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Tech Tips - Turning Errors into Business Opportunities

The United States has more than 4.4 million non-mall commercial buildings, according to the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) report from the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy. The report said these buildings use around 890 billion kilowatt hours annually.

With so many buildings using so much electricity, one would think that how these buildings are wired would be important. It’s scary to think that most of these buildings do not have an accurate one-line electrical diagram. “A conservative guess would be that 90 to 95 percent of all facilities have one-lines with major defects that do not reflect the way the distribution system is connected or sized,” said Ken Lovorn, president and chief engineer at Lovorn Engineering Associates, LLC, in Pennsylvania.

The one-line diagram is the most important drawing a facility can have for understanding its electrical system. If properly drawn, it shows the correct power distribution path from the incoming power source to each downstream load— including the ratings and sizes of each piece of electrical equipment, the circuit conductors, and the protective devices.

Look for the silver lining

As electricians, electrical engineers, and electrical contractors, you have probably seen evidence of problem situations. How did you respond?

You can leverage the fact that most facilities have documentation discrepancies, electrical system deficiencies, and sometimes major code violations as a major business opportunity. For example, among its engineering services, Lovorn Engineering Associates offers one-line documentation, review, and recommendations to correct deficiencies and code violations.

With new residential construction still in the economic doldrums, adding one-line documentation services to your mix can help boost business, and perhaps keep more electrical professionals employed. If your electrical contracting or engineering services business already offers this service, consider using it to identify further electrical service business. Identifying documentation errors is important, but correcting electrical errors and code violations is critical. While providing the one-line documentation correction service, note and document issues that could turn into opportunities for follow-up business.

From surveys to audits

Lovorn said that the one-line documentation issue is widespread because building owners have not been enlightened regarding the existence, the extent, and the potential dangers of this situation.

One way to raise awareness is by conducting a facility survey using highquality measurement tools such as thermal imagers, multimeters, and clamp meters to inspect the facility. Then, based on the survey results, follow the facility survey with a more in-depth audit using highquality measurement tools such as data loggers and power-quality meters or power recorders.