When it comes to building or refurbishing any commercial building, time is money. The longer it takes to complete the job, the longer it will be before the building owner gets whatever benefit the building is intended to bring – be it rental income, new employee office space or a new manufacturing facility.
Electrical contractors always contribute significantly to the time required to build or refurbish a building. In addition to the time required to run wires throughout the building, they also need time to put together all the components that go into the panel boards that control the electrical system.
Those components include various circuit breakers, power panels and branch circuit panels, low voltage transformers, automatic transfer switches, perhaps individually mounted circuit breakers and energy or building management systems. Clearly it takes time for an electrician to install all these components, then thoroughly test the panel to ensure everything is working properly.
One way to save all that time is to use an integrated panel, which is a panel that’s assembled and tested in the factory to your specifications. Once on site, you just drop it in, make a few connections and you’re done in hours instead of days.
Integrated panels do cost more than if you were to buy the components separately. But if you consider all the ways integrated panels save time and money, you’ll quickly see how they deliver a significant return on investment. Here are five ways that integrated panels deliver ROI.
Reduced labor and time: Whether for new construction or retrofit, the biggest benefit to integrated panels is the reduction in time and labor involved in installing the panels. Many times, if not most, the amount of labor will be reduced enough to offset the higher cost of the panel vs. using stick-built components. In such cases, you get an immediate ROI. And in all cases, integrated equipment will mean a faster install time, helping to ensure projects stay on time and on budget.
Tax benefits: Often when customers buy integrated panels they can be considered a capital equipment purchase, and thus amortized accordingly on future tax returns. Say you’re building a new manufacturing site, for example, and need panels to sit beside a piece of equipment and ensure it gets proper voltage. By buying an integrated panel, it’s likely you’ll be able to include the panel in the equipment purchase price. That’s a benefit that would not likely be available to you with a stick-built panel.
Even if you can amortize the stick built equipment, you still have the higher up front installation labor cost. By using integrated equipment, you can effectively amortize a larger percentage of the installed cost.
Faster, easier inspection: Integrated panels leave the factory with a UL listing mark attached, showing the product has been properly vetted in the factory. When an electrical inspector sees the UL mark on the job site, he can be pretty sure the panel is going to work as expected and the inspection is likely to go quickly and smoothly.
Smaller footprint: Panels constructed in the factory can take advantage of design elements that are not available in the field – and that save significant space. When building a panel in the field, if the contractor has two panel boards and a transformer, they must be mounted one beside another. But in the factory, the two panel boards can be stacked above the transformer – saving around 40 inches of wall space. In hospital projects integrated panels can save so much space in the electrical room it creates enough space for an extra patient room on each floor. Similarly, in a retail environment if the electrical equipment takes up less room, it leaves more space for the revenue-generating sales floor.
Improved reliability: When a panel is assembled in a factory the manufacturer can run tests on the equipment that would be impractical to conduct in the field. For example, it’s common to conduct “hipot” testing, or high potential, which involves running high-voltage current through the panel to ensure all the insulation holds up and to find any errors or faults. Such testing improves the likelihood that the panel will be reliable over the course of its life.
The message here is simple. You can’t base the decision on whether to use an integrated panel on price alone. If you factor in all these variables, the equation will likely tip in favor of the integrated approach.
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