There’s good power and there’s bad power. Don’t let the wrong kind hurt your business!

Key takeaways:

  • Quality refers to how incoming power’s stability and cleanliness
  • Low quality power can harm equipment efficiency and eventually disable equipment
  • Generators, UPS, and power-conditioning devices can help mitigate or remove the effects of poor power quality

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s only one quality of electrical power coming from your outlets. Sure, there are different voltages and prong inserts, but “good” power and “bad” power? If it’s energizing equipment, how bad can it be? This is why businesses must think like contractors.

We see electrical power like food (just don’t stick a fork in it). Your electrically powered equipment is like people consuming food: you only want the highest quality fuel going in. If the junk (poor quality power) starts flowing through electrical systems, it can damage equipment and potentially disrupt your business operations.

Let’s look more closely at what quality means, the various ways power can take risky forms, and what businesses can do to protect their interests and improve the power they use.

The (slightly more technical) basics of power quality

Power quality refers to the quality of the current and/or voltage your equipment receives. Contractors define power quality by testing how well and how long bus voltage can maintain its waveform at the rated voltage and required frequency.

Any irregularities in bus voltage means electrical current won’t be distributed at the required quality. This so-called “dirty” power can negatively affect equipment performance, which could compromise the efficiency, safety, and security of your business processes.

One example is electrical noise present in power flow. These high-frequency disturbances can be constant or transient, and may come from the equipment itself (internal noise) or from nearby equipment or the surrounding environment (external). 

Transient and steady state disturbances

Electrical disturbances can affect power quality through transient or steady-state issues. Transient problems last a very short time (typically mere milliseconds) before steady-state conditions of sufficient quality resume. Though very brief, transient disturbances can repeat themselves, which increases their cumulative damage.

Steady-state disturbances are typically lower voltage than transients, and can also repeat themselves. These disruptions last longer, up to a minute, which is long in electrical terms — microseconds can significantly impact power quality.

Don’t let short-lived transient disturbances fool you. These power spikes can measure several thousand volts and do a lot of damage very quickly. Sometimes, they’re powerful enough to blow out equipment or cause extended power outages. These energy bursts often enter power lines from a bolt of lightning, but can also be caused by switching circuit breakers or through broken AC/DC connections.

Steady-state power disturbances slowly but surely eat away at equipment, gradually affecting how effectively they, and by extension your business, work. Affected components may continue to operate after a transient event, but with reduced performance classified as a latent failure. 

The commercial impact of poor power quality

Circuits and equipment – or sometimes whole business processes – can get taken offline when poor quality power flows unmanaged. This could create costly repairs or replacements while employees get paid but can’t work and everyone waits for the contractor to finish what may be lengthy work.

This impacts business productivity and profitability on an escalating scale – the larger the business, the bigger the impact. Even worse, the resulting equipment damage from inferior quality power can affect safety and employees might get hurt. Check out our guide to electrical safety at work to help you stay smart and safe during power events.

Even an hour of business downtime these days can cost thousands of dollars. Sometimes downtime is inevitable and if so, here’s some expert advice on minimizing its disruptive effects. Businesses highly reliant on data – such as data centers – could experience expensive downtime and significant data loss. This adds a customer impact element which could result in loss of faith or even legal action.

How businesses can improve power quality and reliability

Businesses proactively head off problems by installing surge protectors and other power-conditioning devices. These smooth out problems from poor-quality power like waveform and voltage distortions, electrical noise, or power surges. Combining surge protectors with the right commercial generator and backup from an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) provides a powerful shield against problems caused by lightning strikes and blackouts.

Surge protectors come in several types and be installed in different locations to absorb excess voltage and direct it away from your equipment to preserve power quality. A line-interactive UPS provides backup power for a brief time allowing businesses to safely shut down processes in a power disruption while increasing/decreasing utility power as required to actively regulate voltage.

It’s best to choose a commercial generator fitted with an automatic voltage regulator (AVR). AVRs deliver constant voltage output protecting against spikes, surges, and other distortions which can arise from poor power quality. It’s also possible to buy a standalone AVR.

Other power conditioners which can tackle distortions and interference include:

  • Isolation transformers which can help manage transient surges and high frequency noise
  • Ferroresonant voltage regulators, which can manage noise, transient surges, and voltage distortions
  • Synchronous motor generators that synchronize their motors with the utility power, creating a precise and perfect waveform 

Now that you know why high-quality power is important for business operations. Sometimes only professionals can notice low quality power — schedule an electrical inspection today to test how well your equipment is managing.

Perfect your power quality with UES

Our expert team brings decades of experience to helping Florida businesses enjoy stable, high-quality power. Contact us with any electrical questions, or for a free quote to optimize your power quality!