While there are obvious issues associated with HVAC or refrigeration (CRFES) equipment failures, a facility’s electrical and lighting system is the center of everything. So, of course, if your facility’s electrical system succumbs to a breakdown, all electricity-dependent equipment is affected. This risks bringing essential day-to-day facility operations to a screeching halt.

Unfortunately, like all facility equipment, lighting and electrical components degrade over time, especially under the stress of high voltage. Electrical systems, plain and simple, must be maintained proactively, not just in instances of dire emergency. Facility staff and owners need to be aware of the lifespans of their equipment and also understand the year-to-year status of that equipment. They should also know what services are available to help with planned maintenance to recognize issues before they become emergencies. 

Now, there is always the hypothetical situation when the electrical systems aren't maintained with the proper maintenance services. In this less-than-ideal scenario, we break down what you can expect to happen.

Not the Brightest Bulb

When lighting specifically is neglected, the obvious result is visual defects — lights will be broken and there will be darkness in places there shouldn’t be. Beyond aesthetics, there are a few critical issues with this situation. The first is the issue of security, as unlit areas allow more avenues of entry for unauthorized or even dangerous persons. Secondly, broken lighting can lead to people getting injured, which then can result in serious legal liabilities for facility owners. Neither of these scenarios is positive and should be avoided at all costs.

Another point of note is energy efficiency. Older lights nearing the end of their working lives can be replaced or retrofitted with increasingly more effective LED lighting — saving the facility an incredible amount of money over time and increasing the time between replacements.

Breaking the Switchboard or Switchgear

The switchboard — or the switchgear in some cases — is the mothership of your facility’s electrical system. These devices comprise of various circuit breakers and electrical relays, which facilitate or cut off the electrical flow throughout a facility. The difference between a switchgear and a switchboard relates to the amount of voltage each can handle — a switchgear handles charges up to 35,000 volts while a switchboard is used for voltages of less than 600. In either case, both are critical to facility operations and protect facility equipment from events like power surges.

In the case a switchboard is neglected and a malfunction occurs, the entire facility must shut down as a replacement is installed. Switchgears, by comparison, are easier to maintain but are far more costly. In both cases, consistently dealing with high-voltage electrical currents takes its toll over time, which means at least an annual checkup is needed to ensure that a complete breakdown isn’t on the horizon. Emergency maintenance is far more costly both in terms of the actual repairs and the time lost if the facility must stop operations until maintenance is complete.

Infrared Sees All

The primary planned maintenance measure for electrical systems is infrared testing. Infrared is useful for detecting early problems since heat is an important symptom of electrical components on the verge of breaking down or malfunctioning. Additionally, infrared thermography is non-invasive, which means facility operations don’t need to stop while the check is being conducted. Through infrared, maintenance service crews can detect blown fuses, broken motors, overloaded circuit breakers, and much more.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Reactive maintenance (better known as emergency maintenance) destroys budgets. Electrical system malfunctions can be hard to detect, and you’ll only know something is wrong once it breaks. Furthermore, not taking an analytical look at the energy efficiency of a facility can mean the difference of thousands of dollars a year in an unnecessary and avoidable expense.

According to the Department of Energy, planned maintenance services reduce costs by 25-30 percent, eliminate the potential of breakdowns by 70 percent, and reduce facility downtime by 35 percent on average. While planned maintenance service isn’t a guarantee that breakdowns won’t occur, the chances of critical equipment malfunctions dramatically drop when implemented.

In almost every case, your best bet is to lean on planned maintenance service.

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