While companies strive to ensure the health of electrical infrastructure via predictive maintenance, very rarely do they assess the quality of power that fuels the system. In this article, we aim to address the importance of monitoring power quality and its impact on operating costs, and explain how you can use the Fluke 434 Power Quality Analyzer to curb undue expenses.
Power quality is a measure of an electrical system’s ability to ensure reliable, stable operations across its service area. While it is impossible to achieve perfect power quality, undue deterioration is bound to have dire consequences such as equipment damage/downtime, poor performance/data loss, decreased lifetime, and increased power consumption – all of which directly impact the financial health of the business. Compromised power quality is often attributable to known causes like voltage sags, unbalance, harmonic distortions, current spikes, transients, flickers, oscillations, reactive behaviour, and others that can be monitored and addressed suitably. The Fluke 434 Power Quality Analyzer helps detect potential problems that erode power quality and resolve them before they prove costly.
Including power quality monitoring, as a part of predictive maintenance, to monitor key factors that are indicative of critical load and reliable power distribution can avoid major damages or downtime and reduce expenses in the process.
Using the Fluke 434, it is possible to track and analyse voltage unbalance, harmonic distortions, voltage sags and current spikes even when the equipment is live. Let’s take a look at each of these factors in detail.
Individual phase voltages in a balanced 3-phased system should be identical or closely matching. Any major variations are indicative of a defective load or system problem, and are likely to affect performance of 3-phase loads, causing them to fail at times.
Testing inputs to 3-phase motors, variable frequency drives (VFD) and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units with the Fluke 434 helps detect unbalances greater than the prescribed EU EN50160 standard of 2 percent and resolve them on a priority basis.
Costs incurred in rectifying damage caused by unbalance include cost of replacement equipment, labour, and loss of revenue due to equipment downtime.
Power systems catering to electronic loads often experience harmonic distortions (voltage and current). Harmonics can trigger several events, ranging from overheating of equipment and high current in neutral conductors to reduced efficiency, noise and susceptibility to voltage sags.
Neutral conductors serving electronic loads, transformers and motors should be tested using Fluke 434. Voltage distortions above 5 percent, high temperatures or current levels in transformers, and neutral current exceeding the conductor’s capacity need attention.
Reduced lifespan of transformers and motors, replacement costs and impact of downtime tend to impact financial status.
Increased flow of current is mainly attributable to deterioration of insulation. Using the Fluke 434 to regularly monitor phase current and compare its previous values can help detect any significant spikes (beyond nameplate rating) in phase, ground and neutral currents fed into motor, transformers and VFDs.
Current surges are likely to further damage insulation and the load as well, apart from causing protective devices to trip and rendering metallic surfaces unsafe.
Equipment downtime and replacement/repair of failed equipment often prove expensive.
A sudden dip in voltage is quite often indicative of additional load, and the system’s inability to address the demand. Voltage sags can interrupt operations, cause electronic equipment to automatically reset. Longer and larger voltage variations are clues to an imminent equipment failure or malfunction.
UPS, VFDs, power distribution systems catering to electronic equipment and industrial controls, and motors are ideal candidates for voltage sag testing with Fluke 434.
Costs incurred on voltage dips ideally span loss of income due to repeated resetting of equipment, VFD trips and shortened lifetime of backup power units.
Apart from the above factors that can be tracked as a part of predictive maintenance, Fluke 434 helps keep tab on a couple of other factors that influence power consumption charges – peak demand and power factor.
Power consumption charges are often based on peak demand, especially for commercial and industrial users, as utility firms need to create and maintain necessary infrastructure to satisfy demand at its highest level. Peak demand tends to fluctuate over time. Tracking peak demand with Fluke 434 helps stagger or level out power usage to keep costs under control.
Power factor is a ratio of real and apparent power of a given load. The apparent power of a system (capacity) includes both real power needed for operations as well as reactive power, which mostly is unproductive, but an integral part of the operations. Higher the reactive power, more current needed for regular operations.
Power factor value when maintained above .97 does not attract additional utility charges. Use of capacitors at vantage points usually proves effective to regulate the power factor. Fluke 434 can be used to measure the lowest power factor for a demand interval to determine/optimise the costs accordingly.
Fluke 434 enhances performance, reduces downtime and minimises damage to equipment and power systems and, thus, enables detection and elimination of hidden costs.