Electrical Hazards with Energy Efficient Automation Gear

Mike, I have a topic that you might like to discuss or use in a future newsletter. It involves the trend to retrofit older buildings with new “Energy efficient automation gear. ” The country is on an energy savings trend with many “Partnerships between electrical utilities and Automation companies.”

The program that I have seen goes like this:
A Utility company does an energy audit and recommends changes including retrofitting the lighting from T-12 to T-8 fixtures. The money to do this work comes from the savings on the utility bills over a 10 year period. They freeze your rates unless you use to much energy. Peak demand limiting is a large part of this process. The extra savings you may have left after the retrofit has at times been used to further automate the buildings to save further energy. The problem that I have seen is that some automation companies are installing equipment and wiring violation of the NEC. This includes using non-inverter rated motors with new Freq. Drives, not resizing wiring and raceways and not installing proper grounding. Other problems include not resizing motor protection devices when motors are down sized and mixing 24vac control wiring with 0-10 vac/vdc sensing wiring in the same chase with the 208 to 480 vac power.

The problem that I have been watching unfold for several years at my facility is compounded with a non-inspection process we have. Our “city” does not have any electrical inspectors. It is thought that an electrical utility company could never design or install any wiring improperly. If a problem arises during the warrantee period then it is fixed. If the problem arises after the warrantee period then "It was not in the contract". The utility hires an Automation company to install the equipment. (I would not give names but, there are some big players out there. Your site links to them.) The computer automation equipment is good but the wiring installation can really stink at times.

I know that most HVAC personal and IT personal are not electricians but our world is getting a lot smaller and we are crossing into a very gray area.

Patrick Ward, Wirenuting@AOL.Com

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