Protect Your Equipment from Power Variances

» Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment

One of the biggest expenses that businesses incur today is the maintenance and replacement of their electronic network equipment. Most people take the power that comes from the wall for granted. It is not realized that this power can wreak havoc on your electronic equipment. “It’s there almost all the time”. “My equipment is designed to be plugged into the wall”. “Why do I need to invest in these expensive power conditioners; won’t an inexpensive UPS from Costco do?”
 
A few questions that you should be asking are:
 
“What are the costs of replacing my equipment and computers?  If my operating equipment and or electronics are disrupted, damaged, or destroyed, what will be at stake?  Will my clients understand?  What is my cost of my downtime?”
 
Equipment ages, breaks down and needs service or replacement on a regular basis. However, do you realize that a lot of this equipment failure over time is caused by uneven and unclean power? Electronics are very intolerant to power variations. In time the electronic componentry wears down and ages because it is either not getting enough power, or getting hit with power surges. These variances are known as “electrical noise”.
 
Problems with the power grid that cause wear on your electronic equipment:
 
Power surges: Caused by transformers, sudden power load caused by start up of heavy machinery such as elevators, faulty grounding, and much more. After a power outage, the biggest danger to equipment is the start up of power again by either the utility or your generator. This surge can be responsible for frying electronic equipment. Another obvious cause is lightening strikes.
Power Sags: Less visible but equally damaging are sags. If there is a large draw from the start up of a heavy piece of equipment; or just a heavy draw on the power grid, then the current diminishes. When electronic equipment doesn’t have the full current that is needed to run it, the electronic components get damaged. This is actually just as damaging as a power surge.
In house electrical equipment: On a day to day basis, much more electrical noise is created right in your own building by noisy electrical loads.  Switch mode power supplies, HVACs, copiers, coffee makers, power tools, vending machines, all throw noise back into the electrical system when used. Disk drives and printers use motors that often require large start up / inrush current that can cause transient power noise.
Complexity of chips: Semi conductor chips are more vulnerable to noise than ever. Each generation has more transistors packed into a smaller space. As transistors get smaller, the amount of electrical over stress they can tolerate gets lower. New semiconductors can now be disrupted by as little as 1/2V of electrical noise on your ground reference and only 10 V of electrical noise on your line-neutral.
Common Solutions:
 
Surge protectors: These actually provide a false sense of security. Surge suppressors do not operate until their clamp voltage is exceeded (approximately 250V or more on a 120V system). Voltage disturbances lower than that can pass right through into the equipment. They offer no protection from disruptive high-frequency noise and some will have little to no ground protection; some will actually dump your less damaging  power noise to your more sensitive ground reference.  Over time, a surge suppressor can fail usually leaving the user with no indication that their equipment is unprotected. Even if the “on” light is lit – that only means that the power is on, not that the surge protector is working.
UPS: Again, these are only a partial solution providing you with limited protection on their own. UPS’s can provide a backup power when the power goes down which can provide you the time necessary to properly shut off your equipment (or save whatever you’re working on your computer before you shut down). However, most common UPS are of limited life and it is all too common that it is discovered that the UPS no longer functions when the power goes out. Most UPS’s need to be tested regularly for their integrity, and too often they are not.
Our Solution:
 
Completely buffer your equipment from the power grid / source with an isolation transformer coupled up with the appropriate design of UPS. This will clean all dirty power before getting to your equipment. Your equipment will in turn be fed with steady, even power that will prolong the life of your equipment and maintain its integrity. By using isolation transformers to buffer the noisy power from the grid before it reaches your equipment, you can prolong the life of your equipment and keep your equipment running at its maximum efficiency.
What does Power conditioning do?
 
There is a lot of confusion over the meaning of power conditioning. People confuse power conditioners with other devices, such as surge suppressors, voltage regulators, spike arresters, or EMI/RFI filters. These devices are designed to treat one or a few of the symptoms of power noise. A true power conditioner will provide comprehensive protection from damaging power-line disturbances.
 
Four basic functions of power conditioning:
 
1. Reducing all electrical disturbances:
 
Most computerized systems have some level of noise immunity built in them. The manufacturers can’t predict how effective their conditioning is because of the wide variety of system configurations their equipment may be used. In order to be effective under all circumstances, a power conditioner must reduce the worst possible electrical noise levels to levels that are harmless to semiconductors before powering your device.
 
2. Providing single point reference ground:
 
Noise on the ground wire is either directly or capacitively coupled into the system’s logic ground. More than 1/2 V of noise here will be disruptive. It is crucial to provide a clean, single point, all- purpose reference ground. This is accomplished with a transformer -based power conditioner that safely and legally ties the line, neutral, and ground on the secondary at noise frequencies.
 
3. Preventing interaction between noise generating loads:
 
The switching power supplies used in today’s computerized systems and peripherals can create a fair amount of electric noise. This can be a problem if you have a printer plugged into a computer next to it. The situation can be exacerbated if they are plugged into older-technology conditioners such as Ferroresonant and high isolation type power conditioners. A power conditioner must have a low-impedance output that prevents disruptive interaction between noise generating loads.
 
4. Providing peak current on demand:
 
Switching power supplies that are found in today’s computerized equipment have a very high current draw during the portion of each AC cycle that they turn on. Ferroresonant and high-resolution conditioners cannot meet these peak current demands unless they are considerably oversized. Such units cost more and are less efficient, hence higher electric bills. A low-impedance conditioner will provide peak current on demand.
 
The investment that you make in a quality isolation transformer and UPS will ensure that you get the full life of your equipment, and that you will not experience any business disruption due to equipment failure. In addition, when you do experience a power failure, you will have adequate power back up protection to calmly handle the emergency.
 
Barry Calhoun is the owner of ProSense (www.prosense.ca )
Stephen Leber consults with businesses on realizing efficiencies with their infrastructure

 

 

1 Comment

  1. When you put together a computer system, one piece of standard equipment you’ll probably buy is a surge protector. Most designs serve one immediately obvious function — they let you plug multiple components into one power outlet. With all of the different components that make up a computer system, this is definitely a useful device.:

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