Where To Focus Your Training: ATS Testing

Emergency Power

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of leading many training seminars on different aspects of electrical testing and maintenance. Working towards creating teaching moments with my peers for employees and students who are hungry for information has always been something that I find deeply satisfying. In fact, helping industry professionals succeed by giving them the knowledge and tools to make them qualified for their tasks should always be considered a continuous priority. Conversely, one of the easiest ways to foster a learning environment is to listen to feedback and alter your approach, because not everyone is going to be able to digest decades of experience in a single sitting. The bottom line is that we can always benefit from more training. And one of the requests I received more recently pertains to Automatic Transfer Switch Testing.

Now to start this off, I have to make sure to mention that most of this information comes straight from reading and having a working understanding of the standards. The National Fire Protection Association publishes material meant for your protection. If you are working on or around electrical equipment without exposure or access to these standards, you are not only doing yourself a disservice by missing out on a wealth of technical information, you could potentially be inviting negligent and unsafe behavior into your work environment. Naturally, we never want to place ourselves or coworkers at risk of injury, so always be sure to become well-informed of any jobs or tasks you will be performing at your facility. If you don’t have access to a copy of the NFPA 110 Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, a copy can be obtained fairly easily through registering on their website.

All routine maintenance and testing of your ATS should follow your facility’s maintenance program. This program shall be designed around the recommendations from the manufacturer, associated instruction manuals, the minimum requirements of NFPA 110 Chapter 8, and the Authority Having Jurisdiction [NFPA 110 8.1.1]. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on three operations that you should consider during monthly ATS testing.

  1. Using the Test Switch on door of an ATS. This will simulate a primary power source failure and transfer to the Emergency Power Supply. This test is meant to a send signal to verify proper operation and timing and may be pre-programmed operation. Depending on the age of the ATS, operation and indication lighting may vary. And as always, follow the operation instructions in the equipment manual [].
  2. Opening the normal source breaker to simulate a power outage. This will give the appearance that the ATS experienced a real power outage and will then sends the signal to transfer. The added benefit of this method is operating the breaker which reduces stiffness and clears out any carbon build up. This just ensures that the breaker works and exercises it for future events, as they are in many cases seldom operated [].
  3. Where there are multiple ATS units being used as part of the EPSS, a monthly rotation of which ATS is used to begin the test shall be used. This ensures that each ATS will operate independently and will help better familiarize yourself with the system [].

As most electrical gear will vary in construction and operation slightly depending upon the manufacturer, you may want to seek assistance from a coworker who is also qualified to work on an ATS in your facility if you are unfamiliar with a certain model or type of test. Work together and absorb the new information. Some of you may work in a location with tight-lipped coworkers who have decades of experience. Now, developing working relationships might be a topic for another time but remember this: asking questions is not “hand-holding” if you use the opportunity to better yourself and your understanding of the task. And for those of you who would be giving the answers, make sure your coworkers comprehend what you tell them so that they may build a more confident working environment for everyone involved.

If you still have questions or concerns regarding operation and testing of your facility’s ATS or other EPSS equipment, don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can get you on track with the right information.


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