GUEST ARTICLE: Should you be worried about power quality?

  • 17 Jul 2018

Whether you are a homeowner or you hold a commercial property you will have power coming into the build in the form of electricity. And if you do not have knowledge of power and electricity, you might assume power is all the same quality. However, this is not the case. Electrical power has consistency and characteristics, and this means that the quality of the power can vary quite drastically.

So if you are experiencing problems with your equipment, suffering outages in your building or facing electricity bills that seem unrealistically high, it could be the case that you are suffering from a problem with power quality. Here we will take a look at power quality and at what you can do if you think you are suffering from a problem with your power.

What is normal power quality?

In normal circumstances in the UK, single phase power maintains a constant 230V. However, power quality is allowed to fluctuate within limits and at any time the quality can be between +10 per cent or -6 per cent of 230V. If you power is within these limits then you should experience no issues or problems that related to power quality.

However, if the quality rises higher or drops below these limits it can cause series problems with your electrical equipment. Electrical devices are designed to work at specific voltages and if they are fed with power at the wrong voltage it can cause operational issues or cause irreparable damage. As these tolerances are relatively low, if you do have even a small issue with power quality you need to make sure that it is monitored and analysed, as these can indicate a much more serious problem elsewhere in the system.

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What causes problems with power quality?

You might assume that any issues surrounded power quality are the fault of the supplier and this means that you simply need to get in contact with your supplier to tell them about the problem and they will come and fix it for you. However, in practice it really is not as simple as that. The source can naturally have problems, but there may be issues within your own building that can be creating the power quality trouble.

If the quality issue is down to the supplier then this may indicate that the have a serious problem such as under-voltage or outages. Thankfully, they will tend to deal with these as a priority. If there are problems that are coming as result of your building they may come in the form of a sag or a surge.

A sag occurs when heavy power-using machinery is switched on and draws a great deal of power from the system. See here for more information on how to prevent a voltage sag. Conversely, surges are the opposite and can occur when this sort of equipment is switched off.

How do you measure power quality?

To measure and analyse power quality issues you will need to use a power quality monitor. These come in many forms from a handheld three-phase power quality analyser to a fault level monitor. These pieces of equipment can be bought or hired, so if you are facing any problems you can get hold of one yourself – if you feel confident in using one.

Otherwise you can call in specialist services to monitor power for you using these pieces of equipment. Doing so can be an expense but if you are struggling with power quality this is the only way to investigate the problem and find a solution.

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How can you fix the problems?

There isn’t a single or simple solution that will deal with all power quality issues. In every scenario it is important for you to take an individual approach and examine the areas that could be causing the problem. Remember that signs of poor power quality can be very subtle and this issue could have been going on for a long time before you recognised it.

In any case your first step should always be to monitor the power quality that you are currently getting in your building especially during the time that you are experiencing problems. Once you understand what is causing the issue you are in a position to come up with a solution.

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