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How Utility Maintenance Lowers Lifetime Costs

July 9, 2019

 

Outdoor Conditions and Your Utilities

 

Most utilities are stored outside and are subject to weather conditions. Rain, snow, hail, and dust can all corrode and degrade the exterior coating of an electrical transformer or a high voltage insulator. When a device is consistently exposed to moisture or dirt, the eventual failure is inevitable.

 

Rain and Snow

 

Water damage to equipment is not always what you expect. Steel equipment is often covered in a layer of protective paint. When moisture collects on these surfaces and evaporates under sunlight, it damages this layer and lets rust set into the metal underneath.

 

A thin layer of atmospheric minerals remains on the utility after the water has evaporated. When given enough time, these minerals can coagulate into a conductive layer. This creates a safety liability that can result in injuries or electrical fires. 

 

Dust and Wind
 

Dust is also extremely damaging to utilities. Dust gets into ventilation chambers and sticks to insulation, motors, coils, and other crucial elements. This layer of dust will eventually cause damage and may even prevent mechanical pieces from moving as expected.

 

Dust on the outside of a utility can develop into a layer of artificial insulation. This prevents heat from escaping the device as intended; repeated overheating can result in untimely electrical failures. This problem is particularly relevant to high voltage insulators, which can be easily compromised by pollution on the surface of their casing.

 

Even protected utilities are still subject to the effects of weather conditions. Dust and moisture are unavoidable elements of the atmosphere. Only regular cleaning and utility maintenance can protect a transformer or other piece of equipment.

 

 

The Risk of Corrosion Failure 

 

Corrosion damage can impact any piece of steel equipment. This includes transformers, high voltage insulators, fuse boxes, and load-bearing structures.

 

Rust tends to appear on any piece of equipment that is exposed to air and sunlight. Evaporated moisture oxidizes the metal surface and starts the process of deterioration.

 

Corrosion on Transformers

 

Rust on transformers is most common on the top surface. Rainwater and dew tend to pool in this area, eventually creating a hole directly in the center of the covering. The next time it rains, the water will reach the now unprotected electrical coils and result in immediate failure.

 

Rusty water tends to drip down the sides of a transformer box. If you see rust in these areas, the top cover has likely been damaged.

 

Corrosion on High Voltage Insulators 

 

When a layer of moisture develops on a high voltage insulator, the mineral buildup is usually more concerning than the effects of rust. Still, corrosion can easily develop on the steel exterior of the device. Any damage to the surface will result in contamination and reduce the effectiveness of the insulator. Proper cleaning and maintenance are a simple solution to this problem.

 

Corrosion on Load Bearing Equipment

 

Rust also appears on the steel joints of load bearing equipment. These joints contain small, flat surfaces where moisture can easily collect. When weather or other conditions shift the weight that these joints bear, they can snap under the stress and cause damage to all surrounding utilities.

 

All steel joints are at risk of corrosion, but many joints are high off the ground or otherwise inaccessible for regular maintenance. Consistent safety inspections are the only way to ensure that these joints are capable of safely holding their position.

 

Internal Corrosion

 

The internal corrosion of electrical equipment is a less noticeable but still highly dangerous risk. Even a small amount of damage to the exterior panels of a device can compromise the sealed environment. Unwanted moisture will seep in and rust will develop over time.

 

Wires and coils can be quite susceptible to corrosion. If these elements break down, they will cause an electrical failure that can be difficult to diagnose.

 

Utility maintenance professionals can check your equipment for rust and other signs of damage and take preventative measures. If rust is not permitted to develop, transformers and other utilities will have a significantly greater lifespan.

 

 

 

The Cost of Equipment Failure

 

If a piece of electrical equipment fails, the costs to your company can be astounding. These expenses might include:

  • Immediate loss of service and revenue

  • Emergency utility maintenance fees

  • Inspection and repair costs

  • Replacement equipment prices

  • Installation fees

  • Additional labor and paid employee downtime until power is restored

Repair, Replacement, and Installation

 

The most obvious cost of a failed piece of electrical equipment is the equipment itself. Once a transformer has reached a state of failure, it may no longer be safe or cost effective to repair it. The cost of a new electrical transformer depends greatly on the size and use of the device, but the cheapest options still cost thousands of dollars.

 

Labor and installation costs are simply unavoidable; only professionals can ensure that your transformer has been correctly installed without the risk of injury. You will also need to pay for the inspection and removal of the failed device.

 

Loss of Electrical Service

 

The hidden cost of an electrical equipment failure is the lost service time. Electrical issues can be greatly detrimental to a business. Work cannot be accomplished without adequate light and temperature control. Power tools cannot be run without an energy source. Communications are halted until the internet and electricity can be brought back online.

 

Utility companies are expected to provide consistent electricity to their customer base. Clients rely on dependable power to conduct their daily operations. Even a small loss of service will result in customer complaints and lost business.

 

Electrical failures never happen at convenient times. When you push a transformer past its limits, you risk losing power right when you need it most.

 

 

The Benefits of Regular Inspection 

 

The only way to protect your equipment is to perform regular inspections and maintenance. An experienced utility maintenance crew will clean your devices, check for common issues, and notice corrosion before it becomes an irreversible problem.

 

Electrical Transformers 

 

Transformers need to be inspected regularly for signs of rust damage. Small amounts of rust can be cleaned and painted over. When corrosion is allowed to set in, it can cause irreparable damage to the transformer casing. Because of this, it's essential to repaint the transformer as soon as possible.

 

Transformer inspections can also turn up other issues that may have been caused by impacts or factory defects. Transformer failures can be explosive, and the failure of one transformer can easily affect other devices in the grid. Both repair expenses and safety concerns make it important to keep these devices in good working condition.

 

High Voltage Insulators 

 

The buildup of dirt and moisture is one of the primary causes of insulator failure. A layer of debris quickly becomes a layer of insulation; this will always impact an insulator's ability to control the current within.

 

Consistent utility maintenance is absolutely necessary to maintain an array of high voltage insulators. It's impossible to completely prevent the buildup of dust and moisture, but regular cleanings will keep the effects to a minimum.

 

These cleanings also give your utility maintenance professionals a chance to look for other forms of damage. Insulators can become damaged from excessive voltages, factory defects, and general mechanical failures. If these problems are noticed quickly, the insulator can be replaced without losing service.

 

General Equipment Inspections 

 

An electrical grid is the sum of its parts. If a single element becomes corroded, the entire grid might go down until the problem is fixed. Utility maintenance inspections typically include:

  • Transformers

  • Insulators

  • Substations

  • Circuit breakers

  • Fuse boxes

  • Steel support beams

  • Wires and cables

  • Any element of the grid exposed to air or moisture

All of these devices need regular inspection, cleaning, and repair. A small bit of frayed insulation can quickly turn into an expensive and dangerous issue.

 

 

Flow Coat Paint: An Inexpensive Solution

 

Flow coating is the process of covering steel equipment in a protective layer of weather-resistant paint. Paint blocks moisture prevents corrosion and makes it easy to notice damage to the device before it becomes a concern.

 

How Flow Coat Paint Protects Your Devices

 

Electrical transformers are durable devices meant to last for many years. Most transformers come from the factory with a weather-resistant coating; unfortunately, this coating wears off after the first few years.

 

Repainting an electrical transformer by hand will not effectively replace this coating. Even a tiny gap in the seal can permit moisture to enter the sealed electrical environment. These holes are impossible to notice with your eyes, but they can result in drastic electrical failures.

 

Flow coating covers a device in a smooth layer of paint. Because the liquid paint is allowed to flow over the device, virtually no gaps are left in the final layer. This is the smoothest and cheapest way to protect your devices with any certainty of success.

 

What Devices Can Be Painted? 

 

Almost any steel coated electrical device can benefit from a protective layer of paint. Transformers, substations, steel supports, and even circuit breakers can be protected from weather damage.

 

Insulators cannot be painted because the paint might compromise the device's integrity. Instead, your utility maintenance professionals can apply a special protective coating made specifically for this kind of device.

 

The areas that surround an insulator can be painted to prevent the spread of corrosion. Any metal surface will benefit from a coat of protective paint.

 

How Often Should You Repaint Your Devices?

 

Transformers should be repainted at the moment that the original coating starts to deteriorate. If visible deterioration is present, other parts of the coating have also started to break down.

 

If no deterioration is noticed, repaint your devices on a semi-yearly basis. Small chips or cracks aren't always visible, but they will compromise the integrity of the device.

 

All devices should be cleaned on a regular basis. Metal surfaces must be prepped before they can be painted; if heavy amounts of corrosion are present, this can get quite expensive. When you regularly maintain your devices, you ensure that the next painting will be significantly cheaper.

 

 

Add Utility Maintenance to Your Grounds Keeping Routine

 

As a business owner, there are several steps you can take to extend the life of your equipment.

  • Dry the top surfaces of electrical equipment after a rainstorm. These pools of water quickly turn into rust.

  • Make a point to clean transformers, insulators, and other steel equipment on a consistent basis. This will prevent a layer of dust from forming.

  • Check equipment manuals to find utility maintenance information and recommended inspection cycles.

These maintenance opportunities will keep your equipment in a serviceable condition for significantly longer. They will also give you the chance to notice corrosion or other issues before they become a serious problem. If you see any signs of damage to your electrical equipment, contact a professional maintenance company as soon as possible.

 

When to Call the Maintenance Company

 

Only trained professionals can inspect and repair electrical equipment. Although you can perform basic property maintenance, it is unsafe to ask normal employees to interact with insulation or exposed wiring.

 

Call a utility maintenance professional the second you notice damage to your equipment. Rust, chipped paint, strange noises, and short-lived electrical failures can all be signs of a more serious issue. The sooner you address these problems, the easier and cheaper the repair work will be.

 

Ask your maintenance company to perform a yearly safety inspection. They can check insulation, use flow coat paint to protect your steel equipment, and address small problems before they turn into actual electrical failures. These consistent inspections will greatly extend the life of your equipment and ensure the safety of your staff.

 

Regular maintenance costs will always be cheaper than paying for an electrical failure. Cleaning and inspections can be added to your regular maintenance routine for a surprisingly small cost. Electrical failures are both a financial and a safety concern. Contact us to discuss a consistent maintenance plan that works for your company.

 

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