Performing preventative maintenance on a commercial electrical system is a simple way to avoid a lot of chaos for your business or property. A quick glance at the evening news or your local paper will show too soon how often commercial properties are affected by fires due to electrical issues. The usual causes: loose feeder cables, bad wiring, buildings not up to code, etc- all typically highly preventable with active maintenance. Another bit of the chaos that most business owners or managers overlook is there can be extenuating outcomes for possible tenants/residents that were displaced and the resulting emergency repairs to get them placed again could cost a property management company tens of thousands of dollars.
Preventative maintenance on your electrical systems can help identify potential safety issues, energy consumption, and provide advance inspections well before they become problematic. In addition, a regular preventative maintenance program provided by a full-service, qualified electrical contractor should significantly extend the life of a building’s electrical systems.
How does electrical preventative maintenance support a healthier bottom line?
To begin with, power consumption is costly. Power generated by well-maintained and efficient electrical systems reduces the expense associated with those peak energy times.
Even more important, replacing older electrical equipment, such as switch gears and circuit breaker panels, with up-to-date equipment creates a safer environment for clients and tenants. Don’t open your company up to a costly liability through serious injury or loss of life due to operating under unsafe electrical conditions.
It pays to be proactive.
Here is a quick look at how to approach your electrical preventative maintenance needs, specifically this example applies to the property management industry:
1. Maintain a customized checklist for the property. Items on an inspection checklist should include the switchgear, air circuit breakers, vacuum circuit breakers, LEDs, air disconnect switches, oil circuit breakers, molded-case circuit breakers, battery stations and chargers, protective relays, and uninterruptible power supply systems.
2. Troubleshoot for potential hazards and locate the ones that require immediate attention. A key diagnostic tool is an infrared scan that uses thermal technology to detect “hot spots” caused by defects in connections and components.
3. Maintain an accounting of the red-flag spots to look out for on a follow-up.
Our Denver based FMC Services team is ready and able to provide clients with a report that categorizes potential hazards across emergency situations requiring immediate attention to potential problems that need to be scheduled for repair as soon as possible and onto aging equipment that needs to be considered for replacement in six months to a year.
How often should we do preventative maintenance on our electrical systems?
Managers should have all of the equipment listed above (and possibly more) serviced every three to five years.
Specifically this includes:
- Tightening all connections to manufacturers’ specifications, using a torque screwdriver to avoid over-tightening or under-tightening.
- Cleaning; dusting; identifying worn, loose or missing parts; checking for unwanted water; and making sure batteries, lights and casings are in working order.
- Ventilation should also be part of the maintenance mix for all these areas.
How much will this cost us?
Depending on how much equipment is contained in your commercial building, the cost of a complete preventative maintenance checkup can range from a couple thousand dollars and on up. While this may sound expensive, property managers need to keep in mind that the dollars are spread out over several years. Moreover, the cost of performing these preventative maintenance services is a fraction of the cost of failure of a major piece of electrical equipment such as a circuit breaker. Property managers & building owners should be aware that if an entire building goes down electrically, there is a significant risk of fire hazard.
Tips for successfully planning your electrical system preventative maintenance:
1. Budget to perform preventative maintenance work done every three to five years. Spending a couple thousand dollars every few years is far better than being hit with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars—example: an entire high-rise goes down for weeks due to failed electrical equipment and hundreds of residents or tenants are displaced.
2. Make sure to use a service contractor with qualified & licensed electricians.
3. Hire an electrician that has a successful preventative maintenance, inspection, and service track record in multifamily or commercial buildings.
If a property is older than five years, it needs to have a well-documented electrical preventative maintenance program in place. This means maintaining records that prove maintenance has been done. If there is a problem, an insurance company may ask to see inspection records with photos as well as invoices for repairs.
When it comes to electrical preventative maintenance, managers need to resist the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. While it can be hard to think about electrical panels or circuit breakers when everything is humming along smoothly, being proactive could be the key to avoiding an electrical (and financial) catastrophe.