Wednesday 31 October 2012

Howe is your power infrastructure laid out

It’s time to rethink the way we do power in our offices  and homes.  Time and time again we see how business and private homes is hit by flooding.  And what is the problem.  All electricity start at ground level or below.  Due to the unsigthliness of overhead power lines all such feeds are now buried under ground.  Then just inside there is a power meter and then the main fuseboard, And circuits spread out from there.   But with flooding this is a very vulnerable layout.  Even a foot of water can be an issue if these things are in a cellar, and electricity and water makes a lethal combination as the recent floods on the East Coast of the US proofs.  

In Ireland all houses have to have a water tank installed in the attic to ensure a certain water pressure, and for a certain amount of emergency supply if mains pressure fails.  Your power needs to be arranged in a similar manner.  The main lead needs to be brought fully insulated up to the top floor and the main breakers placed there.  Then each floor need a main switch so they can each be isolated.   That way you can still have safe power even if the ground floor is flooded.  Just switch off  that floor.   This panel needs to be in a place high up tough.  You can’t stand in a foot of water switching electricity.   For extra security you can also have automatic sensors that can switch off each floor as required.  Even better combine it with a complete environment monitoring solution.  The hardware for a solution that measures temperature and have sensors for power outages and flooding and notifies you remotely, can be bought from as little as a few hundred.
If you have a ups and or generator  it needs to be placed as high up as possible.  What about in or around the lift room.  Yes it will be a bit noisy but think off that as the positive feedback that its working.
One generator is seldom enough to ensure absolute uninterrupted power.  Because of its mechanical nature and unregular use it will be prone to not starting automatically when you need it the most.  Think of it as your nice weather sports/convertible car that always have a flat battery the day the sun shines.   A good and periodic generator testing regime will help, but If your office don’t have 24 hour onsite personnel that is trained in how to start it in an emergency, you will need a backup.  And with in an emergency I mean the maybe 10 minutes you have before your ups runs out of batteries. 

There is ways of connecting power to make 2 generators cross-feed the same grid, together or one or the other.  It’s complicated and your average electrician is not to eager about it, but it can be done even a reasonable cost.   
Very few companies goes this far unless they have experienced first-hand what a unscheduled power outage can do to today’s vulnerable systems.  Think of however that with more abnormal weather patterns any place could experience a flash flooding, and have you investigated every part of the way electricity take from its place of production to your building.  You wouldn’t want any of those transformers to go off with a bang leaving you in darkness for what could be days.  

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