It may happen as a surprise for some that electronics-related problems in buildings are often rooted back to power problems.
Almost every major subsystem in today’s commercial buildings has some type of solid-state electronics installed. These include HVAC units with an electronics board in its control panel. Regardless of what system type it may be, their common denominator is electronics.
Another issue can occur due to old vs new electronics as some electronic equipment in buildings are installed 20 or more years ago, which can be more prone to issues over time. Being electronic systems, they are all susceptible to problems due to power even if some electronic manufacturers can claim an amount of tolerance to power problems to their products.
Typical power scenarios
Knowing these common scenarios can be valuable as these are repetitive and can sometimes even occur more frequently.
A lightning strike is a common scenario but will obviously vary depending on your location and climate. Flashes of Lightning can cause a lot of problems, and because HVAC equipment and a lot of the building electronics are located on the roof or outside of the building, it is vulnerable to lightning strikes.
The effects of lightning strikes can be fatal as the electronics can be completely wiped out, with visible burn marks and a burned smell. A good way to prevent such an occurrence is to move the electronics and to install better lightning protection and grounding.
Power loss & Generation Testing
Power loss is another common problem and can be caused by a multitude of reasons such as utility problems, maintenance lapses, and device surges to name a few. Depending on the condition of power loss, there is a chance that the electronic device may not recover properly even when power is restored.
When power loss occurs, the backup generator will start after a short delay. Power surges may also occur along with voltage or current problems when generators start. This can cause electronic circuit problems. This is a common issue that electronic devices have a problem after the generator test is performed.
If a system is critical, a small UPS is installed at the electronic device power supply. This ensures that the device doesn’t meet a power failure and can offer some form of surge protection. Another tested technique is to reboot the device by removing power until it is completely shut down, before turning the power on again.
The power utility is also one of the root causes of problems with electronic devices. The nature of these problems is more systemic, and ongoing which makes it harder to solve. In some cases, they can be unique as some utilities will not readily acknowledge power problems. If the problems are repetitive with no direct correlation to lightning strikes, the usual suspect is utility problems.
One of its main indicators is the location of the utility power feed as some utilities feed power to a building from a substation that is distant or has other big customers. Having more than one customer on the same power feed will manifest itself through power problems for the building. Often the buildings will have the same symptoms or power problems.
The best solution for utility problems is to install power quality measuring equipment to find out the problem and where it occurred. This can help in asking for an adjustment or reimbursement to the electronics.
Power problems are detrimental to electronic devices. The power supply of the building must be checked by a power technician to ensure that it is working properly. Untreated power problems can lead to the failure of these electronic devices which can affect operations of the building systems.