Too many times people are maintaining the mechanical portions of their power system but they forget or don't understand the electrical side. Most people understand the mechanical side because we drive our cars, trucks, or perhaps motorcycles to work and we maintain those vehicles. We change the engine oil, ensure proper tire inflation, keep the brakes in order, etc.
I've often seen instances where a facility manager has a maintenance contract on the generator set/s but either doesn't ask or get offered a maintenance program on the electrical portion of the system... thus it doesn't always receive proper attention. Sure, if you've got a UPS, you need to be concerned about things like:
- corrosion on terminals
- temperature of the room
If flywheel or mechanical energy storage:
- keeping track of bearing temperatures
- vacuum pressure
- vibration figures
When called to duty most people either see the light flicker (or not) depending on the transfer scheme and the overall system responds. This happens maybe a few times each year and over time people become complacent. So after a few years, people have the generator set and/or UPS under a maintenance contract but are not getting their ATS, Switchgear, and Circuit Breakers serviced, what I like to call, "the quiet and forgotten portion of your power system."
There are some key things to consider when maintaining your electrical equipment:
- What does the manufacturer recommend? What's in the Operation and Maintenance Manual? What's in NETA? Depending on your industry you might be required to prove you've maintained your entire system…i.e. Joint Commission. Insurance companies might increase rates if equipment is not maintained or might reduce rates if you can provide/prove stellar maintenance records.
- Adverse conditions are known to negatively impact useful service life of electromechanical equipment.
- Pay attention to application environment and any changes to the surrounds.
- People change and employees retire so it is important to setup a good process for detailed record keeping.
- Records should be kept with equipment, including any modifications.
- Depending on other equipment you have under contact, consider sole-source to get the benefits associated with working with only one company.
- Cycle also depends on how critical is your system to overall operation of the business. It's also a function of the age. Older electrical equipment needs to be maintained more often.
- Facility managers have local staff trained, which is great to understand the system and possibly be the first responder in case of emergency. But this does not necessarily mean they are fully qualified to perform system maintenance. Consider the specialized tools, diagnostics equipment or computer software required… which may be better applied by field experts.
- Consider having some common failure parts on the shelf. You can't ever consider everything that would fail – but work with your service provider to understand common items.
Ask yourself these two questions:
1. Who is maintaining the electrical portion of your system?
2. If the system doesn't respond, what will the economic impact be?
All these items are incorporated into a good maintenance program for your electrical equipment. Challenge your service providers to incorporate all of your power systems maintenance requirements in the beginning to ensure maximum performance throughout the lifecycle.
- Are there any other key maintenance considerations you would add that are not mentioned above?
- Do you have a service contract for your ATS, Switchgear and Circuit Breakers?
- What does that contract include?
- What doesn't it include that you wish it would?
- If you don't have a contract, are you performing maintenance? Monthly? Yearly?
- Can you think of any additional "quiet" and/or "forgotten" components of an electric power system?
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