Just like any other high-performance machine, electrical systems need regular preventive maintenance and monitoring to keep them running safe and sound. Electrical systems are the heartbeat of the buildings where we live and work. These systems go about their business, often unnoticed because they are hidden in the walls. Conduit and wire are run above ceilings and under floors. But inadequately maintained electrical systems are a leading cause of business interruption, poor energy efficiency, fires, equipment wear-out and breakdowns — all costly problems. Regular and routine maintenance is extremely important to a safe and well-functioning electrical system.
In today’s world we seem to take so many things for granted. Water flows from the faucet. Cool air blows from the ventilation ducts and the lights turn on at the flick of a switch. Electric power is at the root of each of these basic services, yet electricity is almost always the most overlooked and under-appreciated utility in our daily lives. Without it, almost everything stops, including your business.
Implementing an effective electrical preventive maintenance program can reduce the risk of unscheduled outage by as much as 66 percent according to the statics ,from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Electrical disruptions or breakdowns can cost businesses losses through extra expense, disruptions and lost profits.
Electrical preventive maintenance programs focus on the most common and frequent problems leading to electrical fires and equipment failures. This includes inspections and preventive measures to ensure electrical apparatuses are kept clean, cool, dry and tight.
Thermography can also be used to identify potential electrical equipment issues. This non-invasive scanning can increase the reliability and efficiency of equipment, reducing breakdowns and stoppages as well as significantly reducing maintenance costs and production losses. The infra-red scan tests are performed on live panels that are under normal load. When this test is performed, an infra-red picture is taken of the connections in each panel, transformer and large switchboards. This thermal image shows ambient temperature and the varying degrees of heat on each connection. If a potential problem has been found, a digital picture is taken and filed for review. When these tests are complete, the owner can make decisions about repairing problems during a planned shutdone which is far less expensive than unplanned catastrophic failures.
Additional testing called Megohm provides in-depth reports that determine deterioration levels of electric insulation and helps maintain safety and power reliability.
On the low-voltage side, fire alarms are one of the most important and often overlooked systems. In high- rise environments, fire alarms can save lives from notification to actually helping funnel people out of the building. If there is a fire in a building, the elevator recall automatically sends the elevator to the exit floor; if there is a problem there, the system will elect an alternate floor. At the same time, the system could start stairwell pressurization fans to pressurize the stairwells with fresh air for a safe evacuation route. The system will turn off the cooling or heating systems to stop the flow of fresh air to the fire and call the local fire department. This is an electrical system and should be checked annually to protect life safety systems.
Jim Thomas is the division manager in the Salt Lake City office of Wilson Electric, a design/build electrical contractor. He also serves on the board of directors for the Independent Electrical Contractors and IEC Education of Utah.