The 5 Most Common Electrical Problems in Industrial Settings
Industrial Electric Technician testing control panel

Common Electrical Problems

If you work in an industrial setting, then you already know what we’re about to tell you: Without operational machinery, you can’t do your job. That’s why everyone should know something about troubleshooting electrical systems. Even if you aren’t the maintenance technician, you can help him by pointing out malfunctions as they arise.


You aren’t expected to know how to fix every electrical issue an industrial complex could have. You understand that some problems are specifically an industrial electrician’s problems. But you can still facilitate maintenance and accelerate repairs just by knowing the five most common electrical problems in industrial settings.


Warning: Do not attempt electrical troubleshooting, maintenance or repairs without appropriate training and safety equipment.


Open Circuit Faults


It is fairly obvious when an electric circuit’s conducting path is interrupted. At least some part of the circuit will cease operating altogether once it stops receiving any electricity. The most visible causes of open circuit faults are loose connections, detached terminal points and broken wires.


You may immediately diagnose an open circuit fault in a lighting system by inspecting its control system’s contactor, which contains two operating coils. One of those coils is dedicated to opening the contacts. When it is malfunctioning, the lighting system’s power circuit becomes stuck closed.


Short Circuit Faults


Short circuit faults are a little trickier to diagnose. Unlike an open circuit fault, in which the electric circuit is broken completely, a short circuit fault results when a hot wire contacts a neutral one. That unwanted electrical current can blow a fuse, or force mechanical components to operate at the wrong times.


Have you recently noticed a conductor with deteriorating insulation? Then you may already have found the issue, as that conductor may be transferring its current to an adjacent wire. Alternatively, an exposed wire may transfer its current to a grounded metal object. Instead of ceasing to function altogether, a piece of machinery that is underpowered due to a ground fault short circuit may merely underperform or turn itself off. 


Voltage Problems


When voltage in an electric circuit is too low, it may cause relays to chatter: rapid on and off cycling which can excessively heat and damage the relay’s contacts. That and other low-voltage issues are frequently (but not exclusively) caused by short circuits and excessive vibration.


Overvoltage falls on the other end of the spectrum. It can have one of several causes: incorrectly sized transformers, improper circuit loading, defective wires, and even poor electricity regulation by the utility company. Overvoltage normally impacts lighting systems and motors by forcing them to overheat.


Mechanical Faults


Motors, transformers and other mechanical components that generate heat and vibrate by design are destined to malfunction over time. Lubrication and other normal maintenance will prolong the inevitable, but not prevent it. Regular exposure to moisture and humidity will also accelerate wear and tear on an assembly, increasing its risk of a mechanical fault. 


When a machine starts to vibrate atypically, an electrical malfunction of its motor could be the cause. (Even normal vibration can gradually loosen electrical connections within a machine.) Once they become dusty enough, the contacts of a relay can weld themselves shut – a problem that frequently prevents mechanical components from receiving any electricity at all.


Blown Fuses


Fuses burn out by design. They may only do so because of advanced age, but a blown fuse usually indicates some sort of malfunction. The same rule applies to light bulbs, switches and relays. Components that are designed to break easily often break because of an underlying electrical problem. If you have to replace and repair them frequently, a more thorough diagnosis of the system is in order.


Use every tool at your disposal to identify the causes of electrical problems – not just visual (and sometimes olfactory) inspection of the machinery itself. Consult manuals and schematics. Refer to equipment history records, if they are available, and begin recording equipment history if they are not. Check the previous work orders for a piece of machinery, as they may indicate a recurring issue when they are considered as a whole.


If you are uncertain of the cause of an electrical problem but would like it fixed all the same, then we welcome you to contact Mid States Electric today. We service the industrial electric needs of Sioux City, IA and the entire Midwest. Our team keeps warehouses, manufacturing facilities, cold storage centers and other industrial buildings free of any issues that could impact performance or jeopardize staff’s safety.