by Jim Hazelwood
According to the NFPA 70B, “Infrared inspections of electrical systems are beneficial to reduce the number of costly and catastrophic equipment failures and unscheduled plant shutdowns.” In addition to being a relatively non-invasive examination, infrared inspections (also commonly referred to as “thermography studies”) can also find hot spots inside electrical systems before they become bigger, more costly issues for a plant.
Hot Spot Causes
Hot spots can be caused by harmonics, overloads, loose connections, improper installation, open circuits, inductive heating, and defective equipment. Thermography enables these areas to be found much more quickly by locating the exact cause of the heat. As part of our electrical safety services, we evaluate your equipment and electrical systems, including control panels, power distribution, transformers, motor control centers, substation components (600 volts and below), main electrical service, switches, cable trays, bus connections, and switchgear. Annual inspections are recommended by the NFPA 70B, and with increased regularity when load conditions change or new equipment is installed.
Typical Study Process
A typical thermography study performed begins with a site visit to determine the preliminary requirement. This can be done in conjunction with an arc flash study or labeling project. A list will be generated of all applicable equipment sorted by priority. Then one of our certified thermographers will follow the inspection routes and thoroughly investigate each component. Equipment will be energized and placed under adequate load to get reliable readings. Whenever possible, like components under similar load will be compared to each other. After the field inspection is done, suggestions are given to modify plant equipment to make inspections easier, safer, and more effective in the future. Results are then reported back with a detailed description of the system, including color images and a complete analysis.
There are many benefits of having regular thermography evaluations such as the ability to troubleshoot problems by using thermal imaging to capture the specific location of the issue instead of doing a cumbersome analysis inside a panel with a meter. The thermal imagers of today are fast, efficient visualization tools for identifying and mitigating electrical hot spots. On top of that, regular infrared electrical inspection reports can also be provided to insurance companies to help lower insurance premiums for companies. Beyond simply saving money, thermography studies can also be used to proof test new electrical equipment during startup in order to give peace of mind of a properly functioning system.
A hot spot-related failure can disable an electrical system and cause significant loss of production, equipment damage, and bodily injury. A thermography study can save additional costs by being proactive in your electrical maintenance strategy. Don’t delay. Contact us to get more information and schedule a study today.