The Importance of Power Quality Monitoring For Your Building

Every building and business owner knows the expression ‘keep the lights on.’  While that expression can have nuances, the most fundamental meaning is ‘able to do business.’ But what happens when that very same electrical power that ‘keeps your lights on’ also causes equipment malfunction, higher utility bills, or shuts down your equipment?

Variations in power quality can have costly consequences you may need to be aware of. Paying attention to power quality is essential if your goal is to literally and figuratively keep the lights on.

Investing in power quality monitoring offers a significant potential return on investment, often paying for itself within three years. FICO’s team can help you evaluate what power quality monitoring can do for you.

What’s The Difference Between Good Power Quality and Poor Power Quality?

Electricity is not as consistent and standardized as you might think. Your building or business can have fluctuations in the quality and the consistency of power supplied to your building from the grid, called the service entrance, and power variations within your building called the point of utilization.

Electrical variations occur in voltage, frequency, and waveform. Current pattern changes can cause undesirable heating while simultaneously decreasing equipment and electrical hardware life span.

Good power quality means that the electricity within your building or business will not likely cause issues with the operation of your building or business’s most sensitive electrical equipment.

Poor power quality means that the electrical power supply is capable of causing equipment maloperations, equipment powering off, equipment failures, data corruption, data errors, system crashes, premature equipment burnout, increased utility costs due to sub-optional efficiency, and loss of productivity. Over time, poor power quality can increase fire hazard risks.

According to an article in The Electricity Forum, the ultimate cost is downtime, decreased productivity, and frustrated personnel.

What Causes Power Quality Problems?

Power quality is a two-way flow – problems enter from the grid, and problems also occur inside your building or business, outside of the grid.

The US electric grid is susceptible to harmonic pollution. While there is a national standard for voltage and tolerances that flows through the grid, it’s really up to each local public utility as to whether those standards are enforced. Consumer-produced energy, like solar, can add unlimited harmonic distortion when streaming in generated power.

Fluctuations in the power grid, both sags and surges, happen frequently. Even with smart grid technology, voltage sags are unavoidable.

Inside your building, the possible causes or contributors to power quality issues include short circuits, tripped circuits, static electricity, turning equipment on or off, loose wiring, grounding issues, capacity loads, use of newer energy-efficient equipment like LED lighting, electromagnetic interference, changes in load characteristic, and poor distribution of loads between phases.

How Can Poor Power Quality Hurt Buildings and Businesses?

Downtime and lost productivity are not only frustrating but also extremely expensive. E source reports that power outages cost businesses $27 billion annually, with batch manufacturing suffering the most significant annual loss per facility.

While power outages may be the most flagrant single example of power quality issues, more subtle power quality issues can cause massive problems. Critical technological activities such as data processing and storage, health care, manufacturing, financial services, and e-commerce are exceptionally vulnerable to problems caused by poor power quality.

Overheated machines and faulty electrical systems account for 22% of workplace fires. 

Not monitoring power quality leaves your business or building vulnerable to potentially avoidable, expensive, and catastrophic damage.

What Can Power Quality Monitoring Do For My Building or Business?

Your power supply is the lifeblood of your building, and not having a firm grasp on the quality or lack of that power is a huge financial vulnerability. Energy costs are projected to skyrocket. Regulations affecting power quality, already in place in Europe, are coming.

It makes so much sense to explore what installing a power quality meter can do for your building or business!

Find out if installing a power quality meter could increase energy efficiency, improve your building’s ability to handle power fluctuations, diagnose internal or external problems, establish historical data to benchmark performance, and protect sensitive data and equipment. You are gaining the ability to internally identify both power quality problems and the source of the power quality problems in real-time means radically improved response and resolution.

Monitoring provides the data and awareness that allows you to fix minor issues before they become big problems. Being able to detect performance trends through monitoring enables you to respond both proactively and reactively.

FICO can design a power quality monitoring system for you that’s strategic. Sub-meters can monitor departments or applications, giving you even more information and control to better manage your power needs and supply.

The biggest gain from power quality monitoring is keeping your building and business running! Keep the lights on! 

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