Power to the people, but not too much

July 2018 Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management

Hi-Tech Security Solutions and Rob Anderson hosted the Residential Estate Security Conference in Durban earlier this year. Among the presentations offered to another full house, there were two that focused on electricity.

Riaan Allen
Riaan Allen

The first was by Riaan Allen from Ultimate Group who focused on keeping your power equipment running smoothly by insisting that everything is installed according to accepted international standards, and maintained in a similar manner by people qualified to do electrical work.

Don Drennan
Don Drennan

The second was all about lighting and surge protection for estates and was presented by Don Drennan from Drensky technologies. He demonstrated just what damage a surge could cause to an electrical component while providing interesting insights into lighting and its effects – none of which are good. Drennan presented a powerful argument for hiring skilled and experienced people to assist in limiting the damage surges and lightning can cause.

Keep the power flowing

When installing power systems to keep your security operations running, you naturally want a reliable system that can handle the ups and downs of South Africa’s electrical supply and that is able to keep functioning for a long time. This is quite a simple task, but not when you’re cutting corners and asking the wrong people to do the job.

Allen highlighted the difference between ‘sales engineers’ who are there to sell you electrical equipment to fit your budget irrespective of the realities you face, versus professional engineers who design a system for longevity. Designing a system without strict adherence to industry standards and taking the quality of the product into account is a recipe for disaster.

In the first instance, the optimal outcome is that your electrical systems won’t last as long as planned, requiring more investment into repairs and maintenance and the next installation project which will basically be a replacement project. At the most extreme, the result can be death for people who happen to be close to badly set up and cheap equipment. Once again, opting for the cheapest quote is not the way to long-term, reliable electrical power provisioning.

Some examples of poor design Allen highlighted, among many more, include:

• The generator size doesn’t match the UPS requirements,

• The supply to the UPS doesn’t allow for charging of batteries, and

• Equipment is loaded to full capacity.

In terms of compliance to standards, he said SANS 10142-1 is a good place to start when installing backup generators, UPSs and inverters, while SANS 10222-3 applies to electric fences. Of course, there are many standards, backed up by best practices in the installation and maintenance of electrical gear that experienced technicians will apply.

To ensure you are buying equipment that will work as required for the long term, Allen suggests looking at more than the quote. For example, he says examining the documentation and Certificates of Compliance will provide more insight into the products and decrease the chance of buying inferior goods. Study your service and maintenance contracts as well, especially for UPSs and generators (after making sure your generator can handle the load of supplying power and charging the UPS simultaneously). And, of course, consider future expansion you may have to undertake and plan to meet the power demands ahead of time.

A final word of caution Allen offered, based on experience at multiple sites, is to consider the cost of replacing cheaper equipment, or poorly installed equipment (effectively buying twice), as well as the cost of repairs when you want to opt for the lowest quote.

A powerful argument

For security managers who have had their fill of lightning damage to cameras and other equipment, Drennan started his presentation with the unfortunate news that lightning activity across South Africa has increased considerably over the past few years, even in coastal areas where there was little activity in 2011. He then showed the audience the different type of strikes that can occur and which pose a danger to electronic equipment.

The reasons electrical components fail 65% of the time is due to overstress, in other words, they try to handle more current than they were designed to handle which ‘fires the components’. Drennan showed a few examples of what can happen when a bolt of lightning or even a surge over stresses various components, with predictable results.

Drennan also stressed the importance of installing systems according to standards, such as SANS IEC 62305, among others, but added that correct earthing is a vital component of lightning and surge protection. He explained that an effective earthing system diverts excess energy away from protected equipment, but poor earthing results in a reduction of protection. It is also critical to properly maintain your earthing systems according to the manufacturer’s advice to ensure optimal operation. Again he provided examples of what not to do when trying to earth your systems and then potential results of cutting corners.

He then delved further into surge protection, looking at various low, medium and high energy devices before ending his presentation with a live demonstration of what happens when electrical components are faced with too much electricity.

The next Residential Estate Security conference will be held in Johannesburg in August 2018. For more information (especially as it will be held just as South Africa enters another lightning season), go to www.resc.co.za, or contact Dominique at +27 11 543 5800, or dominique@technews.co.za



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