Top Ten Ideas to Maximize Electrical Investments

Electrical switches on a gray box.

October 13, 2021

It's important to get the most bang for your buck in an investment. To help you with your next electrical investment, here are our top 10 suggestions for maximizing your electrical investment – whether your project is a new building or an addition to an existing facility.

Project Cost & Schedule Savings

  1. One hour of planning can save 17 hours on the job site. Early collaboration with your electrical contractor and engineer allows options such as underground raceway, modular electric rooms, and prefabrication. These often minimize installation costs and site congestion.
  2. You can leverage the benefits of BIM (3D CAD) whether or not you modeled your entire building and process. Select an electrical partner capable of modeling electric rooms and major raceway routes and coordinating with the other site disciplines. This way, you effectively use the building space and maximize prefabrication opportunities. See an example that used BIM that led to a successful project.
  3. Today's alloys make aluminum conductors a viable option. Realize substantive cost savings by using them on 480V feeders 800A and larger and evaluating them for feeders of 200-800A.
  4. Inverter duty motors and standard motors each have their own application. Inverter duty motors are built to be operated by VFDs. A standard motor will operate only at full speed. Find out where you would use each in this Automation World podcast.
  5. Understand your electric utility's energy incentive program. Many utilities offer substantial incentives to install high-efficiency lighting and motors and variable frequency drives (VFDs).

Project Investments

  1. Plan for expansion. Time and again we see clients "landlocked" with small electric rooms or an electrical infrastructure that can't expand for additional loads. Assess your long-term needs and make the small additional investment in extra electric room space and switch-gear expandability that will accommodate an extra MCC five years from now.
  2. Power Factor Correction. To reduce or eliminate a power factor penalty on your electric utility bill, invest in capacitor banks. This simple installation typically costs $20-30k per electrical service and payback is often 18-30 months.
  3. Motor Efficiency. Purchasing High-Efficiency Motors can save 2%-8% on energy costs and quickly pays back the increased purchase price. On variable torque load applications (e.g., conveyors, pumps and fans), replacing valve or damper type controls with a VFD can reduce energy consumption by orders of magnitude.
  4. Many new technologies limit arc flash and protect your personnel. Invest in equipment that reduces arc flash hazard levels and provides your staff with appropriate PPE gear and clothing. Doing the right thing - the safe thing - is relatively inexpensive when addressed during the project design phase.
  5. HRG vs. solid grounding. At a cost of only $10-20k per switch-gear, a high resistance grounding system allows your process to keep running safely and without interruption if a motor faults. Your plant will keep running, an alarm will notify you of the issue, and you can decide when you want to correct the fault.