Friday, February 26, 2016

Is Infrared Thermography Part of your Preventative Maintenance Program?

   Does your city have an IR or infrared electrical survey program as part of your preventative or predictive maintenance program? Better yet, has your city had an electrical survey done at your building in the past 10 years? How about ever? Most facilities have never had an infrared inspection.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011 there were 47,700 structural fires in the U.S. which were caused by some sort of electrical malfunction. Those fires resulted in 418 deaths, 1,570 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.

   Effective use of Infrared thermography surveys of the electrical systems in buildings can detect maintenance issues such as loose connections, overheating circuits and motors, as well as other electrical problems which if left uncorrected could lead to overheating of circuits and components resulting in a fire. At the very least it could cause an electrical short or equipment failure which can lead to downtime and larger maintenance and repair costs.

   IR inspections can also be useful in the detection of water intrusion issues, building insulation problems, heat and air loss, and HVAC problems. In mechanical equipment, IR testing can detect over heating bearings, motors, pumps, and switches, as well as problems with the aforementioned electrical connections, components and lines. Some cities have already started to use Infrared thermography as part of the overall preventative maintenance program for their buildings and equipment resulting in reduced overall maintenance costs, as well as a decline in the number of large losses.

   A study by the Federal Energy Management Program estimates that preventative maintenance can save 30%-40% over reactive maintenance. On the other hand, in the event of a catastrophic breakdown or fire, the savings of an effective preventative maintenance program would be much higher when you look at overall added labor, overtime, replacement costs, and downtime cost associated with a large loss.

   If your city decides to incorporate thermography inspections into your preventative maintenance program you will want to have an effective, documented program with established written inspection procedures for measurement and collection, and interpretation of data. You will want to follow the same steps each time to ensure consistent measurements and accurate data points for comparison of readings. Also, you will want to follow any and all safety precautions and procedures where necessary to ensure the inspections are done safely, and don’t subject the person conducting the inspection to unsafe conditions. The inspection program should outline and ensure everyone follows safety procedures and uses appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary. If hiring an outside service to provide the inspection you want to make sure they follow the above procedures to ensure accurate data and effective results.

By: Paul Gladen, Loss Control Consultant

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