Article
Investigating potential power-quality issues is rarely at the top of a 
facility manager’s to-do list, but making an effort to understand how 
the operations of a data center, industrial plant or office building 
could be affecting both equipment and electricity bills could mean big 
bottom-line savings.

How Power Quality Meters Help Facilities Stay Up and Running

Chuck Ross
Investigating potential power-quality issues is rarely at the top of a facility manager’s to-do list, but making an effort to understand how the operations of a data center, industrial plant or office building could be affecting both equipment and electricity bills could mean big bottom-line savings. And this doesn’t have to be yet one more chore for facility staff, because the latest power-monitoring systems can handle the task on their own, with alerting capabilities that let staff know when problems arise.

Power-quality issues can range from transients and harmonics to voltage sags and swells. Operational staff might not notice these events when they’re occurring, but such problems can lead to equipment damage and shortened lifespans. They can also impact a facility’s power factor, which can lead to penalties on monthly utility bills.

The vast majority of these issues are caused by in-house equipment and operations, not utility-supplied power. In the past, tracking down the source of a problem could be a hit-or-miss process of elimination, requiring measurements at various points in the local distribution system. Today’s power-monitoring devices operate 24 hours a day, with on-board storage that can hold up to a year’s worth of data, including waveform captures and transient harmonic displays.

These capabilities also can be valuable after a failure like a tripped power distribution unit has occurred. In some cases, power quality meters can pinpoint timestamps down to the millisecond, providing valuable insight into the sequence of events in such situations. And the analytics offered by these meters can pinpoint root causes, from electrical shorts to voltage spikes. This information can help ensure that related repairs address the actual problem, so managers can trust they won’t have to circle back on the same issue at some point in the future.
Photo courtesy of ASCO Power Technologies
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