Power and Energy: Electrical Power Quality Monitoring


The electrical power provided by utility companies is not perfect, and can cause computerized equipment to malfunction or be damaged. How can this be detected, how can equipment be protected, and is it possible to monitor equipment “state of health”?


Challenge #1:

Stable and dependable electrical power quality has become essential for any business that operates information technology (IT) and computerized equipment. The point-of-sale (POS) terminal and credit card reader on the sales counter, the cable modem, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) server, and the facility security system are just a few examples of IT equipment that are common to a vast majority of brick-and-mortar businesses. Any number of electrical power events can cause the IT equipment that is operating without a local uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to reboot, or worse, resulting in delays in operations, lost data, and even in lost revenue.

Most businesses are therefore dependent upon the electrical power quality output from the local electrical utility company. The electrical power quality is characterized by the number of occurrences and the duration of each occurrence of several types of electrical power events that affect electrical power consumers. Events such as brownouts, electrical transients, over-voltages, and service interruptions can result from many things, such as lightning, downed power lines, or electrical utility equipment switching or failure. Even if a business has employed local UPS devices to protect all of their IT equipment, they may not be benefitting from concessions from the electrical power utility as a result of electrical power event occurrences, even if those events may not directly cause IT equipment malfunctions.

Challenge #2:

A growing majority of ‘connected’ consumers and modern corporations depend upon the continuity of service from cloud computing service businesses. The successful modern cloud service business has already mitigated the risks of Challenge #1, and does not operate its IT equipment infrastructure directly from the electrical power delivered from the local electrical utility.

These large computing centers employ UPS equipment that buffers the electrical power from the electrical utility in order to provide stable and dependable electrical power to their scores of IT devices. This, in essence, puts the cloud service business in the unique role, to a degree, of being its own energy provider.

The challenge for the cloud computing service business is that its IT equipment, as viewed by the external data consumer, is expected to be ‘always on’. The effectiveness of the cloud computing service business internal electrical power delivery to its IT equipment directly impacts the external consumer satisfaction with service and cost. Unplanned server or network switch outages can create liability and immediate losses for the cloud computing service business and damage to its reputation. Underutilized server loads, if not shut down, also drive up energy costs without providing benefit to the external data consumer.


A Power Quality Monitoring System that provides logging and reporting of electrical power events is a common solution to both Challenge #1 and Challenge #2.

Challenge #1:

A Power Quality Monitoring System is an invaluable tool for the brick-and-mortar business that needs to understand the precipitating factors that led to the loss of operation of IT and computerized equipment. The cost of deploying needed UPS equipment can be offset by financial concessions from the local electrical utility based upon the data from a Power Quality Monitoring System. Data from a Power Quality Monitoring System with adequately sophisticated metrics gathering and analysis could also provide input to preventive maintenance programs to determine the “state of health” of IT and other computerized equipment.

Challenge #2:

A Power Quality Monitoring System is key to characterizing the electrical power draw of equipment in a known good state. However, a Power Quality Monitoring System is only part of the larger solution for the modern cloud computing service business, which is perhaps in a better position than any other business to manage its electrical power consumption expenses, to implement “state of health” monitoring and alarming for its IT equipment, and to prioritize electrical power delivery between loads.

Managing the electrical power consumption expenses can best be achieved by leveraging data from a Power Quality Monitoring System. The data from such a system could include temperature monitoring, determination of the status of each fuse or breaker serving a piece of IT equipment, and the determination of whether a server or network switch is shut down or actively rebooting. The single location cloud computing service business could implement load shedding of low priority loads during periods of peak power costs utilizing such data from a Power Quality Monitoring System. The multi-location cloud computing service business could displace external consumer data and processing demands between locations based upon real-time power consumption costs at each location.

A cloud computing service business could leverage the comparison of the latest real-time data against the baseline data from a Power Quality Monitoring System to identify potentially elevated harmonics due to aging or failing equipment, prior to actual external consumer data losses occurring. A Power Quality Monitoring System equipped with the added ability to switch power to the IT equipment could perform remote or automated cold reboots of servers and network switches. These cold reboots could be employed either as a follow-on operation to a software update of the affected IT equipment or as an attempted remote recovery operation when the server or network switch in question has been identified as being unresponsive.


A Power Quality Monitoring System can provide advantages for many companies, from brick-and-mortar businesses to cloud computing data centers. Analog Devices Inc. has a diverse offering of proven metering integrated circuits (ICs) that provide a range of features including energy monitoring, power factor monitoring, harmonic monitoring, waveform streaming, and event alarming. Tecnova has extensive experience implementing Analog Devices Inc. metering ICs with a wide variety of voltage and current sensors to develop a custom Power Quality Monitoring solution for either single-phase or three-phase applications. Tecnova’s a la carte design and engineering services cover every aspect of product design including the design of circuit board assemblies, firmware, computer software, custom plastic or metal enclosures, and connecting wire harnesses and cables. Tecnova always designs electrical power devices to meet the stringent regulatory criteria for the application, including the appropriate UL, National Electrical Code, and CE regulations for emissions and for withstand to electrical, thermal and mechanical environmental factors. Tecnova can also manufacture the circuit boards, assemble, and fully functionally test your custom system in-house following our ISO 9001 processes.

In addition to Tecnova’s experience developing custom Power Quality Monitoring solutions, Tecnova engineers have decades of experience and are named in multiple patents in the design, deployment, and support of scores of electrical power distribution switching, protection, and monitoring equipment. Tecnova engineers have designed electrical power switching, protection, and monitoring equipment that is installed in the basement of a nearby hospital, in an electrical power switchgear next to a nearby shopping mall, and at the top of an electrical power utility pole near you.


Topics: Electronic Engineering