Common Electrical Issues To Look Out For in Commercial Buildings
Commercial buildings usually have complicated electrical systems compared to residential ones. Although these systems have been designed to handle heavy electrical loads, they can often face numerous issues if improperly maintained. Understanding common electrical issues in commercial buildings and knowing how to address them can save your business a significant amount of money in terms of maintenance costs, energy bills, and potential damages from electrical-related accidents.
Understanding the Importance of Electrical Maintenance in Commercial Buildings
Proper electrical maintenance is crucial for commercial buildings. Neglecting it can lead to dangerous situations that put employees and customers at risk. Performing routine inspections and fixing issues quickly ensures a safe, efficient electrical system.
Consequences of Electrical Neglect in Commercial Buildings
Ignoring electrical issues in a commercial building can have severe consequences. Too much strain on outdated wiring can cause fires, especially in older buildings. Faulty connections and loose wiring also increase fire risk and electrical shock hazards. Overloaded circuit trip breakers repeatedly, disrupting business operations. Grounding issues can damage sensitive electronics when surges occur. Poor lighting from broken fixtures or bulbs wastes energy and creates eyestrain. Lack of maintenance causes unsafe conditions, equipment failures, work disruptions, and higher energy bills.
The Cost of Poor Electrical Maintenance
Insufficient electrical maintenance leads to expensive repairs down the road. Problems like faulty breakers and outdated wiring only get worse over time. The costs multiply when electrical failures damage inventory, electronics, and appliances. Revenue loss from closures for emergency electrical repairs also adds up. Proactive maintenance to fix minor issues before they escalate saves thousands in repair bills. It also prevents lost income from unexpected closures and equipment downtime. Well-maintained systems have fewer outages, lowering operating costs.
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Top 10 Electrical Issues to Watch Out for in Commercial Buildings
Now that you understand the impact electrical issues can have, let’s more closely examine the issues you should be aware of.
Issues with Circuit Breakers and Fuse Boxes
Faulty circuit breakers and fuse boxes pose serious risks. Breakers that fail to trip allow overloads that can ignite fires. They may also lack proper arc fault and ground fault protection. Outdated fuse boxes and panels should be upgraded to breakers for safety. Signs of issues include frequently tripped breakers, flickering lights, and buzzing from panels. Schedule professional inspections to test breakers and replace old fuse equipment.
Faulty Wiring and Outdated Electrical Systems
Building codes evolve for safety, so older systems need upgrades. Outdated wiring lacks the capacity for additional loads and modern protection. Exposed, damaged wires and loose connections can cause shorts, shocks, and fires. Have an electrician inspect entire systems for code violations and hazards. Consider total rewiring upgrades to prevent unsafe electrical situations.
Inefficient Lighting and High Energy Bills
Older lighting fixtures with incandescent bulbs waste energy and drive up utility bills. Burned-out bulbs and dusty covers also reduce light quality. Upgrade to LED fixtures with smart controls for maximum efficiency. Task lighting and occupancy sensors also help optimize usage. Group relamping improves light levels to meet workplace standards.
Inadequate Power Supply and Voltage Imbalances
Expanding electrical loads can overwhelm building wiring. Too many devices on one circuit cause tripped breakers and voltage drops. Voltage imbalance also strains equipment—audit circuits to balance loads. Evaluate power supply upgrades if capacity is insufficient. This may require new wiring, subpanels, or service upgrades.
Frequent Electrical Surges and Power Outages
Surges shorten electronics’ lifespan and destroy appliances. Install surge protectors on panels and equipment against spikes. Check breaker sizes and wiring, as outlets trip too easily. Add backup power sources like generators or uninterruptible power supplies for frequent outages. Ensure overhead lines are clear of trees. Update infrastructure like transformers, cables, and meters if degraded.
Insufficient Electrical Outlets
Too few outlets overload existing circuits and require dangerous extension cords. Survey work areas and add circuits to meet equipment needs. Include extra capacity for the future. Install tamper-resistant outlets and GFCI protection near sinks and outdoor access points. Remove prohibited multi-outlet extenders.
Connecting too many devices to one circuit overwhelms capacity. Overloads cause tripped breakers, voltage drops, and excessive heat buildup. Audit circuits and redistribute plug loads. Upgrade wiring if needed. The use of power strips does not increase capacity. Limit high-draw equipment on individual circuits.
Hot Spots and Electromagnetic Interference
Equipment crammed together causes hot spots that shorten life spans. Separate heat-generating items like computers and printers. Cool hot spots with fans and ventilation. Sources of electromagnetic interference like motors can disrupt appliances. Keep minimum distance between such equipment.
Inadequate grounding systems cannot safely divert surges. This leads to destroyed electronics and shock hazards. Inspect ground wires and connections for continuity. Bond all non-current metal parts. Install surge protective devices on electronics. Repair opened ground connections immediately before operating equipment.
Problems with Electrical Appliances and Equipment
Malfunctioning appliances like space heaters and old equipment pose fire risks. Replace outdated items like heat lamps. Repair or remove damaged power cords and plugs. Ensure commercial appliances are professionally installed and grounded. Enforce restrictions on portable personal appliances.
Proactive Measures to Address Electrical Issues in Commercial Buildings
If you recognize any of the above indications of issues, it’s only natural to want to find a solution. Let’s examine some ways a licensed electrician can help you address anything from damaged power lines to tripping circuits:
Regular Electrical Inspections and Maintenance
Regular inspections and maintenance of electrical systems are among the best ways for commercial building owners and facility managers to identify potential electrical hazards before they become more prominent, dangerous, and costly problems. Commercial electricians recommend inspecting main service panels, subpanels, breakers, wiring, outlets, switches, and junction boxes at least annually. Thermal imaging, infrared scanning, and power quality monitoring can also help detect hot spots and other anomalies. Preventative maintenance like tightening connections, replacing worn parts, and cleaning panels improves safety and can prevent outages. Documenting and tracking maintenance provides a record that systems are being adequately serviced.
Some key components commercial electricians inspect include the condition of wiring insulation, grounding, overcurrent protection devices like fuses and breakers, and load balancing. Voltage testing and load monitoring can identify if circuits are overloaded. Testing GFCIs, AFCIs, and surge protectors verifies proper functioning. Inspection reports, recommendations, and repairs should be documented. Following national and local electrical codes for inspection and maintenance intervals is essential for compliance.
Upgrading Outdated Electrical Systems
In aging commercial buildings, electrical systems may not be able to meet the demands of modern loads and devices. Components degrade over time, lowering capacity and creating hazards like shorts, sparks, and fires. Upgrading antiquated infrastructure improves electrical capacity, energy efficiency, reliability, and safety.
A licensed electrician can evaluate electrical systems to determine if upgrades are warranted. Some signs of outdated electrical infrastructure include flickering lights, frequently tripped breakers, ungrounded outlets, old knob, and tube wiring, inadequate circuit capacity, blown fuses, and slow wiring. Safety upgrades like arc fault (AFCI) and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) may be needed. Electrical panel and wiring upgrades provide capacity to add outlets and support larger loads.
Hiring Qualified Electricians for Electrical Repairs and Installation
Only experienced licensed commercial electricians with training in commercial systems and codes should perform electrical work in commercial buildings. Commercial electrical systems have unique specifications, higher power demands, and more complex installations than residential buildings. Mistakes can be extremely dangerous.
Facility managers should verify licenses, training, experience, and insurance for major electrical upgrades or repairs. Check references from other commercial projects. Get multiple bids for large jobs. Ask about permitting. Have a certified electrician do the final inspections. Only qualified electricians can install and repair lighting, wiring, panels, and equipment connections.
Legal and Safety Implications of Electrical Problems in Commercial Buildings
High electric bills, fire hazards, and dimming light bulbs aren’t the only reasons to call an electrician. Some electrical issues can land you in legal trouble as well. Let’s look at the implications of unchecked electrical issues.
Building Codes and Electrical Regulations
There are legal implications for failing to maintain commercial electrical systems or making unpermitted electrical alterations properly. Commercial building owners must follow federal, state, and local electrical and building safety codes. The National Electrical Code (NEC) provides minimum standards for safe electrical installations. Cities and counties adopt versions of the NEC as law.
Major electrical upgrades require permits and inspections to ensure code compliance. Licensed electricians are familiar with the required codes. Violations can result in substantial fines or citations requiring expensive remediation. Undiscovered problems put occupants at risk and make passing future inspections difficult. Keeping detailed maintenance records provides proof of code compliance.
Electrical Hazards and Workplace Safety Issues
Faulty or outdated electrical systems pose severe risks of electrical fires, shock, electrocution, and equipment damage in commercial facilities. This can lead to injuries, fatalities, lawsuits, or OSHA violations. The law requires employers to provide a safe workplace.
Proper PPE, training, warning signs, and locked access to electrical rooms reduce risks to employees performing maintenance. Circuit breakers, GFCIs, and adequate wiring containment prevent shocks. Appropriate commercial lighting improves visibility and prevents falls. Regular inspections by certified electricians and promptly addressing hazards minimize dangers.
Experiencing Electrical Issues at Your Facility? Turn to Brint Electric
With over five decades of experience, Brint Electric has a wealth of expertise in the commercial and heavy industrial electrical sectors. Our seasoned professionals, backed by our affiliation with IBEW Local 8 and The Ohio/Michigan Chapter of NECA, possess unparalleled skills honed through years of successful projects. This wealth of experience equips us to swiftly identify and resolve any electrical issues you face, ensuring efficient solutions tailored to your needs. Trust us to power what’s important to you. Reach out today to discuss your electrical challenges and benefit from our expertise. Get your free quote now.