When Should PQ Engineering Services Be Used?

There are two options for addressing PQ:

  • Address it early on, before a PQ problem develops – called Proactive PQ.
  • Address it “after the fact” after a PQ problem has occurred – called Reactive PQ.

Most end users are spending resources planned for other activities to treat PQ reactively. They spend more responding reactively than they would if they invested in proactive steps to avoid PQ problems. Customers who end up waiting for a PQ problem to occur (or get worse) end up doing more PQ cleanup.  However, there is an increase in the number of customers who address PQ proactively. Those that take the proactive approach will endure fewer financial losses, have a higher system & equipment reliability & performance & be better prepared when common everyday PQ disturbances occur outside & inside their facility. They will be able to accomplish several things:

  • In general, they will have an historical baseline of their internal PQ. This allows them to “know” their PQ including 1) what disturbances they typically generate from normal everyday plant operations, 2) what disturbances their utility typically generates during grid operation each season of the year & 3) what disturbances their electrical / electronic equipment cannot tolerate.
  • Specific to common everyday electrical disturbances such as voltage sags, they can go back and review the state of their PQ and electrical system. This is especially helpful when a sag or momentary interruption shuts down a specific process or piece of equipment. The PQ monitoring data will provide the details of each sag & the resulting change in load current.
  • Specific to voltage swells & transient over-voltages such as capacitor switching transients, they can review their PQ data to determine the magnitude of the swells & transients that occurred, especially if they caused unexplainable malfunctions, damage & failure to their system & electronic equipment.
  • Customers may experience sudden equipment failures. If PQ monitoring data has been archived, then the customer can review the data prior to the equipment failure to determine if disturbances occurred over the monitoring period. The data may also show the state of PQ at the time the equipment failed. Each of these data points will contribute to determining the cause of the failure and allow PBE to help the customer determine if the failure was PQ related, and if so, did the disturbance(s) occur upstream or downstream of the monitoring point or problem equipment.

Among the 1,000’s of PQ problems PBE has investigated & helped customers solve, each problem has at least one thing in common—“If the customer contacted PBE after recognizing the first sign (symptom) of a PQ problem, the cost to determine its cause and solution would have been significantly cheaper. The longer a PQ problem occurs, the more expensive it is to fix.

PQ problems are best recognized when two things happen:

  • The customer is aware of their internal PQ!
  • The customer knows how their equipment reacts to PQ problems!

Engaging with PBE to help customers begin to start learning about their internal PQ is the first step. Some customers have PQ monitoring instruments installed on their switchgear. Unfortunately, most of these instruments are out-of-date & cannot document the most frequently occurring disturbances that impact the operation & performance of their electronic equipment. PBE can rectify this problem. Even having access to the right PQ monitoring data isn’t enough to stop the recurring equipment problems. PBE’s proven PQ investigative process will find the causes of your equipment problems before they get out of hand.

The latter is almost a given for any customer. Most customers know their equipment inside and out. They know when something isn’t right with their equipment. “It’s making an unusual noise….this indicator is normally OFF….it never takes this long to startup…we have to reset equipment every time it thunderstorms…”  These are just some of the comments customers make when something is wrong with their equipment.

Today, with nearly every piece of equipment being electronic, and much of it is already digital, the risks of malfunctions, damage & failure is higher than ever before. Some of the obvious signs that something unusual is going on with your system and/or equipment are:

  • Longer boot or startup times
  • Failure to maintain proper speed
  • Loss of stored data
  • Unscheduled and random re-boots
  • Equipment lockups
  • Failure to shut down upon command
  • Nuisance breaker tripping or fuse blowing
  • Sensor failures
  • Frequent repairs

Finally, PBE recommends that customers take an active role to learn about their facility PQ. Learning to manage your internal PQ in your facility is a process. When end users become knowledgeable about their internal PQ, their financial losses caused by system & equipment PQ problems will start to dimmish. PBE can use the results of our investigation to determine where your facility & equipment stands as compared to others in your industry. This is called benchmarking & allows customers to see where they fall with respect to PQ in similar facilities in other geographical locations in the US & around the world. If you have the slightest doubt about your PQ, please contact PBE to learn more about having us come in & go through your system & equipment, conduct PQ monitoring & a facility investigation & help you learn how to manage your internal PQ to minimize losses & maximize performance & profits.