Electrical equipment exposures in K-12 schools

An equipment breakdown will cost a school district almost $18,000 on average. But a typical electrical equipment breakdown will cost a school district more than $30,000.

Insuring, inspecting and studying equipment for over 150 years, and accumulating data on equipment failures for almost as long, we’ve learned a lot about what equipment fails and why.

The most common types of equipment to fail in schools are:

  • Electrical cables
  • Breakers
  • Panels

Our schools use electricity for lighting, heating, cooling and refrigeration – and for operating appliances, computers, electronics and machinery. The electrical distribution system is the most critical system because without it the facility can’t function.

What are the primary causes of electrical equipment failures?

The main causes that we find for electrical equipment failures are:

  • Loose connections or parts
  • Moisture
  • Power line disturbance
  • Defective or inadequate insulation
  • Lightning
  • Foreign objects or short circuits
  • Collision
  • Overloading or inadequate power capacity
  • Accumulation of dust, dirt or oil

Below, you can see what percentage of total failures result from each cause.

Causes of electrical failures

Now let’s look at the potential impact Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) can have on critical electrical equipment when properly implemented. This is a comparison of the percent of failures for equipment that had preventive maintenance versus equipment that did not.

Preventive maintenance chart

The chart clearly illustrates the impact that maintenance can have in reducing failures. Here are four basic maintenance objectives that are super easy to remember. If they are applied, they can help to greatly reduce a school facility’s electrical equipment exposure.

  1. Keep it clean
  2. Keep it cool
  3. Keep it dry
  4. Keep it tight

Why is it so important to keep equipment Clean, Cool, Dry and Tight?

Preventive maintenance is powerful. Simply keeping equipment clean, cool, dry and tight helps address over two-thirds of all causes of electrical failures.

Addressing causes of electrical failures

Here’s an easy checklist for applying these maintenance objectives

Keeping it cool

  • Keep electrical equipment and rooms free of excessive dust and dirt
  • Don’t use electrical equipment rooms for storage
  • Limit access to authorized operations and maintenance personnel
  • Maintain proper lighting to ensure correct and efficient operation and maintenance

Keeping it cool

  • Prevent excessive heat buildup in electrical apparatus enclosures and equipment rooms
  • Maintain cooling fans or blowers installed on equipment
  • Keep ventilation openings in equipment enclosures clean and free from blockage
  • Change or clean any filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations

Keeping it dry

  • Keep equipment rooms dry and protect equipment from moisture
  • Check equipment for moisture contamination. If found, examine for damage and get
    necessary repairs. Identify and eliminate the source of moisture

Keeping it tight

  • Check all connections periodically and ensure they are tight
  • Follow any applicable manufacturer’s instructions for tightening
  • Get an infrared imaging survey to test for loose connections

For more information on Electrical Preventative Maintenance and other techniques for reducing equipment losses, check out our loss prevention tip sheets.


© 2017 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable coverage form.

Ernest Freeman

Vice President of Engineering in Hartford Steam Boiler's Loss Control Engineering Group, with over 39 years of experience in equipment operation and maintenance. He is a Certified School Risk Manager (CSRM), member of The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Certified Energy Auditor (CEA) and a licensed commissioned Inspector by The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.

One comment

  • Very good article! What’s the source of your data for percentage of total failures result from each cause? Thank you!!

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