This article appeared in the MARCH 2019 issue of Amusement Today.

Whether one is an operator of an amusement park, water park or family entertainment center, experiencing the loss of power is an unwelcome obstacle.

Fresh off a speaking engagement at the AIMS Safety Seminar and attendance at the IAAPA FEC Summit, Tim Boyd, president of SAVE Electronics, feels raising the awareness of proper surge protection can be vital to most owners and operators.

“People don’t know that 80 percent of surges are generated internally,” Boyd told Amusement Today. “The [AIMS session] was a very informative class. It’s important to know how transient surges are generated, how these surges affect the performance and reliability of all connected equipment, the differences in surge filter protection technology and where facilities can save money by having it (and how quickly these savings will generate a return on investment).”

Boyd explained that surges are caused by a variety of factors. “Everything being fed into that breaker panel is being fed back to everything else on that panel,” he said.

“Regarding rides and waterslides, as every pump motor cycles within a facility, these same loads generate energy back on the breaker panel causing other loads to get knocked out. That’s where surge filter protection comes into play,” he said. “The investment to protect a complete water or amusement park is typically a fraction of the cost of one piece of equipment.”

In addition, surges can reduce the lifespan of LED lights because there are sensitive electronic drivers in each fixture. The problem isn’t within the LED bulb itself. Boyd stated that the right LED can be beneficial and save energy costs, pointing out that certain types of LEDs have the ability to dim to two percent. He added that many types can’t go below 10 percent without flickering. This is particularly problematic in filming if the lighting isn’t video compliant. Having the right protection technology can extend LED fixture life by greater than 50 percent while improving consistent lumen output.

Boyd illustrates potential savings with a customer situation he helped solve. A Florida hospital had turned down a recommended surge filter protection as they felt the first cost of $27,000 was too high. He admits people look at first costs going in, without seeing what the life-cycle saving can be with reliable power. Knowing a new facility would have numerous VFDs, PLCs, LED lighting and controllers with medical equipment throughout the facility, repairs would be costly. After opting for less expensive protection going in ($18,000), the hospital spent more than $200,000 in repairs in the first 18 months of operations. After realizing their misstep, hospital management went back to the original surge filtering proposal and the net result was they spent a total of $7,000 over the next five years in total electrical operational costs. It was a 96 percent savings with the right protection.

Facilities that unknowingly invest in off-the-shelf surge protection solutions, find that the unfiltered and/or reduced-mode surge protection they have chosen typically only guards against high voltage scenarios such as lightning and power transformer incidents.

“For the past 20-years we’ve used Total Protection Solutions,” said Boyd. “They are the best on the market. They  protect FedEx’s World-wide Data Center which had up to a 20 percent latency going in. After TPS surge filters were installed throughout that facility, latency was reduced to zero. FedEx Engineering had equated latency to millions of dollars lost. They recouped their ROI in months, not years.”

For large businesses, even a few minutes in operational disruption can cost millions in lost information and revenue, customer inconvenience, and in cases of systems being interrupted, customer and employee safety may be compromised.

SAVE Electronics continues to do work with Main Event, Disney and Universal.

When asked when is the right time to upgrade, Boyd said, “Anytime. Reducing downtime is the most important priority in operating any facility. The cost of downtime is almost always many times the cost associated with electrical maintenance and equipment repair.”

He pointed out that exterior lighting, such as parking lot site lighting can reap maintenance benefits as well. “Parking lots, rides, restaurants — anything with electricity is susceptible to surges,” said Boyd. “What theme park owners should know is if they have automation systems and controls, VFDs, pumps, motors and high efficiency lighting, an expensive restaurant or a lot of lights in their lots, this will protect all facets of their company.”

His simple takeaway is that surge filter suppression products protect equipment and facilities from costly repairs due to electrical problems. If unprotected, sensitive electronic devices are subject to damage from transient events, and over time, these small spikes erode electronic circuit connections, making them unstable and subject to failure.

“When your equipment is working, downtime is minimized, your staff is productive, and your company is reaping huge benefits. In facilities where productivity is routinely measured, significant increases can be expected,” said Boyd.