Ultimate Buyers Guide to Power Conditioners
Clean, distributed power supply is pivotal for industrial systems to perform optimally and safely. Regardless of technological sophistication, electrical equipment relies on stable incoming AC mains. Noisy or unstable voltage supplies result in frequent equipment breakdown or random erratic behaviour.
If your premise is bogged by fluctuating voltages, electrical transients, surges, or RF interference, installing a power conditioner dramatically improves the power quality. However, you must consider several factors before investing in an AC power conditioner.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need about power conditioners and how to choose the right one for your applications.
What is a power conditioner?
A power conditioner, or line conditioner, is a protective device that removes electrical anomalies on the supply line and ensures clean power for the connected load. Power conditioners protect industrial systems against surges, electrical transients, RF interference, sudden voltage spikes, and fluctuations. These irregularities happen due to several factors, including lighting strikes, adjacent high-power loads, and power distribution cable length.
Industrial premises are well-known for their non-ideal electrical environment. Without a power conditioner, industrial equipment exposed to prolonged voltage spikes will degrade and fail before its stipulated lifespan. A power conditioner acts as an intermediary that converts ‘dirty power’ into a clean voltage, allowing the equipment to operate consistently within nominal voltage ratings.
Usage of a power conditioner
At the heart of highly-intelligent industrial systems are semiconductor chips like microcontrollers, RAMs, communication ICs, and logic modules. These electronics require stable voltage to function and are very sensitive to fluctuations. For example, a sudden drop in the operational threshold puts the microcontroller into a brownout state, which causes it to reset. This affects the operation of equipment that the microcontroller drives.
Hence, the power conditioner plays a vital role in protecting sensitive electronic equipment. It safeguards the underlying electronics from direct exposure to various electrical disturbances. Some equipment, such as AC motors, overheats when operating at low voltage, and using a power conditioner with voltage-regulating functionality prevents such issues.
The power supply line is susceptible to electrical noise coupling from adjacent high-speed transmission signals or sudden switching of inductive loads. A noisy power line might not necessarily cause equipment failure but can trigger erratic behaviour. For example, laboratory monitors flicker due to the electrical noise at specific frequencies.
Power conditioners filter electrical noise by suppressing voltage that exceeds the rated frequencies. It prevents the power distribution cable from acting as a conductive medium for electromagnetic interference (EMI). This ensures analog electronics, such as instrumentations and control devices, transmit and receive accurate signals.
The AC waveform is a pure sinusoidal signal. In a 3-phrase supply, the waveforms are out of phase by 120 degrees. Harmonics are occurrences where the AC waveform has been distorted. When left unmitigated, harmonics can severely affect the underlying equipment. For example, transformers might overheat, circuit breaker trips, and PLC freezes as a lasting effect of harmonics on power lines.
How does a power conditioner work?
The primary goal of a power conditioner is to remove fluctuations from the voltage supply. Depending on its underlying mechanism, you’ll find different power conditioners vary in performance.
A passive-type power conditioner consists of basic noise-filtering components, such as resistors, inductors and capacitors. These components form a simple low-pass filter, which blocks high-frequency electrical noises from passing through. While passive-type power conditioners are budget-friendly, they don’t have robust noise suppression capabilities.
This variant of power conditioner adds an isolation transformer to provide physical separation between the load and supply. Such a setup increases its noise-reduction ability but at the expense of a bulkier structure. Also, the transformer’s damping effect attenuated the power transferred to the load.
The AC regenerative power conditioner is the costliest to build but provides superior noise reduction and voltage regulation to industrial systems. Instead of passive components, it features a microcontroller-powered circuit, variable transformer and noise-filtering components. This allows the power conditioner to suppress harmonics and optimise the AC voltage waveform for optimum power efficiency.
3 Key features to consider when buying a power conditioner
While power conditioners are generally geared towards the same purpose, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on your project requirement, you’ll want to choose one that works within the parameters. These are essential points to consider when selecting a power conditioner.
Output Voltage Accuracy
Most power conditioner comes with automated voltage regulation (AVR) function. It helps address voltage swell or sag issues and produce an output within the nominal level. The question is, how accurate is the output voltage? Do consult with the power conditioner manufacturer to ensure that it meets your equipment’s requirements.
Despite the manufacturer’s best efforts, power conditioners might be affected by production issues or component quality. This is where the warranty comes in. A warranty that covers manufacturing defects throughout site usage protects your investment within a stipulated period. Ashley Edison offers 3 years of warranty for all power line conditioners to ensure you have peace of mind when using our solutions.
High Quality MOV
Power conditioners act as a buffer for surges and electrical transients with the MOV. The MOV, or metal oxide varistor, is an electrical component that channels excessive power during electrical transients to the ground. If the MOV fails, the surge bypasses the power conditioner and causes severe damage to the protected equipment. Therefore, you should choose a power conditioner equipped with robust MOVs.
High-risk consequences of not using a power conditioner
Some project managers hesitate to buy a power conditioner. But doing so comes with consequences. Without a power conditioner, all your equipment draws power from an unprotected supply line. A lighting strike or electrical disturbance puts costly equipment in its direct path of devastation. You’ll soon find yourself making calls to repair or replace the damaged equipment, perhaps at increasing frequencies.
Equipment repair and replacement are time-consuming and disrupt industrial operations. For businesses, this translates into hefty operational losses and other indirect miss opportunity costs. According to Forbes, unplanned downtime costs an average of $50 billion annually. The staggering number dwarves the price of a high-quality power conditioner.
frequent downtimes damage customer trust, investor confidence and brand reputation. The inability to meet schedules, stemming from a misinformed cost-saving measure, leaves long-lasting damages for companies. It makes no sense to forgo a power conditioner, particularly with the benefits far outweighing the cost.
How does it compare to other voltage solutions?
Power conditioners ensure industrial equipment receives adequate protection from power surges. However, it might not be as useful in some circumstances. Here’s how power conditioners differ from other voltage solutions.
An automatic voltage regulator (AVR) ensures that the electrical load is powered by a stable voltage supply. Many power conditioners are built with AVR functionalities, although basic power conditioners only provide transient mitigation features. Likewise, unlike a power conditioner, not all AVR protects electrical loads against surges.
UPS, short for uninterruptible power supply, automatically switches to a battery backup supply when the mains AC fail. It ensures that mission-critical applications, such as data centres and operating theatres, continue to function despite power outages. It is not meant for surge or transient mitigation as a power conditioner does.
A surge protector serves only one purpose–protecting equipment from lighting strikes. It consists of a series of surge suppression components, including MOV, TVSS diodes or gas discharge tubes (GDT), to instantly clamp the excessive power and shunt the current to the ground. Meanwhile, power conditioners not only offer surge suppression capability but also filter the mains supply to eliminate fluctuations.
How much does a power conditioner cost?
AC power line conditioners command a diverse price range, depending on the brand, quality and use cases. For example, you can buy a 45 kVA for as low as US$910 on Alibaba. However, it remains to be seen if the power conditioner is suitable for critical usage. On the higher end, some manufacturer are selling a 45kVA power line conditioner at up to US$15,694, which might be costly for some businesses.
Ashley Edison balances quality, reliability and financial viability in our power conditioner solutions. You can get a comparable model for US$4,990 with superior transient voltage suppression and over or low-voltage protection.
3 Reputable power conditioner brands
Considering that power conditioners play a crucial role in ensuring stable operations, safety and lifespan of protected equipment, you’ll want to use one manufactured by reputable brands. These are the top brands with durable, field-proven power conditioners.
- Servomax Limited — An India-based company specialising in providing cost-effective solutions for the power, water and air industries.
- IREM — An historically-rich Italian company manufacturing electricity control and generation products since 1947.
- Ashley Edison — 45 year old U.K. Voltage Control Specialist and 2021 Top-voted key manufacturer of Industrial Power Conditioning solutions
Power conditioners are undoubtedly crucial for industrial applications. By installing a power conditioner, you safeguard essential electrical load from power surges, transients, harmonics and other electrical disturbances. We’ve shown you how to choose and buy a power conditioner.
If you’re still weighing your decisions, explore Ashley Edison’s specialised range of Power Conditioners so you finally end your power challenges—permanently.
As always, “Demand Certainty, with Voltage Stability!”
Since 1977, Ashley Edison continues to deliver total power protection with top-of-the-range customised AVR solutions that dependably optimise facilities in multiple industries—across the world.
Speak to our Voltage Specialist for a comprehensive consultation, or drop us an email at [email protected] to discover how you can effectively solve your power problems—permenantly.