Building Management

Power monitoring systems provide powerful and profitable benefits

Years ago I got a great deal on what we’d call in these parts “a wood truck”: a rusty, dented pickup perfect for hauling just about anything. It came with its fair share of mechanical issues, which I could identify and repair, but its electrical problems were another matter. It took me a long time to find the cause because I had to trace a lot of electrical lines in search of the fault. As the saying goes, it’s an easy fix, but not an easy find.

Loose connections can cause power quality problems

I’ve witnessed similar situations at a variety of businesses. One manufacturer of time clock controllers suffered a fire and shutdown from a faulty connection inside its facility. The cause was traced to a twisted piece of busbar. Its cable lugs had been correctly selected and installed, but the connections were never double-checked for proper integrity. One phase connection began arcing, which cascaded to a three-phase fault and initiated a fire that closed the plant for a week.

I know of another plant that spent weeks trying to determine the cause of operating problems with a new electric glue-curing machine. The problem was finally traced to poor connections in an outdoor, overhead junction box where cables attached to the bus duct. Voltage fluctuations disrupted the equipment, but the additional heating losses in the junction box went unnoticed because of its outdoor location (and the problem occurred in the winter). In both of these cases, connection issues resulted in lost time, productivity, and money.

Take advantage of power monitoring and control systems to prevent downtime

Now if we look at a business with a power monitoring and control system in place, we see an entirely different situation. One day in an office building, the fluorescent lighting began to flicker, PCs rebooted without warning, and the local area network malfunctioned. Facility managers suspected a power quality issue, referred to their power monitoring and control system, and quickly found the cause of the problem: the progressive failure of a 3-pole knife-blade switch mounted just upstream of the feeder. They contacted the utility who arrived quickly, installed a temporary jumper around the faulty switch, and replaced it – all without any power interruption or loss in productivity. With a power monitoring and control system in place, loose connections don’t necessarily lead to disruptions.

Powerful and profitable benefits

The benefits of a power monitoring systems are powerful and profitable. With meters installed in key locations around a facility, the system can identify sources of voltage fluctuations, trigger waveform captures, and send alarms to key personnel. These systems continuously monitor for the voltage fluctuations that cause heating and equipment problems. They capture a variety of other power-related problems as well, and will quickly pay for themselves by indentifying a single loose-connection and minimizing the possibility of a shutdown incident. They even help extend the life of your equipment by mitigating or preventing power quality-related incidents.

If only my old truck had come with a power monitoring and control system! All that time spent tracing electrical lines, when all along the problem was a rusty ground connection at the fuse box. I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and frustration.

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