Sunday, July 6, 2014

$54 Million Dollar a year operation at a distribution facility put at risk because electrical system was not properly designed and plenty of blame to spread around.

I have been working with an older Electrical Contractor who serves as the In House Electrician  to install Life Safety and Security systems in a brand new $14 million dollar distribution facility which services the Convenience Store Industry.
Nearly 200,000 Sq ft  with the most modern of electronics being used to get products in and out.

They hired a large Florida based Design Build Contractor  to design the facility  with its massive refrigerated dock and warehouse section a new large dry storage section and rebuild of offices and a new training center where store owners can see the latest in products for the convenience industry.

The Design Build Contractor  hired the local Electrical Union Contractor to install power and lighting so they should have the best available talent to get this job done. WRONG.

The new facility was open only 3 days when tragedy struck. There was a a Phase loss of power from
Power Company to the plant  which happened on a very hot day a common problem  with the power grid  when it gets stressed which when the phase came back on caused a massive surge in the plant. thru the 480/277 power distribution system which knocked refrigeration AC cooling off line and destroyed fire and security components despite surge protection myself and older electrician installed on our systems we installed.

The problems uncovered during what happened where something which never should have happened and where 100% avoidable.

There have been constant problems with electrical gremlins in the facility which causes electronics systems to not work properly or erratically. The design Build firm was a complete failure they never figured into its electrical designs for Harmonics a very well known problem which should have  been  considered and designed for.

The Union Electrical contractor should have insisted on it and never did anything to help stop it like up-sizing neutral wires and specifying harmonic grade transformers which help dampen harmonics . In fact the Union Electrical Contractor totally failed to properly design the grounding and bonding system to prevent problems which also contributed to the life safety and fire systems getting damaged. the facility has high speed garage size doors which open and close quickly using motors which use Variable Frequency Drive FVD technology another big source of harmonics as well.

 and the maker of the garage doors did not insist on making sure the motors etc where properly wired to reduce harmonics or even bother to tell the client of the fact VFD units generate them.

The electrical system was designed to meet the minimum safety requirements of the National Electrical Code and no further design considerations . Despite the fact of all the electronics being deployed in the facility a very bad mistake by both designer and electrical contractor they both failed our customers needs and should be ashamed of them selves for not making provisions to prevent problems.

To make matters worse not one surge suppressor was installed anywhere in the electrical system had they been installed the surge damage would have been nothing to minimal instead of over $10,000 in damage and business disruption it caused. The Surge suppressors myself and the older electrician installed where overwhelmed because there where no other suppressors in the electrical system.
Only one of the electronics contractors in the building bedsides us installed suppressors.
Too many times I see very expensive electronics being installed with no suppressors on them or battery back up system a very bad decision.
especially when it comes to surveillance camera systems  which use a recorder with a hard drive just like a computer.

To make matters worse as Myself and in house electrician started looking over the electrical system to determine where the surge came in and path it took we found that the electrical contractor had not bonded the  various buildings steel together and had various transformers bonded to the steel in  three different section's and without the unifying bonding between the structures this allowed for step voltage  to occur
which is what caused most of the damage  when there is a difference in potential between the ground paths  and voltage can actually spike up in strength. This is why it is critical to properly unify and electrical system and in this case the complex is feed from 2 different power services which makes it even more critical that everything on the grounding and the bonding of the system is properly unified.
The following link shows many ways structures must be bonded and grounded to prevent issues

We also found where more than one ground or bond wire was installed improperly as well which creates a double path and can allow for equipment damage as a electrical fault will not properly clear in recommended time.  The union Electrical contractors should have known what they where doing was wrong and should have done proper bonding. I know many of the union schools are teaching it .
Since going thru and correcting the bonding and grounding issues we have greatly reduced the electrical gremlins but they are still there. the only way to do this would be to replace transformers at a very big expense.
But hopefully what we have done will help for now and the management is bring advised to install additional surge suppression to ward off future issues.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your accident. My husband manages a hotel and our contractor also had transformers bonded to the steel, which, as you learned, allows step voltage. Thankfully our insurance covered part of the cost of getting someone else in there to fix it, and we had no problems after that. When it comes to something as hazardous as electricity, you can't overstate the importance of a job well done.

    Helen Lund |