Your facility’s emergency power should be a finely timed and practiced performance of the many cooperative pieces of equipment. You may not appreciate the speed at which your system is able to restore power, or the duration that it can sustain your building’s essential functions, until it is actually needed. Those few seconds spent in the dark may seem like a very long time. For what seems like minutes, you wait to see your power restored by your emergency power supply system, but nothing happens. Does your system have an Automatic Transfer Switch? Did it fail?
This scenario is not the time to start thinking about maintenance and testing for your EPSS. You need to be confident that your facility is protected by a quality source of reliable emergency power. There are several technical handshakes that have to happen between your EPS and the installed system supporting it. If these components aren’t maintained properly, inspected regularly, and tested in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and current standards, then you might find yourself scrambling for some emergency services in the future.
If you aren’t sure what your maintenance plan looks like for your EPSS, then you’ll need to brush up a little. In this article, I’ll summarize a broad scope of maintenance as it relates to a typical EPSS. As always, refer to the standards first as primary source of information. NFPA 110: Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems will be your guide in making sure that all of your equipment meets the proper requirements. Additionally, your facility’s routine maintenance and operational testing program shall be based on and performed within the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Most major manufacturers will typically provide at least two sets of manuals for every component of the installed EPSS. All manuals should be stored in a safe location or digitally archived for reference. Best practice is to keep at least one set of manuals and instructions near the equipment and another in a safe storage location. The main goal of archiving manuals and technical papers is for anyone who needs them to be able to conveniently locate them when they are required. These documents will act as vital resources for maintenance professionals, providing detailed explanations of the system’s operation and instructions for recommended routine maintenance.
Instructions for the repair of the EPS and associated EPSS components will also be included along with illustrations, parts lists, and part numbers. The illustrated drawings and schematics of the electrical wiring systems are crucial for troubleshooting the system, as they will include all operational and safety devices, control panels, instrumentation, and annunciators tied to the system.
If your facility utilizes a work order system to track and schedule routine maintenance for on-site equipment, it may benefit your personnel to include a list of specialized tools they may need for the task in addition to a list of frequently used replacement parts and their location in your warehouse or storeroom. A large part of successful maintenance programs is attributed to a well-organized spare parts inventory.
As we discussed in our last article, the only sure-fire way to ensure that your Emergency Power Supply System is able to supply your facility with a reliable source of power is to make sure that your EPS is better than normal power. So as soon as your system has passed acceptance testing, you should be working on having a written program for routine maintenance, inspection, and testing of the EPSS. Keeping detailed logs of these operations will be critical for the life of your system, as many of these and other inspections in NFPA 110 (and other applicable standards such as 70, 70E, 99, 101, 111) are regulatory.
During this maintenance program, someone who is qualified for the task will:
Clean out the enclosure and make sure all the connections, contacts, and insulative materials are free of dirt and dust.
Check and torque all connections of the system components.
Visually inspect contact points for signs of overheating and corrosion. An infrared scan may be performed for further analysis and testing.
Replace contacts when necessary.
Ensure successful operation of system controls.
Operational tests of your system shall be started from the ATS and run under normal operating temperature for no less than 30 minutes. If there are multiple ATSs in your system, you should rotate which ATS is used to start the test in order to confirm each ATS functions as required. Any batteries integrated into your system should be inspected weekly and maintained monthly in compliance with the manufacturer’s specifications. And fuel quality tests need to be performed annually.
For generators, you will have to exercise the equipment at least once per month, for no less than 30 minutes. These dates and times can be decided by the owner or facility management but should be agreed upon and recorded when maintenance occurs. When exercising your generator, it must either reach the minimum exhaust gas temperature as recommended by the manufacturer or exceed 30% of the standby nameplate kW rating for the duration of the test. There are additional requirements for testing and inspection outlined in NFPA 110 and should be followed closely to maintain compliance.
The same care and attention must be shown to your transfer switches. Without your ATS, you won’t see the benefits of your finely tuned EPS put into action for your facility. Transfer Switches must be tested and serviced annually, but you must also operate the switches monthly. Operating the transfer switch electronically from the primary position to the alternate position and then returning the ATS to the primary position [NFPA 110 18.104.22.168] satisfies the monthly requirement. It is important to not skip this monthly PM. When power goes out, you want to be able to trust that your transfer switch is able to automatically provide for your facility from your emergency power source.
Now, because I cannot seem to stress this enough, you must keep records of everything. When performing these inspections, tests, and maintenance, documentation is incredibly important. As a Facilities Manager, you should be able to locate these records easily and see what actions have been taken weekly, monthly, and annually on your EPSS. These records are to be kept for at least as long as the Authority Having Jurisdiction mandates but may be kept longer for maintenance purposes. These recordings must include the date of maintenance, type of maintenance, and ID of qualified personnel performing the task. If during inspection there are found to be abnormal or unsatisfactory conditions related to the components or equipment, remarks are to be recorded that will include the repairs made and the replacement parts used. Follow-up testing of the repairs is also to be recorded and performed as per the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.
I hope that I was able to help dust some cobwebs from your emergency system knowledge, or maybe even bring up more questions that you need answered. Feel free to contact me with your questions, and I’ll be happy to help you bring your system into compliance and provide more reliable power for your facility.