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volt-ampere (VA)

Contributor(s): Guillermo Cardenas

Volt-ampere (VA) is a measurement of power in a direct current ( DC ) electrical circuit. The VA specification is also used in alternating current ( AC ) circuits, but it is less precise in this application, because it represents apparent power , which often differs from true power .

In a DC circuit, 1 VA is the equivalent of one watt (1 W). The power, P (in watts) in a DC circuit is equal to the product of the voltage V (in volt s) and the current I (in ampere s):

P = VI

In an AC circuit, power and VA mean the same thing only when there is no reactance . Reactance is introduced when a circuit contains an inductor or capacitor . Because most AC circuits contain reactance, the VA figure is greater than the actual dissipated or delivered power in watts. This can cause confusion in specifications for power supplies. For example, a supply might be rated at 600 VA. This does not mean it can deliver 600 watts, unless the equipment is reactance-free. In real life, the true wattage rating of a power supply is 1/2 to 2/3 of the VA rating.

When purchasing a power source such as an uninterruptible power supply ( UPS ) for use with electronic equipment (including computers, monitors, and other peripherals), be sure the VA specifications for the equipment are used when determining the minimum ratings for the power supply. The VA figure is nominally 1.67 times (167 percent of) the power consumption in watts. Alternatively, you can multiply the VA rating of the power supply by 0.6 (60 percent) to get a good idea of its power-delivering capability in watts.

Also see current , voltage , power , reactance , and watt .

This was last updated in March 2011

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