Power Quality

The quality of power coming into a residence or commercial operation has
 always been important. You expect a consistent and constant flow of 
electricity to power whatever you're doing.<br><br>Years ago, homes and 
businesses could tolerate a certain amount of inconsistency. Other than 
outright power outages, life and commerce could hum along and never 
notice any differences in power quality, up to a certain point that is. SolaHD

Steve Maurer, IME

The quality of power coming into a residence or commercial operation has always been important. You expect a consistent and constant flow of electricity to power whatever you're doing.

Years ago, homes and businesses could tolerate a certain amount of inconsistency. Other than outright power outages, life and commerce could hum along and never notice any differences in power quality, up to a certain point that is.

That was back when the basic use of electrical power was to turn on lighting or run motors. The equipment wasn't affected much by short-term power fluctuations like sags or swells, or even transients.

However, the equipment and processes power by electricity are more complex in todays work environment. Many devices demand a consistent supply of power, maintained at optimal levels.

Even homes are susceptible to variations in power quality as home computers and other electronic devices take precedence in our daily lives.

Power quality issues can stem from malfunctions on both sides of the meter. Not only that, but consumer power quality problems can and do create issues that affect others on the grid as they project back into the system.

Power quality problems can be either short-term or long-term. Sometimes, Mother Nature is responsible as in impulsive transients or spikes in voltage. Others are caused by either natural circumstances or equipment malfunctions. For instance, oscillatory transients can be caused by the traveling waves from lightning or from capacitor and circuit switching.

The impact of poor power quality varies. For example, voltage fluctuations may just cause lights to flicker. However, sensitive load malfunctions can occur. Flickers are just annoying... malfunctions can cause production loss or damage.

Power quality issues must be addressed in any case. The basic steps to solve them are:

  • Identify the actual problem.
  • Gather data and measurements to identify the power quality characteristics.
  • Identity and propose solutions to remedy the power quality problem.
  • Evaluate and screen solutions based on their technical and fiscal aspects.
  • Choose and implement the most cost-effective solution and implement it.

Poor power quality is a problem that can't be swept under the rug, by any means. Solutions might require collaboration with all parties involved, from the utility company to the end-user.


Photo courtesy of SolaHD

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