Replacing an Aging Electrical Control Panel Boosts Safety, Reduces Costs 

Although electrical control panels are an integral component in automated equipment as they include a combination of electrical devices that distribute power to control the mechanical functions of industrial machinery, most facilities put them in place and then largely ignore them. This can be a dangerous and expensive oversite. Replacing an aging control panel with an updated one will not only boost facility safety, but advances in control panel technology are also likely to increase productivity, efficiency and reliability, all of which will contribute to a better bottom line by reducing the production costs associated with outdated electrical devices that may be slowing down operations. 

What Function Does an Electrical Control Panel Serve? 

While control panel components and functions vary depending on the machinery or process that it is controlling, in general, electrical control panels distribute power and control, monitor and protect equipment. A simple electrical control panel receives power from a power source and distributes it to components such as circuit breakers and power relays that are used to run equipment. However, thanks to technological developments, today’s advanced electrical control panels are smarter than their predecessors. In many cases, replacing an older-style electrical control panel with a more modern one that includes updated controls and functions not only reduces safety risks, but also provides significant financial benefits. This blog will explain when it’s necessary to replace an aging control panel, as well as the ways in which new technologies can help reduce production costs. 

When to Replace an Aging Electrical Control Panel 

In addition to being outdated and potentially slowing a process down, there are situations in which an older-style electrical control panel can be a safety hazard. Here are 5 sure signs that an electrical control panel poses a safety risk and should be replaced: 

  1. Circuit breakers frequently trip: This can indicate that the circuit breakers are aging or malfunctioning, that the insulation of current-carrying conductors is deteriorating or that there is an overload of connected equipment – all of which can result in a serious electrical hazard. 
  2. It has frayed or damaged wires, loose connections or open live parts: Again, all of these conditions indicate a serious safety risk and can result in fires or electrical hazards. 
  3. It appears rusted, has water damage or the door doesn’t close: Water and electricity don’t mix, so it’s important to find the source of the water damage, correct it and replace damaged electrical components and control panels as soon as possible to avoid a disastrous situation. 
  4. It smells like something is burning, it sparks when plugging things in or buzzing sounds can be heard coming from the breaker box: All of these conditions indicate serious problems within an electrical control panel, such as overloaded circuits, shorts in the wiring, faulty breakers or faulty load equipment and should be addressed immediately to prevent major hazards. 
  5. Obsolete components:  The panel may need to be replaced if some components are becoming difficult to get in a timely manner or being discontinued. 
  6. Installation of New Equipment: If equipment is being upgraded or replaced, the power requirement may be higher than what is currently available through the existing control panel. If this is the case, you will need a service upgrade to safely and adequately meet the input voltage and power requirements of more modern equipment. In addition, new automated equipment may offer advanced features that can be accessed and accommodated by a more advanced control panel that includes improved technological control features. Taking advantage of new developments and upgraded control mechanisms can provide a host of production-related advantages. 

The Advantages of Using Modern Electrical Control Panels 

While the main goal of electrical control panels is to protect, centralize and organize electrical components, updated, modern control panels often feature advanced components and technologies that will more efficiently power and control electrical and automated machinery. Some of the advantages include: 

Enhanced Process ControlOlder-style electrical control panels with outdated technology may be slowing down the process or making it difficult for operators to run equipment. Updated electrical control panels provide a centralized area where more modern controls are located, allowing operators to better control the operation of the equipment in a more simplified manner. More modern technology also makes it easier to safely and quickly stop machinery in an emergency. 
Increased Efficiency and Optimization of the EquipmentToday’s electrical control panels can be customized to provide a centralized location from which operators can monitor and adjust process variables, ensuring that the machines will run in the most efficient and optimal manner. When PLCs and other control hardware are included in the panel, data can be collected from the equipment and used to determine, in real time, whether the equipment is running within specifications based on pre-programmed setpoints. Using this data and the simplified control scheme, operators can take corrective actions to quickly return equipment and processes to the ideal setpoint, ensuring optimized process conditions. 
Reduced DowntimeWhen equipped to do so, an electrical control panel can be used to identify and predict equipment performance issues that may be caused by faulty components. When this type of information is easy to access and available, it can be used to alert operators and maintenance technicians that minor repairs are needed before equipment suffers a complete breakdown. When maintenance needs can be predicted and scheduled in advance, it reduces unscheduled downtime and increases equipment and facility uptime, allowing more throughput and productivity. 
Increased Product QualityAutomated systems with controls kept in a centralized electrical control panel can be controlled with greater precision and less operator interaction, reducing the human error and inconsistencies between operators, which increases consistency, repeatability and reliability of the process, leading to improved product quality and reducing waste and re-work. 
Increased Energy EfficiencyWhen equipped to do so, electrical control panels provide real-time data that informs users about spikes or disruptions to the power system of the equipment. Once issues are pinpointed, advanced control panel technology simplifies the process of making adjustments, allowing operators to easily return the equipment to optimal running conditions, boosting electrical reliability and reducing the electricity bill. 

Once these benefits are considered, it is easy to see that replacing an aging electrical control panel not only enhances safety, but also reduces production costs by providing increased efficiency, reliability and product quality. 

For more information on updating your electrical control panels and boosting facility safety and efficiency, please contact JHFOSTER