The Cost of Voltage Problems

Few homeowners can justify the cost of an automatic voltage regulator for whole-house application. Except for those living in remote or isolated areas, the voltage supplied by the local utility is usually entirely adequate for common household appliances and electronics. Even if the voltage levels is off by as much as 5% or more, most household devices will operate satisfactorily and have a reasonable service life. Those living in isolated areas will usually find the utility willing to do all they reasonably can to deliver a proper voltage, but the homeowner may find themselves having to make some accommodations to be able to operate large, power-consuming equipment such as welders, woodworking equipment, etc.

There appears to be a growing number of very small automatic voltage regulators for use with home theater and audio equipment. These devices are quite inexpensive compared to their commercial/industrial counterparts and do provide adequate performance and capability for home electronics. Application of these home-type AVRs in applications with commercial and industrial types of equipment has been reported to be quite unsatisfactory with the AVR failing very quickly.

Contrary to the situation of the homeowners, many businesses cannot afford NOT to have voltage regulation, at least for critical processes.

Downtime in medium to large industrial operations can cost tens of thousands to millions of dollars each hour. In smaller commercial and industrial companies, the dollars amounts may not be nearly so dramatic but the impact of voltage-related problems can be equally devastating:

  • Lost production and revenue
  • Increased scrap and rework cost
  • Increased raw material cost
  • Increased labor or overtime
  • Increased quality problems and paperwork
  • Late or missed deliveries
  • Reduced customer satisfaction
  • Increased safety or environmental issues

What all of this really means is that voltage problems ultimately impact the bottom line of a business through increased costs and reduced productivity. Each business has to evaluate its own situation (proactively or reactively) and decide how much they can save by applying voltage regulation. Here’s one example of the economics of voltage regulation:

Nearly all owners of MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging units) and oncology treatment units apply some type of electronic voltage regulator to protect their equipment at the time of installation of the equipment. The installation of an MRI or oncology treatment unit typically falls in the range of $750,000 to $4,500,000 (U.S.) with the MRIs being on the lower end of that scale. A voltage regulator for these applications would have an installed cost ranging from $25,000 to $120,000 with the difference largely dependent on the type of regulator selected and how it is purchased. The cost of a voltage regulator is clearly relatively minor considering the value of the equipment being protected and the presumed cost of repair and repair parts. However, the cost of downtime may be more important. MRIs and oncology treatment units can generate $25,000 or more per day for the operator so avoiding just one day’s worth of lost operation due to voltage problems could pay for the voltage regulator.