kVA: What Is It and How to Calculate It?

From WATTS to AMPS, to VOLTS, to kVA, there are plenty of power ratings out there that each data center company uses to express power usage.

Because kVA is mostly used in the generator industry, many people don’t know about it. Today, we’ll cover what is kVA, what is kVA power, how to calculate kVA, and more.

What Is kVA?

kVA or kilovolt-amps is a measure of apparent power. A kVA unit is 1,000 volt-amps. It shows the total amount of power that a system uses. When a system is 100% efficient, kVA will be equal to kW.

However, most electrical systems are not 100% efficient. So, only a portion of the apparent power is converted into working output.

What Is kW?

kW or kilowatts measure the true amount of the power that is converted into working output. That’s why kW is known as actual or working power.

The Power Factor

The power factor (PF) measures the electrical efficiency of the system. If you know the efficiency of the electrical system, you can convert it between kilovolt-amps and kilowatts. The electrical efficiency of a system is expressed as a PF between 0 and 1.

A PF closer to 1 indicates that the kVA is efficiently being converted into working kW. A 100% efficient electrical system has a PF of 1.

kVA vs. kW

Kilovolt-amps show the total amount of power a colocation or any other service provider uses. Kilowatts show the actual power that is converted into output.

The power factor is the biggest difference between them. It’s used to determine the amount of apparent power converted to actual power. Its value depends on the load type that the electrical unit is drawing from the system.

kVA Power Example

You have a 600 kVA UPS unit. The PF is 0.8. The real power of the unit is 480 kW.

Helpful Conversion Factors

  • VA = Voltage x Amps
  • Watts = Voltage (root-mean-squared) x Amps (root-mean-squared) x Power Factor (PF)
  • PF = kW / kVA
  • P(kW) = Power in Kilowatts
  • P(W) = Power in Watts
  • BTU = British Thermal Unit

Important Formulas

  • kVA = VA/ 1,000
  • P(kW) = P(W) / 1,000
  • 1 BTU = Watts x 3.413
  • 1 Watt = 3.413 BTU / hour
  • 1 Ton = 3.517 kW

The Formula for Converting kVA to kW

  • kW = kVA x PF

The formula to convert kilovolt-amps to Watts:

  • W = 1000 × kVA x PF

The Formula for Converting kW to kVA

  • kVA = kW / Power Factor

The formula to convert Watts to kilovolt-amps:

  • kVA = W / (1000 x PF)

Final Thoughts

With all the different measurements, it can be hard to differentiate between kVA vs. kW, kVA vs. Watt, and others. So, to simplify, we can use an everyday example. Picture yourself with a coffee. The coffee and the foam together represent the kVA. The coffee alone represents the actual liquid you’ll be drinking or the kW.


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