Frequent component failures can be frustrating and hard to track down. If you are suffering above average failure rates in electronic components, it could be a symptom that your business has dirty power.
What Is Dirty Power?
When we consider the electricity coming out of the wall, we tend to think of it as a steady stream like water from a tap. In a perfect world that would be right, but in reality the electrical signal varies and that can damage equipment.
The most common example of poor power quality is a surge cause by a lightning strike. This brief period of high voltage can literally fry equipment. However there are many other power quality problems that can insidiously damage equipment over time. Electrical signals can experience swells or sags as equipment is turned on and off, such as the way the lights dim briefly when high-power equipment is turned on. Noise in the signal can cause fluctuating voltages. Any of these problems can wear out electronic components.
How Do I Know If I Have Dirty Power?
Plants use panel meters to monitor the condition of the power entering their facilities. These panel meters might be placed just on the main line coming into the building or could be used to check power in individual pieces of equipment.
Panel meters can detect transient voltage changes, ongoing fluctuations and other problems. Technicians can examine readings to see if the electrical signal is pure or not. If power quality problems are detected, they can nail down exactly what kind of problems are being experienced. Once the panel meters have detected the low quality power, decisions can be made about how to deal with the situation and protect the expensive equipment that will be damaged by the poor quality power.
How Can I Fix Dirty Power?
Your electrical utility is obligated to deliver clean power. If a panel meter shows the power coming onto the property is low quality, contact the electric company so they can address the problem. However the utility’s obligation ends at the property line. In large industrial plants, large pieces of equipment create quality problems in the plant-wide grid.
Power conditioners regulate the electrical signal and prevent dangerous signals from reaching the equipment and causing damage. A power conditioner acts as a surge suppressor, preventing dangerous overvoltages from causing equipment failure, but also cleans up the power signal and protects against undervoltages or other problems.
The cost of a power conditioner is fairly low, almost certainly far lower than the equipment being protected. They provide ongoing protection, which will extend the life of electrical components and in the event of disaster are designed to “take the bullet,” protecting attached equipment by burning out.
If you suspect dirty power, the first step is to install panel meters throughout the plant to verify power quality. Do it now before poor quality power can damage more equipment.