The Tools of Maintenance

Each contractor generally has his own maintenance philosophy, but some parts are common for every contractor. For example, the overall goal should be to offer the most comprehensive service possible. To accomplish that goal, contractors need the proper tools. Most tool and equipment choices vary by company, but there are some staples that electrical maintenance personnel should have on hand.

Tools of the trade

Power quality tools: Power quality analyzers help contractors stave off equipment downtime and failures. Maintaining power quality is beneficial, because it reduces unplanned downtime, which translates to a decrease in productivity. Also, enhanced power quality saves energy, which in today’s high-cost energy world can mean big -savings.

Insulation testers: Insulation testers, also referred to as insulation resistance testers, detect deterioration of wire insulation and help predict if and when those cables will fail (by routinely checking them).

Failed insulation can allow moisture to affect equipment, which could cause failure, so testers in this category monitor the insulation. As insulation deteriorates over time, due to dirt, moisture and stress, the voltage flow eventually becomes compromised. Insulation testers can predict viability.

Infrared thermometers/thermography: Thermography and thermal imaging are a first line of defense in maintenance. These help identify temperature changes, which can be detrimental to electrical systems. Heat can cause big systematic problems, and detecting temperature changes can help prevent problems from occurring.

Infrared thermometers have the ability to detect temperature changes and hot spots. Infrared tools have helped move heat-seeking abilities from the military right into the contractor’s toolbox. One of the most beneficial aspects of this type of tool is that it does not require contact.

Multimeters: Known mainly as digital multimeters (DMM), these are still used to test voltage, current and resistance (volts, amps and ohms). Most are advanced enough to also test for temperature, but most regular maintenance contractors use thermometers and thermography for that aspect.

Information on a DMM is displayed on an LCD screen, which is superior to analog multimeters that used a needle to display readings. Battery operation makes them portable and one of the top choices in testing equipment.

Making the most of tools

Simply having the proper tools is not enough. Understanding when to use them, and more importantly, how to use and maximize the results makes all the difference.

Having technicians that are trained properly in tool and equipment usage strengthens a contractor’s maintenance offerings, and that keeps customers coming back.

Another way to get the most out of electrical testing results is to use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to keep running logs of all readings and findings. A CMMS is more of a benefit to the contractor performing the maintenance as it helps tracks all outlays and expenditures (for time, material and labor), so that profitability can be determined. This is a critical step to ensure that the time and money being spent on system maintenance is being reaped through the contract dollar amount.

Remember, most maintenance contracts do eventually come up for renewal at some point. So, knowing if they are profitable for you is important, as is making sure your team is using the proper tools and equipment, in the right way. Those elements, when combined, help set the stage for success in maintenance. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at


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