Seth Townsley, Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric, looks at five ways integrated electrical panels can deliver solid ROI in both new and refurbished buildings.
Time is money when it comes to building or refurbishing any commercial building. The longer it takes to complete the job, the longer it will be before the building owner gets a return on their investment – be it rental income, new employee office space or a new manufacturing facility.
Electrical contractors can contribute significantly to the time required to build or refurbish a building. In addition to the time needed to run wires throughout the building, they must also put together all the components that go into the panel boards that control the electrical system.
These components include various circuit breakers, power panels and branch circuit panels, low voltage transformers, automatic transfer switches, perhaps individually mounted circuit breakers and energy or building management systems. Clearly, it takes time for an electrician to install all of these components then thoroughly test the panel to ensure everything is working properly and safely.
One way to save time is to use an integrated panel. This is a panel that is assembled and tested in the factory to your specifications. Once on-site, electricians can make a few connections to integrate it with existing systems and the job is completed in hours instead of days.
Integrated panels tend to cost more than buying the components separately. However, if you consider the ways integrated panels save time and money, it is easy to see how they deliver a significant return on investment (ROI).
Reduced labour and time
Whether for new construction or retrofit, the biggest benefit to integrated panels is the reduction in time and labour involved in installing the panels. The majority of the time, the amount of labour will be reduced enough to offset the higher cost of the panel versus using stick-built components. In such cases, ROI is immediately achieved. In all cases, integrated equipment will mean a faster install time, helping to ensure projects stay on time and on budget.
Often buying integrated panels can be considered a capital equipment purchase, and thus amortised accordingly on future tax returns.
For example, when building a new manufacturing site you need panels to sit beside a piece of equipment to ensure it gets proper voltage. By buying an integrated panel, it’s likely that the panel will be included in the equipment purchase price. This is a benefit that would not be available with a stick-built panel.
Even if you can amortise the stick-built equipment, you still have the higher up-front installation labour cost. By using integrated equipment, you can effectively amortise a larger percentage of the installed cost.
Faster, easier inspection
Integrated panels leave the factory fully vetted and tested. When the panel reaches the site, installers know that it will work as expected and that the consequential safety test will likely go quickly and smoothly.
Panels constructed in the factory can take advantage of design elements that are not available in the field – and that save significant space. When building a panel in the field, if the contractor has two panel boards and a transformer, they must mount one beside another. But in the factory, the two panel boards can be stacked above the transformer – saving around 40 inches of wall space. In hospital projects integrated panels can prove particularly effective as space is very tight.
When a panel is assembled in a factory the manufacturer can run tests on the equipment that would be impractical to conduct in the field. For example, it is common to conduct “hipot”, or high potential, testing which involves running high-voltage current through the panel to ensure all the insulation holds up and to find any errors or faults. Such testing improves the likelihood that the panel will be reliable over the course of its life.
The message here is simple. The decision on whether to use an integrated panel cannot be based on price alone. All variables should be considered, and the equation will likely tip in favour of the integrated approach.
For more information on the range of integrated electrical panels from Schneider Electric visit: www.schneider-electric.co.uk/en