Here in the Southwest it is heating up, and the monsoon season is just around the corner. Heat, dust, and electrical storms can shut down your systems and ruin expensive equipment, but much of the inconvenience and damage can be prevented with a little preparation. Here are some ideas for ‘summerizing’ your control systems.
If you have other ideas that have worked well for you, let me know, and I'll add them to the list.
1. Check the AC units on outdoor panels to make sure they are operating well. Just like a home unit, industrial AC units occasionally need to be recharged or have components replaced.
2. Make sure that control panel doors are shut tightly and check that the door gaskets are in good shape. We see a lot of Nema 4X panels with the door clasps left only finger tight for convenience allowing dust intrusion.
3. Put sun shields over exposed field instruments. This can be as simple as a velcro strip and a piece of cloth that won't flap in the wind. Covering instruments protects them from long-term UV damage and short-term overheating.
4. Have the grounds checked at your facilities. Good grounds go a long way towards dissipating lightning and static charges caused by dust storms that destroy or shorten the life of electronic components.
5. Replace the batteries in UPS systems. These batteries are usually only good for a couple of years, and if they are in hot areas, they should be replaced annually.
6. If you don't have UPS systems, consider putting them on every PLC and SCADA computer in your system. They won't prevent the system from going down in a short power outage, but they will significantly shorten the time to recovery.
7. Evaluate the components in outdoor panels to be sure they are designed to operate in the temperatures they are exposed to. If panel temperatures are exceeding component ratings, the cost of installing an AC unit or heat exchanger quickly pays off in extending the life of expensive control system components.
8. Check your stock of spares to make sure you have one or two of each critical electronic component in your system as a spare. Murphy's law dictates that power surges and lightning will happen when the electrical supply house is closed. Remember PLCs, I/O cards, power supplies, network switches, signal isolators, lightning arrestors, telemetry radios, etc.
9. Make sure you have a documented, current copy of your PLC programs, and that you have a plan in place to be able to download them to a spare should you need to make an emergency replacement.
10. Review or create disaster recovery plans for SCADA computers. We highly recommend virtualizing your SCADA system and then storing a copy of the virtual machine in a safe place for disaster recovery.
I saved the shameless plug for last. If you don't have a service contract in place, give us a call. We can help you much faster in an emergency if all the paperwork is in place, and if we are already familiar with your systems. If you get in a bind with your control system this summer, give us a call. Our emergency service number is 877-221-1522.
Statistics and Resources:
Page 26 of the Eaton Blackout Tracker clearly shows July and August as the worst months for power outages in Arizona.
Weather is the number one cause of power outages in Arizona.
Average duration of a power outage in Arizona is 27 minutes. (UPS sizing hint…)
Page 28 shows California is less susceptible to the time of year, but last year May through September were the months with a lot of outages.
Weather causes about a third of the power outages in California.
Average outage time in California is 49 minutes.
California has more outages than any other state, so preparing for them is imperative.
Eaton’s web-site has the Blackout Tracker which provides a lot of cool stats for power outages in specific areas: Check it out here
Download Eaton’s UPS Battery Handbook. This helps you understand how big the battery needs to be and how long it will last.
Check your current UPS capacity or select a new one on APC’s website.