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LARGE difference between chest freezer Volt-Amp usage and Watt usage (via Kill-a-Watt meter)

 
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Awhile back, I converted my chest freezer to a refrigerator by using an external temperature control. The external thermometer unit turns the freezer on and off to keep temperatures at a refrigerator's temperature.

I am looking at my chest freezer's usage yesterday using the Kill A Watt meter and noticed that normally it says .4 watts, but 100 volt-amps. This is when the unit is not powered on.

What is going on here?

 
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If memory serves, watts is a resistive measure, or a measure where voltage and current are in phase with each other.

Volt-amps are a better measure of what's going on in an inductive or capacitive circuit.
 
Stephen Lloyd
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So then would that mean the refrigerator is using 100 watts without saying it? or just that it, like, has 100 watts in reserve or something, as reflected by the volt-amp reading?
 
Charles Tarnard
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If there is a low voltage system inside the unit, there will be a transformer inside changing voltage at all times. This is always going to be an inductive load.

100VA seems a little high for that, but I don't know much about your fridge or the Kill-a-Watt device. It's possible the resolution on the KAW isn't small enough to see a 20VA load; it could just report as 100VA. It's also possible there's enough stuff going on that it's actually drawing 100VA. 100VA isn't THAT much power when compared to most refrigeration circuits, so it's difficult to know.
 
Stephen Lloyd
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Well, that makes sense. And I was thinking of hooking the refrigerator up to a timer so that it would only turn on every three hours, just in case it was drawing some massively wasteful phantom load despite the external thermostat.

To do this, I had to unplug stuff. I unplugged the kil-a-watt meter, which reset it. I plugged it back in and now it doesn't show that reading. Now, it shows what makes sense: when the fridge is off, it consumes zero watts and zero VA.

Let's hope it was just a weird error in the meter.

 
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