Predictive, Preventive and Reactive Maintenance in Thermal Management

Electrical equipment failures due to ineffective heat dissipation account for millions in damage and lost business every year. Ironically, more than two thirds of electrical system failures can be prevented by a routine maintenance program. Maintenance approaches can vary by application but are commonly referred to as predictive, preventive, or reactive. Each of these approaches has advantages and limitations, some becoming more frequently adopted with the availability of new technologies.

Electrical cabinets control systems, automations, and processes all over the World but their usefulness is often overlooked, with designers choosing to avoid the insignificant cost of small ventilation components that could protect from future electrical fails. We regularly speak to engineers following each of the key maintenance approaches, so we’ll review each in terms of thermal management.

Reactive maintenance is activated on the occurrence of a fault. This approach reduces initial outlay costs but is outweighed by the costly downtime and service interruptions while repairs are made and while spare parts are ordered on long lead times, especially in the UK currently. An example of reactive maintenance is the build up of dust and dirt in filter fans, ultimately reducing the airflow within an enclosure that is noticed too late. A reduction in effectiveness and the downtime from replacing or cleaning the equipment is then an issue. A second is inadequate heat dissipation when natural convection is a chosen method of temperature control. If hotspots located in certain areas are created in the cabinet this could lead to the overheating of components. In this case it is necessary to intervene with a ventilation system, again leading to costly and ineffective downtime. Preventative maintenance is cyclical, carried out on a schedule to perform a regular cycle of replacing and maintaining components before they, or the system starts to fail. The downside of this is unnecessary spend on components before their end-of-life period. An example of preventative maintenance occurs in the months that offer the largest threats to enclosures: Summertime. Heat, debris, and moisture are often neutralised in the summer months by adding components such as fan filters, roof units and regulation devices such as thermostats to control the temperature and prevent the overheating of outdoor enclosures.

Predictive maintenance is carried out only when the condition of the component requires its replacement and for this reason is also known as proactive maintenance. It is a recent technique made more possible with the introduction of IoT technology with the collection of data and system algorithms being capable of deducing the degradation of components effectively. Its inclusion among industry 4.0 smart technology has accelerated its use in many industrial sectors. Predictive maintenance initially concerned mechanical components which are subject to wear and tear and capable of showing obvious signs of degradation like vibrations but is now inclusive of other components. For electrical enclosures information is obtained from the climatic parameters because many failures, both mechanical and electronic, cause local increases in temperature. At the same time, a loss of effectiveness of the ventilation due to accidental obstacles or dirtying of filters can cause a temperature drift inside the cabinet and in turn, be the cause of failure. IoT devices such as our Sensis monitoring systems are dedicated to predictive maintenance in thermal management of enclosures to maintain the optimal temperature level with KPI’s monitored and anomalies reported with traffic light logic.

If you’re experiencing thermal heat dissipation issues with electrical enclosures or you’re not happy with the existing fans or cooling units in your system, call our team of fan integration experts at Axair Fans on 01782 349 430. We’ll help with thermal heat dissipation calculations and product selection to complement your maintenance approach. Alternatively you can buy all thermal management products on our ecommerce website at trade prices.