Electronics in Your Building Don’t Like Power Problems
It does not take a genius to recognize that almost every major subsystem in today’s commercial buildings has some type of solid-state electronics package installed. Virtually every HVAC unit purchased today has an electronics board in the control panel. Ditto for security, fire, and life-safety systems. Digital telephone and computer network systems are the same. Regardless of system type, the common element is the electronics. Another factor in this electronics equation is that there are “old” electronics and “new” electronics. Some electronic systems in today’s building equipment were installed 20 or more years ago, and are even more susceptible to problems.
All of the electronic systems mentioned above can have problems due to power. Many electronics and device manufacturers will claim an amount of tolerance to power problems. Many will say that a fault due to power “should not” happen. Unfortunately the nice tech support folks on the other end of the telephone are not stuck on an elevator or listening to the fire alarms going off after a thunderstorm.
Typical power scenarios
Anyone workingt.co.uk/default.aspx?ProductCategoryID=2824">Fluke 381 Clamp Meter can be used to determine whether or not a variable speed drive has been damaged by a lightning strike.
Power loss/ generator testing
Another problem is power loss. There can be many causes of a power loss, including utility problems, maintenance lapses, device surges, and others. Depending on the condition that caused it, an electronic device may not recover properly after the power is restored.
When a power loss occurs, the backup generator will start after a short time delay. I happen to work in hospitals a lot, and by code the backup generators have to start within 10 seconds after utility power loss. Also by code the backup generators are tested once per month. Important building electronic devices are on this backup power circuit. Depending on the causes, there may be power surges as well as voltage and current problems as the generators start. This may cause electronic circuit problems. It is not uncommon that one percent of electronic devices have some kind of problem after the generator test is performed.
If a system is critical a small UPS is installed at the electronic device power supply. In this way the device does not really ever see a power failure. Another advantage of some UPS systems is that they may d symptoms.
If you suspect utility problems, the best solution may be to install power quality measuring equipment at the building to show what the problem is and when it occurred. This is often enough to go back to the utility and ask for an adjustment, or even a reimbursement in some cases.