Even if you are an expert in industrial electrical installations, many issues are completely undetectable by humans unless the proper measurement equipment is used. If you want to be an industrial troubleshooting ace, the following measurement devices are a fundamental part of your toolkit:
An infrared camera allows you to visualize industrial environments in a scale of colors according to temperature, typically ranging from dark blue (cold) to bright yellow (hot). Their basic principle is simple, but infrared cameras are extremely useful in both troubleshooting and energy efficiency consulting. The following are just a few possible uses of infrared cameras.
Three-phase electrical installations do not show visual evidence of issues such as phase imbalance or overheating. However, if you point an infrared camera at a circuit, these problems can be noticed immediately. For example, if one of the three conductors is significantly hotter than the rest, you can conclude that loads are not distributed equally among the three phases.
Connections that are loose or dirty have a very high contact resistance, and the localized heating often leads to premature failure and increased maintenance costs. If you open a distribution board or control panel and scan it with the infrared camera, hot spots are very easy to pinpoint.
You can determine the operating temperature of an electric motor with an infrared camera, and then compare the measured values with those specified by the manufacturer. It is also possible to determine if specific motor components such as bearings are overheating.
The building envelope performance is very important for areas that use HVAC or refrigeration, such as offices and cold-storage rooms, where any type of heat exchange with the surroundings represents an energy waste. A thermal imaging camera can be used to scan the building envelope and detect spots where unwanted heat flow is concentrated.
In the specific case of HVAC installations, you can also check ductwork with the infrared camera, ensuring that there are no air leaks.
Power quality measurement is very useful for industrial clients who are suffering from issues such as load imbalance, low power factor, harmonic distortion or excessive demand charges. A power quality analyzer can provide a snapshot of energy consumption at an industrial facility, allowing you to deliver a concrete solution for every issue detected.
When some conductors in a three-phase system carry more current than others, voltage becomes unbalanced as well, and it can drastically shorten the service life of motor equipment. Load imbalance can also reduce the installation’s capacity to accommodate new loads; for example, a new three-phase motor may be impossible to connect if one phase is extremely burdened, even if the other two still have enough capacity.
A power quality analyzer can provide a clear snapshot of load distribution, allowing it to be rearranged and balanced.
Power factor is the ratio of kilowatts consumed to kilovolt-amperes consumed, and industrial energy consumers face hefty charges if they don’t meet a minimum power factor specified by the utility company. A power quality analyzer can be used to determine how power factor changes by the hour, and then it is possible to design an automatic capacitor bank that always provides the required reactive power to keep power factor above the minimum threshold.
Equipment with ferromagnetic cores and electronic components tends to introduce high-frequency voltage and current signals that typically lead to overheating and extra maintenance expenses. A power quality analyzer allows you to determine the total harmonic distortion in your entire facility or by area, making it possible to size harmonic filters that can address the issue at hand.
Industrial clients pay not only for the energy consumed, but also for the highest peak in demand measured over a specified time period, typically one month. Therefore, it is in their best interest to keep demand peaks to a minimum, but first is important to determine when they are occurring and for how long they are lasting. This can be easily accomplished with a power quality analyzer, to then propose load shifting or self-generation measures that will trim any peaks in demand detected over the measurement period.
Ideally, a 24-hour period should be logged to get a clear snapshot, or an entire week if possible to detect consumption peaks that are specific for one day of the week.
Insulation plays a key role in industrial site safety, especially when dealing with high-voltage equipment such as transformer banks, high-voltage circuits, substations and generators. A ground fault occurs whenever insulation fails, potentially damaging equipment and causing downtime, and there is even a risk of human life consequences. Fortunately, insulation tends to give warning signs of breakdown before a fault, and these can be detected with an insulation tester. Fixing a high-voltage ground fault before it occurs is significantly cheaper and safer than repairing the damage.