It’s always something

This week’s post comes from Rick Campbell, Manager, Inside Technical Support, at Franklin Electric.

The best thing about working a technical service hotline is that every day and every phone call is a different challenge; no two are ever alike and it’s never dull. However, after more than 20 years of dealing with technical issues over the phone, some calls and situations are just more memorable than others. Here’s one from several years ago that has stuck with me:

A contractor called for help troubleshooting a two horsepower, single-phase submersible installation. The system ran great – most of the time. But every few days, without any rhyme or reason, the overload in the control box would trip. Sometimes the system would run for a week or more without issue, and then the overload would trip several times in a week. Each time the contractor came out to check the voltage, it was well within limits. Over the phone, I helped him check out the entire system and it was good. We also tried to identify a pattern to no avail.

Knowing that the issue was most likely voltage-related, we eventually decided a voltage monitor was the only alternative. And sure enough, after several days of recording, it showed that the bottom would randomly fall out of the voltage. The power company was contacted, but they maintained that based on their data and the load on the system, everything was good.

The “aha” moment came when the contractor discovered that the next door neighbor was restoring a car in his garage in his spare time. In the restoration, the homeowner was using an industrial-size arc welder that when used, caused the voltage to drop at all of the surrounding houses. Of course, he was using it randomly and the pump was running randomly. Hence, the pattern of overload trips was even more random.

I don’t know how things were resolved between the neighbors, but it was another case where there was a reason behind the problem, and it was up to us to find out what it was.

Turning time into money…

“Time is Money.” It’s a well-worn cliché that sticks around because it’s a cliché that’s true. We’ve heard it so many times that we don’t even think about what it means. So, let’s say it in terms of your submersible water systems business: “A MEGGER IS MONEY.”

Here’s why… The homeowner calls and is “out of water”. Of course, they probably have plenty of water. Something is just keeping them from getting it out of the ground, and it’s your job to find out why, fix it, and most importantly, get compensated for it.

When you arrive, you’re going to take your usual obvious first steps such as verifying they actually have power and so forth. But, beyond that, there’s no better tool, no faster way to figure out what’s going on that with a megohmeter as the next step. Often just called a “megger” or insulation tester, a megohmeter measures insulation resistance. It’s essentially a high-powered ohmmeter. A megger answers the question of, “is the electrical part of our submersible installation isolated (or insulated) from the non-electrical part?” Said another way, “Do I have a ground fault in our system?”

Yes, right now you’re asking, “Why can’t I just use my trusty Simpson 372 ohmmeter for this?” The answer is the amount of electrical pressure, otherwise known as voltage, that each instrument applies to the system. Sure enough, if your system is completely grounded, the ohmmeter will tell you exactly that. Where the megger is invaluable is finding that splice that leaks just little bit, that little nick in the drop cable, and all the other things that aren’t obvious that can lead to a ground fault. Continue reading