Branching Out

Looking into other maintenance work:

For the contractor, there has always been a market for telephony-related maintenance work—moves, adds and changes; looking closer, I have found notably more types of functions/services customers use that require maintenance. The contractor may want to consider them and see if they fit into his/her business model.

The type of maintenance work on the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries depends on the types of batteries installed. Flooded-cell batteries (the electrolyte is visible through the glass container) deliver higher performance for a greater length of time (some last 10 years), but they have higher initial costs and advanced maintenance requirements. Valve-regulated batteries—often known as sealed or maintenance-free batteries—have lower upfront costs and require less maintenance than the flooded-cell batteries. However, they also have higher internal resistance and a shorter life (average life is seven years).

Battery maintenance can include regular visual inspections for corrosion and heat damage; monitoring the internal resistance of all cells that can infer the remaining battery capacity after those measurements and adjustments; and testing of UPS batteries (calibrations). It can also include tightening connecting bolts; measuring exhaust airflow (with remedial action if necessary); performing a battery “run-down” test to make sure the battery should be replaced; and verification that spill containment materials are available, that emergency wash stations are operational, and battery-room exhaust systems are functioning. Finally, the battery manufacturer should recommend a maintenance program.

NFPA 72 describes fire alarm and smoke detector maintenance. The tests can be weekly, monthly or annually, and maintenance consists of cleaning, performance, checking effectiveness of the power source and alarm operation.

Even though smoke detectors are designed to be as free from maintenance as possible, general maintenance practices include performing a visual inspection at least twice a year; notifying the appropriate people involved (if it’s connected to a reporting system) that the smoke detector is undergoing maintenance and will be temporarily out of service; removing dust from the detector by vacuuming through the openings in the outside housing; or following the manufacturer’s recommended procedures for cleaning and testing each detector within one year after installation and every other year thereafter.

If the detector’s sensitivity is outside specs, clean and retest. If that does not fix the problem, follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedure. When testing, use a calibrated test method, the manufacturer’s calibrated sensitivity test instrument, “Listed” control equipment or other calibrated sensitivity test method acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

Keeping a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) monitoring system in top condition involves regular inspections of all major components, including cabling and connections (where accessible) for signs of deterioration or damage; checking cameras for corrosion, damage or deterioration; and verification of field of view, proper lens focus, clean housing windows, and pan/tilt unit condition. Make adjustments if necessary. Also, check operation of switchers, including external alarm interfaces and time and data settings.

Some security systems use a VCR to record activity. The videotape requires maintenance because it is often used 24/7. Manufacturers have recommendations for servicing internal parts. Constant use means wear and tear on the tape and the VCR itself.

General practices here are to carry out periodic inspections of equipment, check and record the number of tape passes (in some kind of log/record), and clean the tape head (if not done by the customer).

For your customers to realize the energy savings when they have a solar collector system installed, the system needs to be periodically checked out.

Make sure that the pump runs after the sun has been shining on the collectors for about an hour, it is plugged in and the controller is on. Check to see if any wires from the collector temperature sensor are disconnected from the controller, whether the collector temperature sensor is mounted firmly and whether there is insulation on the sensor wires running to the storage tank.

For every customer you have, there are additional opportunities for maintenance work that must be performed. Let the customer know what you can do for them whenever you are on the premises. When this type of work appears, have a maintenance contract ready, and present it to your customer. This kind of support is important in two ways: it puts you on the customer’s premises more often, and it shows them how valuable you are.

Another way to look at this work, if you want to do it, is to estimate its dollar value to you. The repeat business may be very good. It can fill in between higher paying work. Plus, your customer relies on you more because you are helping them, and at the same time, you are getting very familiar with their environment.     EC

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. To contact her, see or send e-mail to


About the Author

Marilyn Michelson

Freelance Writer
Marilyn Michelson, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards.

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