End users of electrical systems and electronic products in customer facilities is where “the rubber meets the road” with respect to power and power quality (PQ). Customers aren’t interested in the specifics of how equipment is designed—they simply want the equipment to operate when they “flip the switch”. Most customers don’t expect PQ problems to occur. Those that have had bad experiences with equipment and power quality fear the next power quality problem:
- Will a PQ problem occur and halt my production process?
- Will a PQ disturbance hit my expensive electronic equipment and render it inoperable?
- How will I overcome the next PQ problem financially?
- How do I know if an equipment manufacturer has done their “homework” and designed for power quality?
- What manufacturers can I trust when it comes to power quality performance?
- Can I trust a manufacturer to honor their warranty if I experience equipment failures, possibly caused by power quality?
- Who can I rely on to help me avoid the next PQ problem?
For most end users, these the difficult questions they must face. These are the questions hard to answer. And, it’s these questions and the answers that PQ engineering experts at Electrotek provided to customers in need that put Electrotek on the map.
Electrotek’s PQ engineering services for end users offers them a broad range of services to help them meet their PQ needs. As a first in the industry, Electrotek can provide end users with our Remote Power Quality Monitoring Service hosted at powermonitoring.com. End users with PQ monitoring needs can contact Electrotek and have monitoring installed and uploading their PQ data to Electrotek within 24 hours of their request. Our system is designed to make it easy for end users to engage in monitoring to begin identifying the cause(s) of their problems. Our servers will download the PQ data, making it available for analysis by our expert PQ engineering team, so the customer may have some idea about their PQ the next day. (Of course, monitoring for at least seven days is often the minimum monitoring period and may require a few more weeks or a month to get a good idea about the nature of the PQ problem.)
A very popular service we offer end users in addition to PQ monitoring is on-site customer PQ investigations. Monitoring alone typically does not lead to the cause(s) of PQ problems. However, it does provide an excellent start to determine why equipment problems are occurring. Electrotek’s 30-year history includes conducting 1,000’s of PQ investigations in many customer facilities. Depending on the size of the facility, the customer’s business and the nature of the PQ problems, Electrotek can conduct a full PQ investigation in a few days to less than a week. Our highly trained PQ field engineers know the right questions to ask and the right things to look at to determine why equipment problems are occurring. Electrotek has never left a customer PQ problem unsolved.
Before customers make a significant investment in purchasing electronic equipment, Electrotek’s PQ equipment design engineers can assess any electrical or electronic product for its ability to withstand the PQ in its intended electrical environment. Our engineers commonly conduct equipment design reviews, review equipment test reports and data, characterize a customer’s electrical environment and even conduct limited or complete PQ emissions and immunity testing before an equipment purchase is made. Many customers have had to ensure bad experiences when using equipment without first having it evaluated for PQ. Customers have had to absorb $1,000’s to $1,000,000’s in lost production, equipment repairs and replacement and legal fees, because of poor PQ equipment performance. Customers have the right to know about the PQ performance of their equipment, even stacked up to their own electrical environments.
Electrotek’s expert equipment engineers also routinely conduct forensic analyses on malfunctioning and failed equipment. It is not uncommon for us to receive requests to analysis a piece of charred and burned equipment resulting from a catastrophic PQ event. When equipment fails, a pile of charred and burned equipment only looks like a “needle in a burned hay stack” to them. Electrotek’s forensic analysis service can determine why a piece of equipment failed. Sometimes, equipment has an embedded design defect that might not surface until a PQ problem occurs. Other times, equipment may fail to ensure a PQ disturbance because of an inferior front-end PQ protection circuit. In some cases, a severe PQ disturbance might have occurred that renders equipment unusable, leaving no evidence that an over-voltage condition occurred.
End users increasingly want to know more about PQ and how it can impact their business. Moreover, they want to know what they can do regarding PQ to improve their productivity and profits. PQ is not yet one of the standardized sciences. PQ is a growing topic that is becoming more important to people who generate, distribute and use electrical energy every day. PQ is one of those sciences where problems will always occur and improvements can always be made. Maintaining good PQ involves a host of individuals working together to provide quality electricity for the common good.
Electrotek recognized the need for a solid, well-rounded resource for basic and advanced PQ many years ago. Electrotek’s PQ e-knowledgebase service can provide customers with everything they need to know to manage their own PQ. It’s just a matter of taking an interest, learning to identify the problem and taking the right action to solve it. However, before customers get into the nitty-gritty details of PQ, they need to establish a firm foundation regarding PQ topics.
- What is a PQ disturbance?
- How do I measure my PQ?
- Why do PQ problems occur?
- What are utilities doing to improve PQ?
- What roles do building designers play in providing PQ?
- What are manufacturers doing to reduce failures caused by PQ disturbances?
- What can I do to manage my own PQ and increase the likelihood of success when operating electrical and electronic equipment?
All of the above questions can be answered by engaging in Electrotek’e PQ e-Knowledgebase program. Our program provides the definition of technical terms and concepts related to PQ, 100’s of technical resources on PQ, a collection of PQ engineering services to solve any PQ problem and a series of face-to-face and on-line training courses to teach basic and advanced PQ topics to end users.
Modeling & Simulation: Lastly, end users must continue to manage their electrical systems to ensure proper power delivery to their equipment. Customer facility electrical systems may be small or large. Most systems are fairly larger as many pieces of equipment must be powered across the whole facility and under different electrical conditions. Electrical systems are like a collection of gears, pistons, springs and dampers. As customers draw power from their systems, energy is provided, stored and used at different times and rates as needed. Prior to the invention of the transistor, customers used only basic 60-hertz power to operate resistive heating elements, motors and incandescent lamps. With this, providing, storing and using electrical energy generally was no big deal as there were no unfavorable reactions. In the mechanical analogy, all the pieces worked together smoothly. Shortly after customers began using transistorized equipment, powering electronic equipment from their old-fashioned electrical systems designed for 60 Hertz presented some unusual electrical problems. Customers found out that it was becoming more of a challenge to store and use electrical energy. When energy was needed but not enough was available, an unexpected event occurred. When too much energy was available but not all of it was needed, another unexpected event occurred causing something to fail. This is analogous to a “spring” being over extended, causing a mechanical part to break.
In the end user’s electrical world, 60-hertz current is not the only current they have to deal with. They have to deal the harmonic currents, voltage surges, resonance conditions and over-voltages to name a few of the PQ disturbances that occur when non-linear loads (like variable frequency drives) are used on a 50-year old linear electrical power system in a plant. Electrical engineers often use a concept called “modeling and simulation” to study the behavior of an electrical system. This allows engineers to control the variables and get a better understanding of the instabilities that might occur under certain electrical conditions. Often, engineers need to know how a system will react when the input voltage changes, when breakers open and close, and when load conditions change. Engineers do this by modeling the electrical system, its voltage sources, its wiring and grounding systems and its loads. The way loads are actually used in a plant can also be modeled. By running simulations using the model, engineers can determine how often system instabilities will occur and under what electrical conditions.
Electrotek’s PQ engineering experts are well-versed in modeling and simulating customer electrical systems. Our engineers use a number of software platforms designed to model and simulate power systems and PQ problems. Electrotek maintains a library of power system devices—transformers, breakers and cables—and a library of non-linear loads (e.g., VFDs) needed for modeling. Our expert engineers can model and simulate any PQ problem occurring in any facility electrical system. They can also simulate different types of PQ problems like voltage sags, load conditions like the rapid start up or shut down of a large motor and faults like a short circuit between a phase conductor and ground. Our engineers also maintain a library of PQ mitigation systems and equipment to study the system effects of integrating a solution into the customer’s electrical system.