Power Quality Facility Investigations

Utilities

Customers must be focused on their production schedules, operating their equipment, and ensuring products are manufactured on time. These are three of the key ingredients to ensuring a productive business, whether large or small. Power quality problems in customer facilities are going to occur—that’s a given in today’s electrical and electronic environment. Not only do customers not know enough about solving their power quality problems, they have little knowledge regarding the location of disturbances, if disturbances monitored are even threats to their equipment, and how to properly mitigate them. Electricians should know enough about power quality to manager their environment. Electricians shouldn’t have to become power quality experts to do that.  In fact, it takes years of experience to develop the skills to understand, identify, solve, and prevent (UISP) power quality problems. The wiring and grounding systems in customer facilities are complex and often changes. Customers even struggle with keeping their drawings up to date. Electrotek engineers have the expert skills, equipment, and know-how to UISP power quality problems when they occur. Every customer we’ve helped realized the value of calling experts to help them.

Architecture & Engineering Firms

Commercial and industrial customers who own and operate facilities and plants depend on the expertise of A&E engineering firms as the designers of their facilities. When questions about the infrastructure of a facility or plant comes up, they refer back to the A&E firm. A&E firms are seen as the resource who knows the electrical system of their customers’ facility better than anyone else. Customers are likely to contact their A&E firm when their electrical system doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, whether the problem is power quality-related, or not. In most cases, A&E firms will not know enough about power quality to advise their customers. Contacting the Electrotek expert power quality engineering team or referring their customers’ to Electrotek is the best strategy. Most A&E firms don’t have an engineer dedicated to power quality as the need for this resource isn’t consistent. Moreover, most firms don’t own a power quality monitor. Electrotek has worked with many A&E firms over the past three decades when solving power quality problems for their customers.

Equipment Manufacturers

Equipment manufacturers turn to Electrotek for power quality investigations for two reasons. First, manufacturers who produce products and own and operate their facilities want to determine the root-cause of a PQ problem before it gets out of hand and starts seriously impacting their production schedules and reputations with their customers. Moreover, they want resolution to the problem before additional damage is done to their electrical system and expensive production equipment. Second, OEMs want to resolve the PQ problems with the electrical and electronic equipment they sell is installed and operated in the facilities of their final end-use customers.

Manufacturing facilities use a large amount of electrical and electronic equipment typically operated from a public or private utility grid. Most manufacturing facilities still use the traditional electronic analog production equipment powered by the plant’s original (30 to 75 years old) electrical system. Unfortunately, most of these plants rely on the original aged wiring and grounding system to deliver power to their equipment and maintain plant safety. Equipment grounding systems in many plants are performance limited, because electrical codes at the time of construction didn’t require a dedicated conductor to ensure a reliable ground to subpanels and equipment. Many manufacturers still rely on ground paths provided by aged electrical piping systems to carry fault currents, electrical noise currents and disturbance currents. Analog electronic equipment are typically more forgiving of aged grounding systems. However, many plants are planning to and still upgrading their manufacturing systems to include digital electronic equipment.

Plants not aware of the condition of their grounding systems and the state of their internal power quality will find themselves dealing with serious power quality problems after upgrading to digital equipment. Every plant owner who’s experienced these problems wished they had been engaged with Electrotek to conduct power quality monitoring prior to upgrading their production equipment. Upgrades to more energy-efficient equipment (e.g., electronic lighting, variable frequency drives (VFDs), electronic doors, etc.) will also cause hidden power quality problems to emerge without warning. Electrotek expert power quality engineers are very knowledgeable in conducting power quality investigations to determine exactly why equipment malfunctions are occurring and how to prevent future equipment issues in their manufacturing plants.

Manufacturers who design and market energy-efficiency products like electronic lighting devices, electronic-based appliances and VFDs, for example, all experience product malfunctions and failures. An increase in the number of malfunctions and failures may be occurring because a new product with little field hours enters the market even after having undergone the required product testing. Failures may also increase because of a new incompatibility between an electronic product and customers’ electrical environments. For example, customers sometimes find themselves installing a new product which may generate a specific type of electrical disturbance that another unrelated electronic product may be over-sensitive to. These cases can actually show up in 100’s of manufacturing plants shortly after installation. In some cases, it can take several months to a few years for a hidden product design problem to surface.

Electrotek expert power quality engineers have decades of experiencing in monitoring and conducting power quality investigations in end-user facilities where product failures are occurring. Our service is designed to determine the cause of failure and identify cost-effective PQ mitigation solutions. Electrotek has also helped product manufacturers deal with malfunctions and failures of equipment they designed and manufactured. Electrotek determines equipment design improvements to enhance the power quality immunity of the malfunctioning and failing product to lower warranty claims and manage equipment replacement costs. 

End Users

End users rely on a tremendous amount of electrical and electronic equipment in their daily lives. At home, everything we do depends on the operation of electronic equipment. Directly or indirectly, we depend on equipment to get started in the morning, get to work on time, carryout our responsibilities on the job, get back home and spend time with our families. A typical end user will touch over 50 pieces of electronic equipment in the course of a day. Most of the equipment we depend on requires AC power from the grid to operate. With a growing dependence on electrical and electronic equipment, end users will continue to find themselves dealing with equipment malfunctions and failures. Malfunctions and failures occur in residential, commercial, industrial, and outdoor environments. End users in residential settings use much fewer pieces of equipment than end users in commercial and industrial facilities. However, when a home owner experiences equipment malfunctions or failures, they demand attention immediately.

For example, a flat screen TV may experience failure during the warranty period. The user will return the product to the retail store or manufacturer for a replacement. If that problem occurs again, the user will start to suspect the quality of the TV design or problems with their utility power. A commercial user may experience malfunctions and failures with multiple pieces of equipment in the same facility or the failure of an individual piece of equipment more than once. Commercial users are far more likely to suspect that a power quality problem has developed in their facility. However, users in industrial environments have a different perspective. Plant operators in industrial environments frequently experience higher rates of equipment malfunctions and failures as they operate equipment in much more harsh electrical environments. These electrical environments generate disturbances more frequently with much higher energy content. This significantly increases the likelihood of damaging electrical and electronic equipment. Electrotek expert power quality engineers are well-trained to investigate power quality problems in residential, commercial and industrial environments, regardless of the type of facility electrical system, energy source, equipment issue, geographic location, or facility size. End users who turned to Electrotek for help were able to learn about the cause, find a solution, and learn how to avoid similar problems in the future.