In electrical engineering, the power factor of an AC electrical power system is defined as the ratio of the real power flowing to the load to the apparent power in the circuit, and is a dimensionless number in the closed interval of −1 to 1. A power factor of less than one means that the voltage and current waveforms are not in phase, reducing the instantaneous product of the two waveforms (V × I). Real power is the capacity of the circuit for performing work in a particular time. Apparent power is the product of the current and voltage of the circuit. Due to energy stored in the load and returned to the source, or due to a non-linear load that distorts the wave shape of the current drawn from the source, the apparent power will be greater than the real power. A negative power factor occurs when the device (which is normally the load) generates power, which then flows back towards the source, which is normally considered the generator.

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