Aging electrical equipment and components are not only inefficient, they’re potentially dangerous. Overheating in electrical enclosures, usually caused by loose connections and friction (due to lack of or improper lubrication) can shorten the life of the equipment or worse, lead to costly downtime. Listed below are commonly asked industry questions and answers regarding the risk of aging electrical equipment:
Q: How do I know which aging equipment could put my facility at risk?
A: Facility managers can feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of applying limited operating and maintenance and capital funds in the right places. Having an OSHA-required arc flash risk assessment performed is a good starting point. The study will identify improvements to the electrical system that can improve safety and reliability, while providing updated single-lines, equipment condition inspection, maintenance assessment, and other productivity-enhancing recommendations.
Q: What maintenance mistakes are commonly made with existing equipment?
A: A lack of maintenance being performed! Electrical equipment gets installed and forgotten about. Regular maintenance is essential for the upkeep and longevity of any system. Where maintenance is being performed, not following specific guidelines and procedures (torque settings, etc.) have caused financial and human damages. In addition, many facilities do not have current documentation of their electrical systems, like single-line drawings. These are essential for supporting vital tasks like lock-out/tag-out (which is fundamental to any maintenance procedure), testing and troubleshooting, and load balancing.
Q: Can modern equipment warn about imminent failures?
A: Yes, absolutely, with the downsizing in labor forces there are fewer opportunities to do in-person inspections by qualified personnel. The ability to program alarming for indication of potential failures is indispensable. Today’s intelligent power monitoring and controls systems can also support migration from time-based maintenance, to condition-based, where maintenance cycles can be based on actual circuit conditions instead of specific time intervals.
Q: Is it worth upgrading my existing electrical equipment?
A: The reality today is that facilities are facing rising energy costs issues AND changing code requirements. Upgrading aging electrical equipment allows for more flexible, scalable power availability.
Q: What should I consider regarding electrical system and/or component upgrades?
A: Aging or legacy equipment may not have to be replaced in order to upgrade the power system. A variety of life-extension, refurbishment, and reconditioning options are available. Switchgear modernization solutions, for example, leave the footprint of the existing equipment intact while upgrading the line-up with new low- or medium-voltage circuit breakers to current technology, which reduces the need for hard to find spare parts. Utilizing the existing structure and footprint saves time and money.