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KVA vs. KW: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 12, 2023
kVA (Kilovolt-Amperes) represents apparent power, considering both working and reactive power, while kW (Kilowatts) signifies real power, indicating actual energy used. Both are units of power but kVA includes reactive power, while kW doesn’t.

Key Differences

kVA is a unit that represents the apparent power in an electrical circuit. kW, on the other hand, represents the real power that is doing useful work in the circuit. Apparent power (kVA) considers both active (real) and reactive power, while real power (kW) reflects only the power that is actually consumed or utilized in a circuit.
In an electrical system, kVA accounts for the total power that flows from the source to the load, including both effective and ineffective power. Meanwhile, kW is indicative of the power that is effectively utilized in the system. The kVA value is always equal to or larger than the kW value because it accounts for additional, non-working power used by some systems.
The term "Power Factor (PF)" describes the relationship between kVA and kW. While kVA serves as a measure of apparent power which involves both real and reactive power, kW exclusively embodies the actual power which effectively contributes to the work done. Power Factor is a measure of how effectively electrical power is being converted into useful work output.
kVA and kW are crucial units in defining and managing power in electrical systems. Engineers and technicians employ kVA when they are concerned with total power, including the non-working power. Conversely, when the focus is on actual, utilized power, the unit kW is brought into application.
Both kVA and kW hold immense significance in the power management of electrical systems. Analyzing kVA values aids in effectively sizing wiring, transformers, and generators, while keen observation of kW values enables optimization of actual power use, ensuring efficient energy utilization.

Comparison Chart


Apparent Power (Volts x Amperes)
Real Power (Actual power consumed)


Involves both real and reactive power
Involves only real power


"S" in electrical formulas
"P" in electrical formulas




Used in power distribution
Used to quantify actual power usage

KVA and KW Definitions


KVA is a unit measuring apparent power in electrical systems.
The transformer has a capacity of 50 kVA to handle the load of the building.


KW is essential for quantifying the performance of power-generating devices like engines.
The new engine model has an improved output of 200 kW, providing enhanced performance.


KVA values are used to denote the power rating of electrical devices.
The power rating of the machine is 25 kVA, indicating its apparent power consumption.


KW measures the real power consumed or produced in a circuit.
A 60 kW motor consumes 60 kilowatts of actual power during operation.


KVA considers both active and reactive power.
A generator rated at 100 kVA can provide more real power than a 100 kW generator due to handling reactive power.


KW is utilized for billing by power companies due to its reflection of actual power usage.
The household's energy consumption peaked at 5 kW during the summer months.


KVA is crucial for calculating the power factor in electrical circuits.
To optimize energy efficiency, the technician might analyze the kVA values and adjust the power factor accordingly.


KW is concerned only with the actual work-performing power and disregards reactive power.
Although the device has a high kVA rating, it only utilizes 75 kW for its operation.


KVA is utilized to size electrical components like wires and transformers.
Engineers ensure the 150 kVA transformer can accommodate the facility's total electrical load.


KW can be converted to kVA by dividing it by the power factor.
A 50 kW load at a power factor of 0.8 will equate to 62.5 kVA in apparent power.


A unit of power equal to 1000 watts


How is kVA calculated?

kVA is calculated as: kVA = Voltage (V) x Current (I).

Can kVA be converted to kW?

Yes, by using the formula: kW = kVA x Power Factor (PF).

What does kW stand for?

kW stands for Kilowatts.

Why is kVA important in power systems?

kVA is vital for calculating apparent power, which helps in sizing electrical components and improving efficiency.

How do kW and kVA relate in terms of units?

kW is a subset of kVA; kW represents real power, and kVA represents total power (real + reactive).

Why is kW important in power systems?

kW is crucial for calculating real power which directly influences energy billing and system performance.

Is it possible for kW to be higher than kVA?

No, kW cannot be higher than kVA as it does not include reactive power.

How does an increase in kVA affect electrical components?

An increase in kVA may require up-sizing electrical components like transformers and wiring to handle increased loads.

Can a device’s kVA be reduced to save energy?

Reducing a device’s kVA will not save energy but may improve system efficiency by reducing non-working power.

What does kVA stand for?

kVA stands for Kilovolt-Amperes.

How does power factor impact kVA and kW?

Power factor affects the relationship between kVA and kW, determining how much of the apparent power (kVA) is real power (kW).

What is a typical use of kW in industry?

kW is typically used to express the actual power output or consumption of machines, engines, heaters, and other devices.

What does a higher kVA indicate in an electrical device?

A higher kVA indicates the device's higher apparent power which may be required to handle peak loads.

How do kW and kVA ratings affect electrical billing?

kWh (kilowatt-hours) are typically used for billing purposes as they represent actual energy consumption.

Does improving power factor impact kVA?

Yes, improving power factor can reduce kVA, thereby optimizing the efficiency of power distribution.

What is the significance of a kW rating in an engine?

The kW rating in an engine signifies its power output and directly reflects its performance capabilities.

How is kW calculated?

kW is calculated as: kW = Voltage (V) x Current (I) x Power Factor (PF).

In what scenario is kVA typically used?

kVA is commonly used in power distribution systems and for sizing transformers, generators, and wiring.

How is kW utilized in evaluating the efficiency of motors?

kW is used to describe the actual working power of motors, indicating how much electrical power is converted to mechanical power.

How does a device’s kW rating influence energy costs?

Higher kW ratings indicate higher real power consumption, which directly impacts energy costs when the device is in use.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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