Monitor aging equipment without replacement

Electrical gateways provide an inside view of a facility’s electrical distribution and control equipment. Older pieces of large equipment, including motor-control centers, switchgear, and panelboards, were not engineered when proactive energy management was a primary concern. See five key benefits to using electrical gateways.
By Rick Schear July 2, 2015

Finding effective ways to increase the energy efficiency and overall performance of electrical equipment begins with historical knowledge of how power is being used. However, many older pieces of large equipment, including motor-control centers, switchgear, and panelboards, were not engineered when proactive energy management was a primary concern.

As a result, it can be a time-consuming and difficult process to quantify and analyze the energy data of these devices. Despite advancements in intelligent metering devices, personnel are still often required to tap into information on a device-by-device basis.

Modern web-based gateway management portals allow users to easily create, view, and update one-line electrical representations of their electrical system with animations and color-coding that indicate device status. Courtesy: Eaton

This means information cannot be analyzed until it is logged into a spreadsheet, and entire systems cannot be proactively evaluated without developing a method to transition spreadsheet data for each device into a comprehensive view. These important processes can be simplified by using devices called gateways.

Power management gateways

Fundamentally, gateways provide a way to collect electrical parameters and aggregate data from electrical equipment like meters, relays, and circuit breaker trip units into a system that can be monitored and managed. By collecting data from serial communicating monitoring devices and other electronic motor control and power distribution components, these devices can bring diverse power components into a system that can be tracked, analyzed, and used to make intelligent decisions.

The electrical data that gateways typically collect includes volts, amps, watts, kilowatt-hours, power-factor, and other parameters to give the user a blueprint of what is happening in the equipment. Also, gateways can provide alarms and event status on communications, over and under voltage or current, and other available alarms from serial devices.

Unlike predecessors that have been around for more than a decade, today’s gateway devices enable users to access all information remotely via a dedicated Webpage. And, contrasting similar monitoring solutions with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the online management portals included with modern gateway devices allow users to easily generate and export activity logs based on alarm history or historical device data in table, graph, or chart format.

These management portals also allow users to easily create, view, and update a one-line electrical representation of the electrical system with animations and color-coding that indicates device status to enable a simple, comprehensive view of electrical components.

Modern gateways also use open protocols, enabling communications with devices that communicate via an open protocol like Modbus, regardless of the manufacturer—allowing for seamless integration into energy management, building management, and facility monitoring systems.

But how do these new features translate into the actionable intelligence needed to drive continuous improvement? 

Five key benefits

1. Safety: Monitoring systems can limit the exposure of personnel to potentially hazardous electrical environments by providing remote status and operational parameters.

2. Reliability: Assessment of data from the monitoring system can reveal issues that could adversely affect the operation and productivity of a facility. Historical data from power monitoring systems can help locate and correct both acute and chronic problems, resulting in increased productivity. Alarm notifications also can be proactively set to warn of underperforming equipment and conditions threatening uptime.

3. Energy efficiency: A better knowledge of how energy is used within a facility allows for identification of an array of prospects to improve efficiency, minimize waste, and reduce energy consumption. The ability to benchmark performance and export in-depth reports allows for verification of energy management program success.

4. Simplified maintenance: Trended data and reporting capabilities allow users to better forecast when defined equipment parameters may be exceeded, allowing facility management to plan ahead instead of facing an unscheduled shutdown of equipment.

5. Operational costs: Each benefit discussed above either directly or indirectly influences a business’ bottom line. In most cases, the monetary impact from even one or two benefits can quickly justify the purchase and installation of a power monitoring system. Monitoring systems also can be scaled from one single piece of equipment to an entire facility—allowing for incremental expansion with budget and facility growth.

– Rick Schear is product manager at Eaton; edited by Eric R. Eissler, editor-in-chief, Oil & Gas Engineering, 

Key concepts

  • Older equipment was not designed to operate in an energy-conscience approach.
  • Modern gateways allow users to easily manage the electrical system via online portals.
  • The benefits of the system usually justify the investment.

Consider this

How much could a company save on overhead if electricity were better managed? 

ONLINE extra

See additional stories on reducing downtime and monitoring energy and power below.