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4 Reasons Continuous Power Quality Monitoring is Good Policy

ASCO Power Technologies

Good power quality and uninterrupted power are extremely important goals at many types of facilities, ranging from commercial and government buildings to data centers, healthcare centers, and manufacturing plants. When it comes to reliability of power in a facility, foresight is a lot better than hindsight.

Compromised power quality can cause damage to costly electrical equipment, reduce productivity, and – if severe enough – disrupt daily operations. Variations in power quality can result from voltage spikes, swells, and sags; harmonic disturbances; and short and long interruptions of power lasting from a few milliseconds to over two seconds. And any of these events can occur at any time.   

Sophisticated proactive monitoring of power, 24/7, incorporates hardware - sensors and meters - to measure electrical sensitivity and software to record and interpret the data. It can also include wired and wireless communications to inform facility personnel about  what is negatively affecting power quality and where in the electrical system the event occurred. There are a variety of reasons that continuous power quality monitoring should be included in your playbook:

1) Fast Recovery 

Detection of a problem early on, before it escalates and when it is easy to address, minimizes the likelihood of costly damage to equipment or costly interruption of business-as-usual. The ability to review stored, continuously recorded waveforms and spot anomalies such as sags and swells, transient harmonics, and power outages helps in the diagnosis of problems. The early detection can enable proactive scheduling of repairs in a timely fashion, rather than emergency repair at a time when maintenance or service personnel are not readily available or when shut-down of a load would be inconvenient.

2) Enhanced Analytics 

Power quality analytics enables development of a baseline that can be used to evaluate the performance of electrical equipment and components over time. Comparison to baseline can detect performance trends which can impact preventive maintenance programs. The comparison to baseline also provides useful information that can help in predicting future power requirements and help in developing plans for purchasing additional electrical equipment such as servers or variable frequency drives.

Power quality analytics also supports forensic investigation into how a chain of events occurred as it did, such as why a particular breaker tripped the PDU (power distribution unit) and resulted in a switchover to the UPS. In such a scenario, analytics could pinpoint the root cause - for example an electrical spike, a short, or a floating ground. It can also pinpoint power quality problems that can age equipment prematurely.

3) Accurate Information

Where good power quality and operational continuity are critical, facility management benefits from both a building management system (BMS), which operates on a narrow bandwidth at relatively low speed, and a dedicated critical power management system (CPMS) that complements it. Operating at a very high bandwidth and a very high speed, a CPMS monitors and analyzes the operation and status of the electrical components of the normal power and emergency power systems from multiple points of access. The very high rate of speed is necessary to generate power quality details such as transient harmonic displays or wave form capture. A CPMS can monitor current, normal and emergency voltages and frequency, power and power factor, and can indicate transfer switch position and source availability. Web-enabled communications can provide access to any/all of the information, including automatic alerts, from anywhere in the world.

4) Compliance Benefits

A CPMS may also have the capability for testing to comply with regulatory reporting requirements. For example, specific reports can help meet various requirements such as the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 70, NFPA 99, and NFPA 110.

Additioanlly, the associated improvements in the efficiency and reliability of a facility’s power infrastructure can save on the cost of energy, minimize occupant complaints about power issues, and preserve good relations and reputation with tenants, creating benefits throughout the organization.

Bhavesh S. Patel is director of marketing and customer support at ASCO Power Technologies, reach him at customercare@asco.com.

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