Five years ago, with the move to high efficiency equipment, Fluke began receiving trouble calls from service techs. The calls came post-installation, and they weren't about the new equipment—they were about other parts of the system that were now operating erratically, if at all.
The problem? Older electrical distribution systems often do not meet the power requirements of new, electronically controlled high-E equipment. Many facilities do not conduct load studies before installing new equipment and are not prepared for the impact that a new unit makes on other loads. More specifically, when a facility starts adding controls and electronics, it introduces harmonics into the power distribution system that might cause performance issues with other equipment in the system.
At that point, Fluke stepped up its training and awareness work in power quality troubleshooting to the HVAC community. We also began work on our next generation of power quality analyzers.
Troubleshooting power quality problems is one thing, but fixing them involves a conversation with management. Resolving harmonics issues requires the help of an electrical engineer and then purchasing and possibly installing mitigation equipment. Redistributing loads or adding system capacity also carries costs. How does a technician make the case to management that the problems caused by erratic equipment performance merit the expense of the solution? Normally, they can't, so failures happen and fingers get pointed.
Thankfully, professors at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain were able to devise a solution. They developed a way to quantify the amount of power made unusable by harmonics distortion and load imbalance. Up until that point, all Fluke could do was help our customers identify the presence of harmonics and imbalance. But, by partnering with the professors, Fluke has been able to develop a next-generation of power quality tools that are able to not just identify—but also quantify—the power waste and multiply it by the utility rate schedule, so that the user can demonstrate to management the exact cost, over time, of poor power quality.
Now, HVAC technicians faced with power problems will have the tool they need to detect the problem AND to make a convincing case for implementing a solution. Buildings that manage their energy costs may see the justification in remedying operational issues caused by power quality if they can quantify the associated reduction in their utility bill. The new models, the Fluke 434 and 435 Series II Power Quality and Energy Analyzers, replace the existing models starting in January of 2012.