A Potential Fire Warning

Since beginning this e-book I have answered countless emails with regards flicker cases that have had significant outcomes. In light of this (excuse the pun!), I have decided to dedicate a whole page to how flicker should be viewed.

Before I delve in to the following, I want to temper the warnings in this page with a warning not to verge on paranoia! The last thing needed is for all who suffer flicker to suddenly start thinking that fire is the next item on the agenda. Read this page in its full context!

While the phrase 'flicker does not necessarily indicating a potential hazard' was used in the closing paragraph of the previous page, it does not mean flicker should be ignored. This is especially true if the flicker suddenly becomes noticeable (or appears to be relatively sudden).

It is this fact that determines the reaction that should be taken, rather than the flicker as a single entity. If the flicker has always been there, and has neither increased or decreased in severity, then one can reasonably assume that varying loads are the prime cause (and, if unsure, then have this tested).

However, if one notices a sudden onset of flicker (or a dramatic change in severity), then it would prove extremely prudent to have the system tested for loose connections. One chap quickly responded to my warnings and advice (after my speedy response to his email, of course!) of a possible electrical fault and, without hesitation, got an electrician in.

In his words, "The electrician was called in but could find nothing wrong in the panel closest to the problem. When downstairs in the main control room, however, he heard a banging and cracking noise coming from one of the boxes. The electricity was then shut off and the fault corrected."

Thankfully the electrician did not just brush off the complaint and persisted in locating the fault. Here, by having heeded the warnings of flicker, shed-loads of money was saved.

In contrast, a medium sized manufacturing concern learned just how expensive ignoring flicker was when they had to replace their entire switchgear system which overheated from 'hotspots'! In another case, an entertainment and games complex ignored flicker only to later suffer countless burnt-out appliances together with some burnt-out wiring!

The same is true of domestic properties. I speak from personal experience where we suffered severe dips. The problem, thankfully, was not in the property - the inside of houses in this area of the world happens to be wood! - but proved to be a loose connection on the overhead take-off point. Had this been inside our home, however, things may have been a whole lot different!

I can fully understand a household not wanting to incur the expense of a power quality investigator just to ensure the home's electrics are in full working order, but it does amaze me that facilities managers of large office blocks are equally remiss.

Regular power audits would quickly indicate a shift towards a problem, long before some less technical person reports a lamp having started an annoying pattern of changing intensity. If every electrical concern could educate just one facilities manager to heed to this following simple rule, just think how many electrically started fires could be avoided!

To reiterate the simple rule; If flicker has suddenly become noticed, or there is any doubt whatsoever as to the cause, get the electrical system checked! Failure to do so may result in loss of structure or, even worse, life!

And, when calling in someone, please call the chap who has both the correct kit to test for this as well as the experience to understand what it is he is looking at! A bod with a multimeter, in this instance, just doesn't hack it.

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