The electrical system is one of the most critical elements when building a new industrial project. Finding the right industrial electrical contractor is a must to ensure a seamless installation process. This article covers all the essentials to know when choosing the best contractor for your project. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. It’s essential to be familiar with the components of your electrical project as you choose a contractor.
  2. Contractor experience, certifications, and references are all critical elements to consider.
  3. The team at Sidney Electric offers extensive experience in complex electrical systems, making them a perfect choice for your next project.

Industrial Electrical Versus Commercial Electrical

Searching for the perfect contractor for your job can be challenging, especially when sorting through the industry terminology. Two titles you might see are industrial electrical contractor and commercial electrical contractor. These terms are not interchangeable; they refer to professionals with different areas of expertise. 

Industrial electrical contractors specialize in large-scale, complex electrical systems used in manufacturing facilities, power plants, refineries, and other industrial settings. They generally have expertise in high-voltage systems, automation, process control, and specialized equipment. Industrial contractors are also more likely to have additional certifications, such as HAZLOC for hazardous environments and specific equipment certifications for things like generators and solar panels. 

In contrast, commercial electrical contractors handle electrical work in medium to smaller-scale facilities such as offices, retail stores, restaurants, and institutions like schools and hospitals. Their expertise typically involves lighting, power distribution, data cabling, and general troubleshooting. Their certifications will be more general, as they are less likely to work in specialized or hazardous environments.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Industrial Contractor for Your Project

You know you need an industrial contractor—but which one should you choose? Below are some factors to consider to ensure you pick the perfect match for your project.

Electrical Experience

Experience on the job is crucial, especially when dealing with electricity. Ideally, you want a contractor with extensive experience in similar projects, specifically in your industry. When looking at a contractor’s previous work, consider your project’s complexity and size. Choose a contractor with experience in projects of similar scale and complexity. You’ll also want to prioritize a contractor with a strong safety record and comprehensive safety protocols.

Additionally, if your project involves specialized equipment or systems, ensure the contractor has experience working with them. This could include high-voltage systems, automation, process control, hazardous environments, etc.

Don’t be afraid to ask technical questions to find the perfect industrial electrical contractor for your project! Be sure to conduct interviews with your top candidates, and it’s always a good idea to ask for portfolios and references.

Projects Completed

You want a contractor who has completed projects, not someone starting their first job.

 However, when analyzing a contractor’s job record, quality is the most important metric, not quantity. A smaller number of projects completed with high quality and client satisfaction is often more valuable than a high number with average results. Ask for references and contact them to gauge their experience.

You should also look for contractors with experience in projects similar to yours in size, complexity, and industry. Completed projects in unrelated fields offer limited value.

Finally, consider the specific expertise needed for your project. Does the contractor have experience with the particular equipment, systems, and regulations involved?

Components of Electrical Construction Projects

To sift through industrial electrical contractors and choose the best one for your project, it’s essential to understand the basic elements of your project. This will allow you to evaluate portfolios and contractor experience more effectively.

Electrical Systems

Power Distribution and Control:

Medium Voltage Distribution Systems: These systems deliver bulk power within facilities (e.g., factories, power plants) using high voltage (2kV-35kV) cables and equipment.

Low Voltage Distribution Systems: These systems distribute power to individual machines and equipment within a facility (e.g., motor control centers, panelboards).

Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs): These control the speed and torque of AC motors for efficient operation and energy savings.

Motor Control Centers (MCCs): These centers house and control multiple motor starters and protection devices.

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs): PLCS automate industrial processes and equipment for increased efficiency and reliability.

Industrial Automation and Control:

Process Control Systems: Monitor and control various process parameters (e.g., temperature, pressure, flow) for consistent and optimized production.

Data Acquisition Systems (DAS): Collect and record data from sensors and equipment for analysis and optimization.

Industrial Networking Systems: Connect various devices and systems within a facility for data exchange and control.

Lighting and Building Management:

Industrial Lighting Systems: Provide safe and efficient lighting for different tasks and environments within facilities.

Building Management Systems (BMS): Centrally controlling and monitoring lighting, HVAC, security, and other systems for energy savings and improved operation.

Emergency Lighting and Power Systems: Provide backup power and lighting in case of outages to maintain safety and critical operations.

Safety and Security Systems:

Grounding and Bonding Systems: Protect personnel and equipment from electrical shock.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs): Detect and interrupt dangerous electrical faults.

Fire Alarm and Suppression Systems: Detect and respond to fires in industrial facilities.

Security and Access Control Systems: Protect facilities and assets from unauthorized access.

Electrical Services in the Industrial Setting

Some of the electrical services you should look for from a contractor include thermal imaging, arc flash studies, transformer maintenance, and other skills, depending on your project. Below is a breakdown of some of these services and their importance.

24/7 Emergency Services: If something goes wrong, you need assurance that you can reach your electrical team anytime. Look for a company that offers 24/7 emergency services to give you peace of mind.

Thermal Imaging: Thermal imaging cameras can identify abnormal temperature fluctuations in electrical components, often before they escalate into significant failures or pose safety hazards like fire outbreaks. This allows for timely repairs and preventative maintenance, reducing downtime and ensuring safety in industrial facilities.

Arc Flash Studies: Arc flashes, when they occur, can be very dangerous. Arc flash studies meticulously examine the electrical system to pinpoint locations and equipment where arc flashes could occur.

Power and Data Logging: Power and data logging allows for continuous or periodic monitoring of various electrical parameters, such as voltage, current, and power. This helps identify trends and patterns and demonstrates compliance with energy standards if needed.

Motor Controls and PLCs: These factors work together to automate a system. PLCs are industrial computers designed to control and automate processes, while motor controls start, stop, and regulate electric motors.

DC Hi Potential testing: DC Hi-Pot testing, also known as DC high-potential testing or dielectric withstand testing, is a non-destructive test used to evaluate the insulation of electrical equipment, particularly in direct current (DC) applications. It helps identify insulation weaknesses and prevent electrical failure.

Transformer Maintenance and Oil Testing: Transformers contain large amounts of oil for insulation and cooling. Deterioration of the oil or other internal components can lead to overheating, arcing, and even explosions. Regular maintenance helps identify and address these issues before they escalate into safety hazards or cause costly equipment failures.

Bucket Truck Service: Electrical work often involves high-voltage lines and equipment on utility poles, rooftops, or other elevated locations. Bucket trucks offer workers a safe and stable platform to access these high areas. The insulated bucket helps protect workers from electrical hazards, while the controls allow for precise positioning and maneuverability.

Generator System Installation and Service: Generators provide backup power for your facility, ensuring you don’t lose critical operations during an outage. Your generator must be properly installed and serviced by a professional to ensure it works correctly!

Preventative Maintenance: A knowledgeable industrial electrical contractor will help stop problems before they surface by doing preventative maintenance—consistently testing equipment, looking for weak points, and updating when necessary.

Electrical Design & Build

Electrical design and build refers to planning, installing, and testing the systems in your building or complex. There are four major elements of electrical design and build that you should keep in mind as you hunt for your industrial electrical contractor.

Electrical Load Requirements

Electrical load is the amount of electricity your building will need for maximum functionality. This includes factors like the type of appliances, lighting, and equipment that will be used.  Electrical engineers will perform calculations to determine the appropriate wire gauge and circuit breaker sizes to handle the expected load.

Lighting Systems

A well-designed lighting system is essential for both safety and functionality.  Different rooms will have different lighting needs.  For example, certain factory spaces will need bright task lighting, while office areas might need softer ambient lighting. There are many factors to consider when designing a lighting system, such as the type of fixtures, the placement of lights, and the type of bulbs you’ll use.

Electrical Distribution System

This is the network of wires and conduits that carries electricity throughout a building. The distribution system must be designed to safely and efficiently deliver power to all of the electrical devices in the building. There are different types of electrical distribution systems, such as single-phase and three-phase systems. The type of system used will depend on the size and complexity of the building.

Codes and Standards

All electrical work must comply with local building codes and electrical safety standards. These codes and standards are in place to ensure that electrical systems are safe and reliable.  Electrical engineers and electricians must be familiar with the relevant codes and standards in order to design and install electrical systems that meet all safety requirements. 

If your project includes hazardous materials or other specialized elements, it’s important to find a contractor with certifications in those areas. You should also look for a contractor that offers power and data logging, which you can use to track compliance with energy efficiency standards that might be in place.

Industrial Electric Contractor Qualifications

What qualifications should you look for in your industrial electrical contractor? First, you should look for contractors with proven experience in similar industrial projects. You want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and can deliver the results you need.

You’ll also want to verify their safety record and inquire about safety protocols and training programs. When mishandled, large-scale electrical systems can become extremely dangerous, so you should have confidence that your electrical contractor follows rigorous safety standards to ensure the system is installed properly.

Once you start interviewing contractors, ask for references and contact them for their feedback. Previous customers can tell you about their experience and whether they had any issues during the project.

Once you’ve chosen your contractor, ensure clear and consistent communication throughout the project. Be upfront about your expectations, and meet often to discuss progress and keep everyone on the same page.

Electrical and Contractor Licensing & Certifications

Proper licensing and certifications aren’t just nice—they’re necessary when it comes to electrical work. You’ll need to begin by identifying the regulations in your area and considering the appropriate type of license for your project scope. You may need a contractor with more advanced certifications if you deal with any specialized elements.

As a general rule, everyone working on your electric should have a journeyman electrician license (or the equivalent) at minimum. Your contractor should also have a contractor license. 

Depending on your project, you may need other certifications. Below are some common ones you might see, along with a brief explanation.

Certified Electrical Safety Worker (CESW): Demonstrates advanced knowledge of electrical safety.

National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Journeyman Electrician License: A professional certification indicating high knowledge and skills.

HAZLOC: Indicates expertise in working with hazardous locations.

Low Voltage Cabling: Relevant for data and communication systems.

Renewable Energy Certifications: Certifications specific to solar, wind, or other renewable energy systems.

Post Project Support from Electrical Contractors

After the initial phase of your electrical project is completed, it’s important to choose a contractor that offers ongoing support. Inevitably, your electrical systems will need regular maintenance. Ongoing power and data logging can help you identify trends, increase your systems’ efficiency, and provide proof of compliance with energy standards.

Finally, you want a contractor that offers 24/7 support if something goes wrong. 

What to Expect When You Work with Sidney Electric Contractors

When you choose Sidney Electric, you’re guaranteed a team of professional contractors with extensive industry experience. We take pride in the many complicated projects we’ve completed, and we offer the services you need, including thermal imaging, power and data logging, transformer maintenance, and much more. 

Visit us to discover our electrical capabilities and see if we’re right for you. We look forward to working with you on your next industrial electrical project!