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November 8, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication Vol. II No. 21

Pre-Winter Maintenance

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Repairing Electrical Service
and Distribution Equipment

NEC at the Facility

OSHA This Fall

Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

EC&M E-Tradeshow


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This twice-a-month
e-newsletter is brought to you from the publisher of EC&M magazine.

MRO Insider addresses topics such as:

  • Working with management and supervision
  • National Electrical Code® on the production floor
  • Safety procedures and programs
  • Troubleshooting techniques
  • Equipment maintenance and testing tips
  • Managing motors and generators
  • Trends in training and education
  • Managing energy use

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    Pre-Winter Maintenance
    With cold weather now here, not much time is left to review your power system pre-winter checklist to see if you overlooked something. Most people would agree it's easier to inspect and repair service transformers in 40°F weather than it is to replace them on an emergency basis when it's 10 below zero, and the roads are iced over. Some things to consider:
    • Perform insulation resistance tests on service conductors, if such testing is due before spring. Increasingly, the only time this can be done is over a major holiday. You now have two left before year's end.
    • Ensure service and distribution transformers, panels, capacitors, and related equipment will not have exceeded the recommended inspection and maintenance intervals before spring arrives.
    • Review power monitor logs now. Standard practice is to review logs after an incident produces downtime. Smart practice is to analyze them so you can prevent downtime. Use the parameter settings and report capabilities in the monitor to produce useful information. Consider hiring a power monitoring consultant or power quality engineer.
    • Inspect rodent traps, bug screens, and other methods of vermin control. This time of year, animals are preparing their winter nests. You don't want a nest on top of that nice warm 2,000A breaker that may produce a spectacular arc blast.

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    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    You are on a pre-shutdown walk-through with the sales engineer for the firm that will test everything from your service drop to the load end of your feeders. The engineer points to one side and asks what you plan to do about those bulging power factor correction capacitors. This is news to you. What should you do?

    The answer to this question appears at the end of this newsletter.

    Repairing Electrical Service
    and Distribution Equipment

    A good testing program will reveal such things as worn breaker contacts, damaged conductor insulation, improper trip settings, contaminated transformer oil, loose connections, and corrosion. You'll need to replace those contacts, pull new conductors, and so forth.

    Most likely, you'll do those repairs over a limited shutdown window on a holiday weekend. Plan carefully and have the needed resources on hand so you can complete the job in that limited window. It's possible that lead times will delay at least some of this work, if you haven't already ordered certain items.

    Here are some tips for reducing delays from other causes:

    • Assess the talent. Does your onsite staff have training in the specific tasks ahead? Should you outsource? Typical areas for outsourcing include transformer testing and maintenance, infrared surveying, and breaker testing. But when is the last time you had a qualified engineer calculate your adjustable trip settings?
    • Anticipate planning problems. In most companies, last-minute assignments have a way of sneaking into shutdown schedules. One way to handle this is to "encapsulate" each shutdown project, and outsource it to a firm that specializes in that kind of work. Make sure the firm has the credentials for doing that specific work.
    • Meet equipment requirements. What lifts, test equipment, torque wrenches, power tools, and so forth does the job require? Walk it through and make a list. Then, ensure you'll have that equipment on hand. Insist contractors do the same. Rentals may not be available on short notice during the actual shutdown.
    • Arrange for lighting and temporary power. Have this equipment on site, tested, and ready to use the morning before. Extra rental time is an investment in uptime. Trying to save a few bucks on rentals could prove expensive. Have fuel on hand for the portable generators, and plan for storage and handling.
    • Resolve security issues. Ask the security manager how to minimize access delays for the contractors. Provide secure storage for tools, parts, supplies, and equipment.
    • Dry run. Ensure every crew does a "walk through" so their work isn't stopped by surprises during shutdown. Extra cost for contractors to do this is cheap, compared to downtime resulting from a problem that should have been fixed during shutdown.
    • Plan parallel work. A shutdown is the perfect time to plug unused openings in buss and junction boxes. Make a list, obtain the plugs, and assign the task. This and other "low-priority work" is ideal for the in-house people who must be available to the contractor supervisors but will usually have "spare time." Parallel work also helps justify having a proper crew on hand, so you aren't forced to skeleton crew the shutdown. Make sure everyone understands what their first priority is.

    Beware - Arc
    Flash Hazard

    Pin and sleeve plugs & receptacles can be dangerous if operated under load. To prevent accidents install Decontactor Series switch rated plugs and receptacles. They are a UL rated plug, receptacle and disconnect switch in one device. 100 kA short circuit ratings protect users in fault conditions. Inquire about our free trial program.
    Meltric Corporation, call 800-433-7642,

    NEC at the Facility
    Table 312.6(A) provides the minimum wire-bending space at terminals. But this is for electrical power conductors. Specialized signal cables may require even more space, so be sure to check bend radius requirements.

    OSHA This Fall
    Now well into the season, "fall" should mean autumn leaves and family dinner gatherings. But if it means injuries due to improper fall protection, that could entail tragic consequences. Fall injuries seldom occur because of an OSHA omission (e.g., 1926 Subpart M.) in the company safety manual. The cause is typically one or more of the following -- do you see these in your facility?
    • Management does not ensure employees are adequately trained and tested in fall protection procedures.
    • Supervisors are not monitoring and enforcing the fall protection policy.
    • Employees say nothing when coworkers fail to use fall protection correctly (or at all).
    • Necessary fall protection equipment is not readily available.

    Motor Starter Contacts
    Quality, low-cost electrical contacts for industrial motor starters & contactors. Repco replacements for Allen-Bradley, ABB, Clark, Cutler-Hammer, GE, Hubbell, Siemens, Square D & Westinghouse. Also for Furnas series 'E', Vertical Lift, Innova 45 & Plus. Large inventory & application help.

    Quiz Answers
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    You must replace these capacitors, and soon. This isn't hard to do, but safety issues require you to assign this work only to a qualified (e.g., specifically trained) person. If you must replace an entire capacitor bank, purchase one that has an additional upper lid and that facilitates single-capacitor replacement.

    The most likely cause is a heavy "jerk load," such as a big motor starting across the line. Typical culprits are plant air compressors, large HVAC units, and fire pumps. Consider installing soft starts.

    Lightning is another possible cause, especially if your grounding system is deficient. So, add ground testing to your shutdown project list (a fall of potential test with the power on measures the utility neutral connection, not the grounding). Ensure your facility complies with Art. 250 of the NEC, Part V, especially around the service equipment. Finally, review your site against NFPA-780 and LPI-175 -- or hire a specialist to do this for you.

    Show & Events
    EC&M E-Tradeshow

    Free Live Conferences in November
    Mark Nov. 16 on your schedule to attend these highly informative live conferences:

    • Learn about all the new energy-storage technologies -- including ultracapacitors, fuel cells, and flywheels -- now available by attending the live conference "Energy Storage Methods for Standby Electric Power Systems," presented by John DeDad at 11 a.m. EDT and PDT.
    • Find out how to size residential electrical generators by sitting in on Generac's live conference scheduled for 9 a.m. EDT and PDT. If you can't make these times, we're having a special Contractor's Night live conference at 8 p.m. EDT.
    • If you're looking for construction industry information to include in your business forecast for 2007, you'll certainly want to attend Jim Lucy's 2007 Electrical Market Sales Forecast, scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT and PDT. You'll see forecasting statistics for residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial construction market segments. This yearly presentation has become a must-see for electrical equipment manufacturers, contractors, distributors, and engineers.
    But before attending these events, make sure you visit the 2006 EC&M E-TradeShow, a year-long virtual business event. In addition to attending live activities at conference sessions scheduled throughout the year, you can meet with exhibitors in virtual exhibit halls. You can also access past presentations, which are archived in the E-TradeShow. Employing the latest interactive 3D technology, sponsors use online tradeshow booths to generate leads on a continuous basis throughout the year, while interacting live with customers and prospects during scheduled events. Free access and all the information you need are available at

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