. No mercy to scamsters!

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#29
In reply to #18

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

01/20/2011 10:13 AM

they tried to sell me one at the philly show this past weekend 1-15-11 thats why i am reading this post. they definitely sold it to me for a home use to be mounted next to the main box and sized based on your amp service size.

fourtunantly i was running late and live near the company and could stop in and pick one up later for the "show price" which is 100 cheaper so i did not buy one yet.

it sounds like i wont be buying one now either.

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#14

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 7:51 AM

The product is real. The application for homes is not. Without going into the math, they describe a ciruit which reduces reactive power. Unless your home has several large motors (>10 hp), you are not going to have enough reactive power to justify the expense.

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#15

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 9:17 AM

SCAM

Here are test results of a similar device. The device technically "works" to solve a "problem" that does not exist in homes. If you have very large number of unloaded motors running in your home (let's say if you had 50 table saws and 50 drill presses, and left them running all the time, but did no actual work with them) then perhaps this device would pay for itself in some number of years.

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#17

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 10:38 AM

As a guy in the power generation business I agree with all these replies but it is interesting to note why power companies only measure 'watts' and bill you for 'watts', not VARs. Watts consume fuel, which is by far the largest cost of any power generation company. OK... maybe VARs might add a bit more copper to a feeder size, but really they are onto all of us who know to put capacitance on line to adjust power factor to near unity anyway, and slide those nasty VARs towards 1.0, so they will just stay with 'watts' to bill us. No way to 'adjust' watts at the meter except reduce use. I know one way you can for sure save $400 on your very next bill and I promise it will work and you don't need to do anything !

Don't buy the $400 device ! Shazam !!! How simple was that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK .. my fee for such wisdom is $500, but since we are all family here you qualify for a 100% discount.

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#19

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 11:01 AM

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to provide me with responses on my question. I am filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Agency regarding this fraudulent product. Maybe a few people will be saved from being scammed by these people. Thanks again for your help. Mike

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#27
In reply to #19

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

10/01/2009 4:36 PM

Hold on....... I don't think it is a fraudulent product. It probably does correct PF like any capacitance would do put on your line. But as others have pointed out if you don't have a lot of VAR loads, it's pointless, and if your utility company doesn't bill you in VARs it is double pointless. So careful with the use of "fraudulent" as a word and soften it a bit with "Misleading without full disclosure of average actual benifit"... but first, go look at the weasel worded fine print which might point out all that you just learned. I would bet they have most of this covered in some fine print to avoid legal action.

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#25

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

09/28/2009 12:25 PM

Definitely a scam. If the device was selling for $29.95 in a TV infomercial, a lot of people would buy it because 99.99% of the population doesn't even know what PF is. Because they don't know, they assume the guy selling the device is an expert. People are just plain gullible. They would probably have more success selling at $29.95 than $400. At any price, it's still a scam.

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#28

Re: Is This Product a Scam?

10/09/2009 10:35 PM

mikesoneill:

Simply put, it is a scam. I was in Metering for 23 years, and any capacitor will NOT save you energy/money on a residential meter because it measures real energy, or "Kilo-Watt Hours". You will use the same amount of KWhrs for a load with or without a capacitor.

Capacitors will only help you if you had a kVA (or a kVAR) Demand meter. But, remember, even after adding capaitor banks, you will probably pay the previous high kVA Peak Demand for a year before you will notice any money savings.

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