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Get the Facts – 5 things to consider when extending your premises

1. What is going in the extension?

It sounds like an obvious question, doesn’t it? But it’s surprising how many people don’t plan ahead. First make a simple list of all the equipment that will be going into the new extension. Next to each item, add the recommended supply size and load of the equipment – the manufacturer will be able to provide this for you.

If you are moving existing machinery you may need to check the rating plate on the machine. Alternatively the machine can be checked for consumption using a simple clamp meter or by logging the consumption for a week or so to obtain accurate results.

Once you know what’s going into the extension, the total load requirement can be worked out. Don’t forget to include lighting and small power, and consider allowing for adding in machinery in the future – an extra 25% capacity is a good ballpark figure.

2. Do you have the spare capacity?

Once you know the requirements of the additional equipment, you need to check that your existing incoming electrical supply is large enough to accommodate the extra load. Contact your electricity supplier and ask for your ‘agreed capacity’ – this is the maximum amount of electricity your supplier has agreed to provide you with.

You will also need your ‘maximum demand’ figure from your supplier – this is the peak amount of electricity you have used at any one time. Your spare capacity is the difference between the agreed capacity and your existing maximum demand.

If you only need a small increase in your agreed capacity to accommodate the additional equipment, the work should be relatively quick and painless. However, if you require a substantial increase in supply you may be looking at a heftier cost and several months’ wait.

Tip: don’t presume that the rating of your main switch is your agreed capacity – having a 400amp main switch doesn’t necessarily mean you have a 400amp supply.

3. Get it designed

As with any electrical installation, it’s important to carry out a full design before you start. The design should not only include the above considerations but will also determine the installation method and location of supplies to equipment, sockets, lighting (including emergency lighting), fire alarms and so forth.

The designer will need to know where equipment will be located so they can sort out the cables sizes etc. They will also need to have an idea of the sort of tasks that will be carried out in the area so that they can determine the lighting levels required.

The benefit of producing designs is not only so that the works are planned and therefore installed to the correct standard but also to ensure that all parties are aware of the scope of the works to be carried out.

The method of installation should take into consideration how often you move machinery or upgrade your plant. It also makes sense to co-ordinate all the services required in the extension to save on duplication and reduce your costs.

4. Why not service your equipment at the same time?

We all know what it’s like – you have been meaning to get round to having your machinery serviced or refurbished but have held off because it’s always been in use.

Moving machinery is the perfect time to take advantage of enforced downtime and get it checked over or upgraded. A little extra time spent now can pay dividends in the future.

5. Locate all your manuals

Have you ever noticed that some machinery seems to have a mind of its own? You disconnect it from the main control panel and plug it in at its new location and next thing you know it’s refusing to work.

If a machine does need to be disconnected and then reconnected in order to be moved, first locate all the wiring diagrams and manuals for your plant and machinery, just in case. And second, make sure you use a contractor with a proven track record of this kind of work, as one crossed connection could bring your machinery to a halt.

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