The Basics of Electrical Maintenance Contracts

Electrical maintenance contracts, or Electrical Service Agreements, are agreements made with electricians that determine the type of service that will be provided and allow both parties to have the details of such a service laid out in writing before the work begins.

Equipment that is often covered under such contracts includes:

  • Monitor equipment.
  • Power supply systems.
  • Panelboards and switchboards.
  • Metering equipment.
  • Protective relays.
  • Motor control centers.
  • Transformers.
  • Transfer switches.
  • Stand-by generators.

An electrical maintenance contract should also state that the work will meet local codes, manufacturers’ recommendations, and industry standards for workplace safety. By no means do you want to neglect to meet these three goals, and a good contractor will strive to meet them.

Preventative Maintenance

Meeting local codes, manufacturers’ recommendations, and industry standards is important because neglecting to do so, or neglecting to have any maintenance done whatsoever, increases the likelihood of unplanned downtime or even worse consequences, such as electrical fires.

Electrical equipment and electrical systems are not designed for or meant to have unending use. At some point, components in any device or system will break down, and the more complex a system is, the more likely it will be to break down. This breakdown will be hastened by neglecting routine maintenance, equipment testing, and cleaning.

Thus, having a preventative maintenance program in place for electrical components is a wise investment, as it can save you money in the long run. According to published studies by FM Global and the Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance Company, failures of electrical equipment cost business owners millions of dollars in lost business and damages every year, while lacking a maintenance program will place a facility in a “run to breakdown” mode, which means that the failure of the electrical system is an inevitability.

According to IEEE Standard 902, “a lack of maintenance eventually results in failures and a high cost to a plant.” In fact, there can be as much as three times more likelihood of electrical damage in facilities that neglect preventative maintenance than those that do. Also, neglecting preventative maintenance can void equipment warranties and the conditions and terms of an insurer’s policy.

It should also be noted that undertaking maintenance on separate pieces of equipment within a system is not the same as maintaining the entire system. Comprehensive maintenance should cover all equipment within an electrical system, making sure that all components are operating as designed. Doing so is the best way to minimize power outages, service interruptions, and equipment malfunction.

Encourage a Culture of Proactive Maintenance

Shifting from operating under a reactive maintenance culture to a proactive maintenance culture is highly recommended. One way to become proactive about maintenance is to contract a licensed electrical engineer to conduct an arc flash analysis, a time/current coordination study, and a short circuit analysis of your electrical distribution system. This will reveal if there is any equipment that needs to be replaced before money is wasted servicing, cleaning, and maintaining it through a contracted maintenance program.

Likewise, having a risk assessment done for your power system before a maintenance contract is made can also be a good idea. A risk assessment can:

  • Reveal safety issues before they become active problems.
  • Show you if any equipment has been poorly maintained.
  • Indicate if there is a harsh environment acting on your equipment, whether it be through dust, dirt, moisture, high temperatures, or other conditions.
  • Provide information relating to the present state of your electrical distribution system and its related equipment, which will tell you how functional and reliable it is.

Unfortunately, the operations and functions of businesses change faster than electrical systems do. An electrical system from the 20th century may not meet the needs of a hi-tech, 21st century operation. Additionally, aging electrical systems represent a greater safety risk, in general. An electrical system risk assessment can reveal how vulnerable you are to hazards and what you can do to fix them.

Additionally, an assessment can provide you with cost estimates that will help you draw up a budget for maintenance activities, as well as give you an idea of what the optimal maintenance schedule for your facility would be. Both will help you in deciding what electrical maintenance contract will be right for you.

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