5 Reasons to Consider a Power Monitoring System

Jan. 11, 2018
Besides providing an easy way to retrieve and analyze power quality events, a power monitoring system offers several other benefits related to energy use.

A power monitoring system provides an easy way to automatically retrieve and analyze power quality events. Unlike building automation software, which typically counts the number of events, a power monitoring system extracts event forensics. And unlike software that comes bundled with power quality meters, a power monitoring system automatically raises a flag to mark significant events with the potential to cause damage within your facility.

Here are five more reasons you might want to think about a power monitoring system:

1. If you’ve experienced premature failure of key equipment within your facility

A power monitoring system can act as your crystal ball to clarify if your motors, pumps, transformers, control devices or any electrical-type equipment are susceptible to premature failure. If they fail earlier than predicted, you can investigate the possible causes, such as:

  • Harmonics that cause excessive heat in transformer windings.
  • Transients that cause micro-jogging and motor vibration in motor bearings.
  • Transients that cause cable insulation to heat and wear, resulting in short circuits.

If your power quality issues might shorten your published mean time between failure (MTBF) statistics, wouldn’t you want to mitigate those events to ensure your equipment lasts as long as the OEM outlined?

2. If you’ve had nuisance tripping or unexplained resetting of control devices

Do you have a programmable logic controller (PLC) or distributed control system (DCS) that automatically resets or cycles power? Do you have a circuit breaker that trips for no apparent reason? Nuisance tripping can negatively affect your facility, ruin the quality of a manufactured product, or even cause an emergency power supply system to come online during a non-emergency.

Undervoltage is one of the biggest culprits behind nuisance tripping. If you’ve had voltage fall below IEEE standards (i.e., 10 percent for a period of time), it will often cause the equipment’s power supply to reset.

The other common cause of resetting and tripping is harmonics. This is typically the case when a circuit breaker opens and there are no forensic traces behind why it tripped.

3. If reliable clean power is critical to facility operations or personnel safety

Facilities where power is critical to operation must understand the current status of any critical power components. By interfacing to the generator control system, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and normal electrical distribution equipment using a power monitoring system, you can ensure no equipment is overloaded or has alarms/faults present. You can also track UPS run hours and the number of times a particular piece of equipment has turned off and on.

Gaining visibility into reliability metrics allows you to increase equipment lifespan and decrease maintenance costs.

4. If you wish to automate emergency power supply system (EPSS) reporting for compliance purposes

Most supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems provided by EPSS OEMs (e.g., Russelectric or Asco) are centered around real-time monitoring, alarming and setpoint adjustment. The ability for those systems to automate testing and reporting of transfer switches and generators is often not included.

Not only can a power monitoring solution schedule tests, evaluate results and automatically generate reports for distribution, it saves an organization numerous man hours each month.

Any event that causes automatic transfer switches (ATSs) or generators to operate can potentially satisfy your monthly NFPA 110 test requirement. However, if you don’t have an automated system always watching these assets, you’ll miss that opportunity.

5. If you want to allocate costs with a complicated electric rate schedule

In facilities with electric rate structures that require on-peak/off-peak time of use, peak demand charges, power factor penalties or even real-time pricing, most automation solutions don’t have the capability to handle complex cost allocation calculations.

A power monitoring solution can. For example, an industrial facility’s peak demand charges might be larger than the energy charge. Software that detects when the plant is at its peak demand and then maps each cost center’s contribution makes the allocation of energy costs more accurate.

Manage everything in one place

Not only does a power monitoring system, such as Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert or equivalent, automatically collect data, it also provides an extensive library of templates and reports to guide you through data analysis.

An owner using a power monitoring system has a simple way of proactively identifying facility inefficiencies and major contributors to energy use without going through a difficult customization program in SCADA or building automation.

Allan Evora is president of Affinity Energy, a member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Affinity Energy, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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