Maintaining Panelboards

Working in a control room of a TV station is exciting. The person on the desk gets to communicate with the news anchors that are live on air. There is rarely a dull moment when delivering live news bulletins. This rhythm was broken recently when out of nowhere the panelboard, which controls the studio equipment, short-circuited. Most people know panelboards as the electrical boxes that you only remember when a certain socket or light switch trips and someone has to go turn it on again. In most buildings, the panelboard is usually tucked away in a hidden corner because it is not supposed to be touched unless there is an emergency. In the studio the board is placed inside the control room high up on a corner of the wall.

On the particular day, there was a loud sound from the panelboard followed by silence and then all the equipment suddenly went off. With the station off air, there were frantic efforts to find alternative power sources from other parts of the building to manually connect all the equipment. The interruption, which lasted for about 30 minutes, cost the station a lot because it occurred during primetime. As the technicians worked on the problem, it was time to find out how one part of the electrical system could cause so much inconvenience and how this disaster could be prevented in future.

According to the repair technicians, panelboards, like all other electrical equipment, require regular service. Some of the causes of malfunctions in panelboards are:

-Lack of proper ventilation leading to overheating within the board

-Dust that has accumulated over time finding its way inside connectors

-Poor alignment of the cables inside the panelboards

-A power overload on the system

-Expansion and contraction of the connections when the current is turned on and off leading to loosening over time

-Poor placement of panelboards that allows moisture to find its way in side the unit

Although the situation was dealt with promptly and without much damage to the equipment, not many people are that lucky. According to the US Fire Administration, electrical distribution systems are the fourth largest contributors to fires in buildings accounting for over 50,000 fires annually. The electrical fires are estimated to cause over 490 deaths and close to 1,500 fire injuries. A substantial number of these fires originate from poorly maintained panelboards. This is unfortunate because most of these fires are preventable if homes and buildings were to follow simple panelboard maintenance rules.

The solution lies in seeking the services of electrical specialists to conduct regular checks on the power distribution systems in homes and commercial buildings. Certain simple tasks such as ensuring the unit is free from dust and moisture can be carried out by the owner of the building. These simple measures will go a long way in keeping the panelboard operating in good condition. The electrical contractor who does the installation can no doubt give some maintenance tips and their services will only be required once a year just to confirm whether the cables are firm. Next time you pass by any of the panelboards in your building, take note of its condition and schedule maintenance or replacement if it is needed.