Published November 18, 2020

This is the time of year when data center users are wrapping up 2021 budgets and planning maintenance projects. They face the challenge of prioritizing their most critical needs, developing budgets and maintenance schedules while adhering to equipment maintenance standards and following manufacturer recommendations.

With regards to electrical systems planning, it’s often seen that the multifaceted maintenance such as the 3-5 year preventative maintenance on switchboards, switchgear, transformers and panelboards, is deferred year after year. This postponement increases the risk that if something should fail, it becomes a major critical event, potentially a customer impacting issue, and ultimately, a personnel safety risk.

Why is this maintenance deferred? Principally, unlabeled or unidentified breakers create risk in transferring load throughout the system. Secondly, for facilities with aging equipment, the risk of component failure increases, replacement parts are harder to find, and repairs become costly. Lastly, even in a modern data center, extensive planning is required, ensuring correct procedures are in place, identifying necessary spare parts to have on hand in advance, and selecting the correct provider to guarantee the maintenance is successful and safe.

Additionally, hidden risks of skipping or deferring the Electrical Systems Maintenance include:

  1. Higher probability of failure when requested to function
  2. Non-compliance with manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
  3. Failure to properly test/exercise of circuit breakers.
  4. Not discovering potential failures like improperly torqued electrical connections, insulation failures, or equipment malfunctions.
  5. Not discovering operational failures like changes to inputs and outputs incorrect settings, blown lights, trip unit battery replacements, etc.
  6. Incorrect firmware for communication and control devices.
  7. Shorter life expectancy.
  8. Deviations of breaker trip unit settings, whether never done or not applied correctly, in comparison to recent short circuit studies could result in uncoordinated electrical systems.

Where to begin? Electrical systems preventative maintenance work must be planned with the highest regard of critical load placement and encapsulate all available means of risk mitigation. This typically requires maintenance to be performed in a work window when the load can be transferred for an extended period of time, and usually with the help of ATS’s and STS’s. In addition, after-market digital upgrade options are available to help ensure performance and reliability of aging equipment.

Ensuring up-to-date and accurate electrical one-lines and plans, and operating proper switchgear and switchboard maintenance, is a critical component to your data center.

Connect with Ascent for assistance with electrical maintenance projects and to learn more about how we help customers facing these challenges.