Low-voltage preventive and value-added maintenance:

Traditionally, maintenance work has been preventive—it saves users/customers money by avoiding downtime due to failures; the act of keeping a company’s systems and equipment up and running drives a preventive maintenance program. What follows are some examples of how preventive maintenance applies to certain equipment.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems require some regular maintenance, which can be performed during scheduled appointments. At the camera or pole, check the camera housing pressure (typically 5 PSI +/– 1 PSI); visually inspect the housing, the pan-tilt mechanism and the surge suppressor and ground; clean and remove debris; clean housing glass with a simple glass-cleaning solution; check wiper unit and blades; change filters in housing; inspect for corrosion; and check and test thermostat.

At the head end, inspect the cables and connectors; change filters; clean and vacuum the cabinet; and check surge protectors, terminals and connections for corrosion, camera functions, thermostat function (if present) and the fan for proper operation.

When the cable television (CATV) cabling is fiber, cable sheath monitoring acts as a good warning system. You can also use sensor wires and/or moisture tapes to detect splice housing integrity. Other maintenance tasks are inspecting/cleaning/replacing filters, removing dust from electronic equipment and regularly inspecting active equipment cabinets.

A new area of maintenance—value-added—deals with additional work that can and should be done to avoid equipment failures and downtime. It applies to systems being installed today, including some of the following examples.

  • For fiber optic cabling maintenance, inspect the connectors and cables, do an end face inspection (min. 400X scope), clean the connector end face, clean and inspect the coupler sleeve (coupler microscope), complete periodic insertion loss tests, perform an optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) test (reference to original acceptance trace), do a signal output test on active components checking for degradation, remove dust from cabinets or patch panels, and check pressure of splice cases.
  • A wireless or radio frequency system requires a different kind of maintenance than a cabled system. Inspect and clean the antenna; inspect cables and connections for corrosion and, if required, test the cables to Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) cabling test standards for the appropriate cable type; check weather seals on cables and connectors; clean and regrease cable connectors with a dielectric grease; clean and inspect cabinets; check weather seals, signal strength with appropriate test equipment, surge suppressors and ground connections; and remove dust and debris from the cables, connections and access point(s).
  • A telephone system or private branch exchange (PBX) requires cleaning and inspecting of cabinets/closets (no litter should be stored in a telecom closet); cleaning or replacement of filters; inspecting and cleaning cables and terminal blocks and checking for corrosion; managing cables; inspecting and tightening of ground cables and connections; checking surge suppressors and ground connections; periodic cable testing; inspecting coiled cords for fraying, etc.; replacing cross connects that are too short; and cleanup of excess or unneeded materials.

A good maintenance plan can be developed that is financially and physically practical for the customer and beneficial to both of you. Be proactive by recognizing the roles cabling and wireless access play—they still depend on the cabling (fiber, copper or coax) to function. Even wireless networks need to be cabled from the access point back to the telecom room.

Customers usually want to know what maintenance is going to cost them, and perhaps it may be helpful to tell them what it would cost if they don’t maintain the systems. The cost of maintenance would be miniscule compared to the money the company could lose if a system goes down.

John Vickery of Chula Vista Electric, Chula Vista, Calif., said: “A good analogy would be buying a new car and not doing any maintenance on it. How long would it last if you never changed the oil, filters or cleaned the engine versus how long it would last if you changed the oil every 3,000 miles; changed the air, oil and fuel filters; cleaned the engine regularly; and even gave it a wash and wax now and then?

“You can reasonably extend the life expectancy of any system if you make a good, practical effort at doing regular maintenance even if it is as simple as removing the dust and sweeping the floor,” Vickery said. “It’s also important to have that maintenance performed by qualified people. After all, I wouldn’t want my auto mechanic to be cleaning the connectors on my fiber optic cable system just because I can give him the tool!”                EC

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards.Contact her at randm@volcano.net or visit www.bcsreports.com.