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Electrical System
One of eight primary systems in a facility.

The electrical system is similar to the nervous system in the human body.  It distributes power to the different parts of the building and contributes to the controls and communications.

Some of the primary electrical assemblies include the transformer, power distribution panels, light fixtures, telecommunications, and security equipment. The photographs (at the right) show different elements of the electrical system.




Attributes
Listed below are some of the attributes of the electrical system.

  • The electrical system has a close relationship with the mechanical system because of the power and control requirements of mechanical equipment.
  • Except for light fixtures, power receptacles and panel boards, most elements of the electrical system are inaccessible.  As a result, the expected useful service life of the inaccessible elements (like wiring) is often intended to be for the life of the building or very long periods of time.  Accessible components do require periodic inspection, maintenance and renewals.
  • Many of the assets are considered long-life assets or medium life assets.
  • The assets generally have a low maintenance-to-replacement ratio (MRR) since the assets are robust and generally do not require much maintenance.


Asset Inventory
The electrical system includes assets such as:


       Power Supply
  • Transformers
  • Generators
      Distribution
  • Switchgear
  • Panelboards
  • Lighting protection
      Lighting
  • Interior Light fixtures
  • Exterior light fixtures
       Data and Security
  • Telecommunications
  • Security

Physical Analysis
The electrical system is generally one of the most robust systems in a building with assets achieving long service lives. Physical analyses of the systems can be found at:



Survey Questions
Listed below are some sample questions that are utilized in a facility condition assessment:
  1. Are there any active permit applications affecting the electrical system?    
  2. What kind of service calls relating to the electrical system have been attended to in the last 12 months?
  3. Which are currently (or have historically been) your most troublesome pieces of electrical equipment? 
  4. Are all the electrical breakers and/or fuses adequately labelled?    
  5. Have you had any problems with particular tenants/space users placing excessive demands/loads on the circuits?  If yes, please describe:       
  6. When was the last time that the entire electrical system was shut down?       
  7. When was the last thermographic scan and de-energized service? 
  8. Is the exterior lighting adequate for safety and security purposes at night?   
  9. Is the interior lighting sufficient in your facility?    
  10. Is there any electrical equipment that is exceptionally difficult to access? If yes, please specify:
  11. What kinds of complaints do you receive from tenants &/or the general public regarding the electrical equipment               
  12. Do you have any ideas to improve energy efficiency in the building                                         
  13. Are you aware of a need for any upgrades to the electrical system?
  14. Is there any significant repair/upgrade work to the electrical equipment scheduled to occur in the near future? If yes, please specify:
  15. Any general comments about the electrical equipment?



FCA Observations
Things to look out for:

Operations

  • Quality of safety and directional signage to electrical rooms
  • Single line diagram on display in the electrical room
  • Quality of labelling on breaker panels
Exposures
  • Dust in electrical rooms
  • Water in electrical rooms
  • De-energized service tags
  • Storage in electrical room 
  • Items encroashing ito clearance around equipment
  • Ventilation and temperature in electrical rooms
  • Availability of electrical supplies
  • Unsafe conditions - exposed wiring
  • Unsealed penetrations
  • Proliferation of loads in office without requisite update of electrical infrastructure
  • Corroded housings
  • Antiquated equipment



Risk Management
Risk management is about identifying the undesirable things that could happen to the organization, to the people who live and work in the building(s) and the things that must be done to avoid (or to lessen) the negative impact.

Some of the primary risks (the “consequences”) that are to be avoided or mitigated through management of the electrical system are as follows:
  • Electrical safety hazards for staff and contractors working in the building, resulting in injuries or death
  • Fire hazards resulting from electrical short circuits
  • Nuisance and frustration to residents of the building due to unreliable (inconsistent) power supply
  • Unsafe conditions resulting from inadequate lighting in places like stairwells and entry doors
Some of the hazards (the “causes”) that can affect the performance of the electrical assets are as follows:
  • Water exposure to high voltage equipment
  • Rodent activities in electrical rooms
  • Dust accumulations in electrical rooms and inside electrical equipment
  • Excessive heat (inadequate cooling) in electrical rooms.
  • Inadequate clearance around electrical equipment for ventilation and maintenance access
Once the organization fully understands and appreciates the significance of the consequences that may arise from inadequate care of the electrical assets, the team can start to make appropriate plans for operations and maintenance so as to mitigate the impact on the organization and its people.



Operations
Operations is about the day-to-day activities in the building that must be coordinated amongst different people with a variety of skills.  Listed below are some of the things that should be considered in estimating the level-of-effort to directly operate (or indirectly care for) the electrical assets and the composition of the team that will be required.
  • Durability & Lifespans - Except for light fixtures, power receptacles and panel boards, most elements of the electrical system are inaccessible.  As a result, the expected useful service life of the inaccessible elements (like wiring) is often intended to be for the life of the building or very long periods of time.  Many of the assets are considered long-life assets or medium life assets. Since the majority of the fire protection assets are quite durable they do not require much day-to-day attention by the organization.
  • The Asset Inventory – The typical building will have an inventory of approximately 10 electrical assets. The inventory is therefore small and not difficult to track and manage.
  • The Team – From an operations perspective, the electrical system requires minimal care and attention other than the replacement of burnt out light bulbs and seasonal adjustment to time clocks. All repairs, however, must be referred to a qualified contractor who can work safely with high voltage equipment.
  • Equipment & Supplies – Since building contain hundreds of light fixtures, the electrical system requires the organization to carry spare lamps. The typically supply room is stocked with lamps and janitorial products.
  • Documentation & Recordkeeping – The electrical asset require minimal recordkeeping and there are few key reference documents that will be required for day to day operations. The electrical drawings from original construction should be kept on file.
While the electrical system does not require much day-to-day care, it does need to be managed over longer cycles.



Maintenance
Maintenance is work done to preserve the electrical assets over their useful service lives, without unforeseen repairs or major renewal. Included below is a summary of the things to consider for ongoing maintenance and periodic repairs of the different components of the electrical system.

Accessible components of the electrical system do require periodic inspection, maintenance and renewals. The assets are robust and generally do not require much maintenance. Maintenance activities are focused on ensuring that water, rodents and excessive dust are kept away from electrical equipment.  Included below is a few examples of maintenance activities on electrical assets:

Routine maintenance tasks include:
  • Replace burnt out light bulbs
  • Clean lenses on light fixture covers
  • Check that doors to the electrical rooms are properly secured
  • Check that safety signage on electrical equipment is legible and intact
Some examples of major maintenance on the electrical system includes:


Repairs
This includes activities such as
  • Replacement of faulty ballasts
  • Repairs to damaged receptacle plates.


Capital Planning
Capital planning is about making appropriate financial preparations as each of the electrical assets approaches the end of their respective service lives. As assets get beyond a certain age, maintenance is no longer sufficient to stop their physical deterioration (or slow down their obsolescence) and plans need to be made to replace and/or upgrade some (or all) of the components. 

Some typical examples of capital projects are retrofits to more energy efficient light fixtures


Financial analyses of the systems can be found at:

Energy Considerations
The electrical system has traditionally been seen by many organizations as one of the easiest and quickest routes to improved energy efficiency.  Simple changes to human behaviours can have beneficial effects – for example, turning off lights and electrical baseboard heaters when they are not needed. In addition to managing the hours of operation of electrical equipment, there have been advances made in more efficient lighting technologies. Whereas the world moved gradually from incandescent lighting to fluorescent lighting there is now another cycle from fluorescent lighting towards LED lighting.  Lighting retrofit projects are sometimes triggered by interior redecorating projects and the type of new fixtures should be selected on the basis of their aesthetics and energy efficiency.  While building control systems are becoming increasing complex and intelligent, it is simple devices like thermostats and simple behaviours like thermostat settings that can help ensure the responsible use of energy.
1  1
Fig. Examples of typical components of the electrical system: Unit substation (left) and light fixtures (right).


Human physiology as an analogy to illustrate the importance of system interaction.
Fig. Human physiology as an analogy to illustrate the importance of system interaction and comparing the electrical system to the nervous system.



Conceptual representation of the interconnected systems in buildings
Fig. Conceptual representation of the interconnected systems in buildings.


Retrofit of fluorescent strip lighting from T12 to T8 and T5 fixtures for improved energy efficiency.
Fig. Retrofit of fluorescent strip lighting from T12 to T8 and T5 fixtures for improved energy efficiency.


Seasonal maintenance program represented by system.
Fig. Seasonal maintenance program represented by system.


Retrofit of CFL to LED lighting
Fig. Retrofit of CFL to LED lighting.


Distribution of medium-life assets within each of the eight primary physical systems
Fig. Distribution of short-life, medium-life and long-life assets within each of the eight primary physical systems.


1  1  Fig. Emergency generator (left) and intrusion alarm right)

See other systems:
See also:




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