Top Ten Ideas to Maximize Electrical Investments


Panel Assemblies

A list of simple ways to maximize dollars spent on your electrical infrastructure

The Maximize Your Electrical Investment column has been a regular feature of Interstates “Current Connections” Newsletter for many years. Here we highlight 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. Planning – One hour of planning can save 17 hours on the job site. Early collaboration with your electrical contractor and engineer allow options such as underground raceway, modular electric rooms, and prefabrication. These often minimize installation costs and site congestion. See the related article on prefabrication from the Winter 2011 issue.
  2. You can leverage benefits of BIM (3D CAD) whether or not your entire building and process is modeled. Select an electrical partner who is capable of modeling electric rooms and major raceway routes and who is capable of coordinating this with the other site disciplines so that building space is used effectively and prefabrication opportunities are maximized.
  3. Today’s alloys make aluminum conductors a viable option. Realize substantive cost savings by using them on 480V feeders 800A and larger and by evaluating them for feeders of 200-800A.
  4. Motor Starters – If your facility has many motors less than 30hp, consider IEC Motor Cabinets in place of NEMA Motor Control Centers. This may save 10-15% on motor starter costs. For more details on motor starters, please see this article from the Spring 2009 issue.
  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). See this article from the Summer 2010 issue for more detailed information.

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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. See this article from the Fall 2011 issue that includes more detailed information on power factor correction.
  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. This Winter 2012 article includes information about variable frequency drives.
  4. Many new technologies limit arc flash and protect your personnel. Invest in equipment that reduces arc flash hazard levels and provides your staff appropriate PPE gear and clothing. Doing the right thing – the safe thing – is relatively inexpensive when addressed during the project design phase. See the Spring 2012 issue for more detail about reducing arc flash hazards.
  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.

Have any other ideas, or an interest in receiving our Current Connections newsletter? Please let us know!