End users

End users of electrical systems & electronic products in customer facilities is where “the rubber meets the road” with respect to power & power quality (PQ). Customers aren’t interested in the specifics of how equipment is designed—they simply want the equipment to operate when they “flip the switch”. Most customers don’t expect PQ problems to occur. Those who have had bad experiences with equipment & PQ fear the next PQ problem ask:

  • Will a PQ problem occur & halt my production process?
  • Will a PQ disturbance hit my expensive electronic equipment & render it inoperable?
  • How will I overcome the next PQ problem financially?
  • How do I know if an equipment manufacturer has done their “homework” & designed for real-world PQ inside customer facilities?
  • What manufacturers can I trust when it comes to PQ performance?
  • Can I trust a manufacturer to honor their warranty if I experience equipment failures, possibly caused by PQ?
  • Who can I rely on to help me avoid the next PQ problem?

For most end users, these are the difficult questions they must face. These are the questions that are hard to answer. & it’s these questions & the answers that PQ engineering experts at PBE provide to customers in need that put the engineers at PBE on the map.

PBE’s PQ engineering services for end users offers them a broad range of services to help them meet their PQ needs. With significant experience in the industry, PBE can provide end users with our Remote Power Quality Monitoring Service – PowerWATCH® hosted at PBE-engineers.com. End users with PQ monitoring needs can contact PBE & have monitoring installed & uploading their PQ data to PBE within 24 hours of their request. Our system is designed to make it easy for end users to engage in monitoring to begin identifying the cause(s) of their problems. Our servers will download the PQ data, making it available for analysis by our expert PQ engineering team, so the customer may have some initial idea about their PQ the next day. (Of course, monitoring for at least seven days is often the minimum monitoring period & may require a few more weeks or a month to get a really good idea about the nature of the PQ problem.)

A very popular service we offer end users in addition to PQ monitoring is on-site customer PQ investigations. Monitoring alone typically does not lead to the identification of cause(s) of PQ problems alone. However, it does provide an excellent start to determine why equipment problems are occurring. PBE’s 100 years of combined industry experience includes conducting 1,000’s of PQ investigations in many customer facilities. Depending on the size of the facility, the customer’s business & the nature of the PQ problems, PBE can conduct a full PQ investigation in a few days to a few weeks. Our highly trained PQ field engineers know the right questions to ask & the right things to look at to begin determining why equipment problems are occurring. PBE has never left a customer PQ problem unsolved.

Before customers make a significant investment in expanding your plant & purchasing electronic equipment, PBE’s PQ equipment design engineers can assess any electrical or electronic product for its ability to withstand the PQ in its intended electrical environment. Our engineers commonly conduct equipment design reviews, review equipment test reports & data, characterize a customer’s electrical environment & even conduct limited or complete PQ emissions & immunity testing before an equipment purchase is made. Many customers have had to ensure bad experiences when using equipment without first having it evaluated for PQ. Customers have had to absorb $1,000’s to $1,000,000’s in lost production, equipment repairs & replacement & legal fees, because of poor PQ equipment performance. Customers have the right to know about the PQ performance of their equipment, even stacked up to their own electrical environments.

PBE’s expert equipment engineers also routinely conduct forensic analyses on malfunctioning & failed equipment. It is not uncommon for us to receive requests to analyze a piece of charred & burned equipment resulting from a catastrophic PQ event. When equipment fails, a pile of charred & burned equipment only looks like a “needle in a burned haystack” to them. PBE’s forensic analysis service can determine why a piece of equipment failed. Sometimes, equipment has an embedded design defect that might not surface until a PQ problem occurs. Other times, equipment may fail to ensure a PQ disturbance because of an inferior front-end PQ protection circuit. In some cases, a severe PQ disturbance might have occurred that renders equipment unusable, leaving no evidence that an over-voltage condition occurred.

End users increasingly want to know more about PQ & how it can impact their business. Moreover, they want to know what they can do regarding PQ to improve their productivity & profits. PQ is not yet one of the standardized sciences. PQ is a growing topic that is becoming more important to people who generate, distribute & use electrical energy every day. PQ is one of those sciences where problems will always occur & improvements can always be made. Maintaining good PQ involves a host of individuals working together to provide quality electricity for the common good.

PBE recognized the need for a solid, well-rounded resource for basic & advanced PQ many years ago. PBE’s PQ e-Knowledgebase Center can provide customers with everything they need to know to manage their own PQ. It’s just a matter of taking an interest, learning to identify the problem & taking the right step to solve it. However, before PBE begins to get into the nitty-gritty details of PQ with our customers, we establish a firm foundation regarding PQ topics. 

  • What is a PQ disturbance?
  • How does one measure my PQ?
  • Why do PQ problems occur?
  • What are utilities doing to improve reliability & PQ from their end?
  • What roles do building design engineers play in helping their customers achieve good PQ?
  • What are manufacturers doing to reduce failures caused by PQ disturbances?
  • What can one do to manage my own PQ & increase the likelihood of success when operating electrical & electronic equipment?

All of the above questions can be answered by engaging in PBE’s PQ e-Knowledgebase Center. Our Center provides the definition of technical terms & concepts related to PQ, 100’s of technical resources on PQ, a collection of PQ engineering services to solve any PQ problem & a series of face-to-face & on-line training courses to teach basic & advanced PQ topics to end users.

{M&S} Lastly, end users must continue to manage their electrical systems to ensure proper power delivery to their equipment. Customer facility electrical systems may be small or large. Most systems are fairly large as many pieces of electronic equipment must be powered across the whole facility & under different electrical conditions. Electrical systems are like a collection of gears, pistons, springs & dampers. As customers draw power from their systems, energy is provided, stored & used at different times & rates as needed. Prior to the invention of the transistor, customers used only basic 60-hertz power to operate resistive heating elements, motors & incandescent lamps. With this, providing, storing & using electrical energy generally was no big deal as there were no unfavorable reactions. In the mechanical analogy, all the pieces worked together smoothly. Shortly after customers began using transistorized equipment, powering electronic equipment from their old-fashioned electrical systems designed for 60 Hertz presented some unusual electrical problems. Customers found out that it was becoming more of a challenge to store & use electrical energy. When energy was needed but not enough was available, an unexpected event occurred.  When too much energy was available but not all of it was needed, another unexpected event occurred causing something to fail. This is analogous to a “spring” being over extended, causing a mechanical part to break.

In the end user’s electrical world, 60-hertz current is not the only current users have to deal with. They have to deal the disturbance currents, harmonic currents, surge currents, fault currents & leakage currents. They also have to deal with resonance conditions & over-voltages to name a few of the PQ disturbances that occur when non-linear loads (like variable frequency drives) are used on a 50-year old linear electrical system in a plant. Electrical engineers often use a concept called “modeling & simulation” to study the behavior of an electrical system. This allows engineers to control the variables & get a better understanding of the instabilities that might occur under certain electrical conditions. Often, engineers need to know how a system will react when the input voltage changes, when breakers open & close, & when load conditions change. Engineers do this by modeling the electrical system, its voltage sources, its wiring & grounding systems & its loads. The way loads are actually used in a plant can also be modeled. By running simulations using the model, engineers can determine how often system instabilities will occur & under what electrical conditions.

PBE’s PQ engineering experts are well-versed in modeling & simulating customer electrical systems. Our engineers use a number of software platforms designed to model & simulate power systems & PQ problems. PBE maintains a library of power system devices—transformers, breakers & cables—& a library of non-linear loads (e.g., VFDs) needed for modeling. Our expert engineers can model & simulate any PQ problem occurring in any facility electrical system. They can also simulate different types of PQ problems like voltage sags, load conditions like the rapid start up or shut down of a large motor & faults like a short circuit between a phase conductor & ground. Our engineers also maintain a library of PQ mitigation systems & equipment to study the system effects of integrating a solution into the customer’s electrical system.