Integrated electrical and low-voltage systems of all types—inside and outside a building—encompass the range of work that electrical contractors do. The articles in this section highlight different types of work, from security, fire and life safety, to traditional electrical power and distribution, to lighting, cabling and more. 

Energy consumer demand for distributed-energy resources (DER) is growing for a number of reasons—unexpected utility power outages, planned rolling blackouts, power quality problems, increases in power costs, etc.

The 2016 Profile of the Electrical Contractor reveals how electrical contractors see the industry changing and how they intend to adapt. Change occurs in the fire alarm and communications world as well. As you know, keeping up with these changes can prove difficult. 

Evolution in action

Much has been said and written about analog video cameras and the move to internet protocol (IP) networked digital surveillance. Some predicted the demise of analog and takeover by IP devices would progress quickly, but clearly that hasn’t happened.

A while back, I wrote about a house with 14 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels installed on the southern exposure roof. Voltage and current monitoring at the breaker panel prior to the solar panel installation had shown 10–12-volt (V) deep sags occurring as frequently as every 22 minutes.

More on Systems

Training Day: Comtel Systems

Comtel Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif., has been in business since 1982. It employs about 100 people and does virtually all types of low-voltage work. Comtel tends to specialize in physical security (access control, data surveillance, alarms), nurse call and public address.

30 Years Later: Are fire alarms systems easier to install today?

Thirty years ago, fire alarm equipment contained relays only in the fire alarm control units. The most information you could obtain from a fire alarm system was the device actuation zone.

Bosch L-Boxx insert tray
Cool Tools: Portable Containers

At one time, a toolbox was just a metal box. Then, plastic and composite materials came along. Whatever the material, it remained a box, perhaps with a pull-out tray to hold smaller items. But what about portable containers for accessories and supplies?

We Need More Fiber

Recent columns have focused on what is happening with dark fiber, that which is being “lit” to become the backbone of the world’s communications systems. Dark fiber connects data centers, cell towers, cities, towns, governments and people.

A New Frontier Of Sales

Are electrical contractors getting what they need online from their distributors? The answer, as it happens so often, depends on whom you ask.

Figure 1: Phase current and demand plots for July 22–Aug. 3
25 Cents A Blink

The electrical energy usage in most industrial and commercial facilities follows a reasonably consistent pattern from week to week, so a one-week monitoring program usually is adequate to determine what can be done to save 10–20 percent on electric bills.

Normal Wear And Tear

In the course of daily business, you often receive a request to update or replace electrical systems in a building. Have you ever proactively asked customers to allow you to review and audit their fire alarm systems?