Motor control centers (MCCs) are responsible for controlling all electric motors from a centralized switchboard. In data centers, the key function of motors is to operate the HVAC systems, which, in turn, control the ambient air temperature within the server rooms. This is critical, since the ambient operating temperature of the servers must be maintained at predetermined levels in order to avoid costly downtime.

That’s why the judges declared The Exertherm 24x7 MCC Electrical Monitoring Solution the winner of the Power Systems and Products category — because it’s the only permanently installed, “in bucket” thermal monitoring solution available. specifically designed ‘In Bucket’ permanently installed thermal monitoring solution.

Initial research on the product started in response to a customer request. The first step Exertherm took was to determine if there were widespread problems that existed.

“The spring clips which were used to attach the ‘power in’ connection from the Bucket to the vertical bus conductors were subject to deterioration over time, making the connection looser,” said Susan Planta, head of global marketing, Exertherm. “This introduced arcing, which ultimately led to failure and potential arc flash/fire/explosion/etc. This ‘fault’ was common across OEMs.”

The company then looked into the inspection methods that were normally employed to detect symptoms of failure — anything from excess heat leading to discoloration on cables. The finding revealed three methods.

  1. Live — this poses serious safety risks to personnel and also remains largely ineffective due to the fact that buckets tend to have numerous components in a tight space, causing line-of-sight issues.
  2. De-energized — this visual inspection is both ineffective and costly, as all systems must be shut down.
  3. Thermal imaging — this method is totally ineffective, even if the bucket is removable, because the heat dissipates by the time it can be imaged.

Product concept research established a vendor-neutral “in bucket” solution would be best. After prototypes were produced, modified, and optimized they were beta tested in conjunction with global OEMs.

The result is The Exertherm 24x7 MCC Electrical Monitoring Solution. The MCC solution is provided in a simple and easy-to-fit kit per bucket, comprising of six thermal sensors in a pre-wired loom with a connector, datacard, and LED status light. The solution provides local and remote thermal and phase imbalance alarms. The non-powered sensors connect directly to the critical incoming/outgoing power connections, continuously monitoring temperature, while the datacard collects the sensor temperature data to activate alarms when a fault is detected. It can be connected in three ways: relay only (local status LED + local/remote dry contact alarms), connection to Exertherm HMI (1 + local status graphics + transfer of raw data), or connection to Exertherm MCC Aggregator (local status LED + local/remote alarms + transfer of raw data via Modbus 485).

“This product provides a unique solution to monitor thermal conditions of MCC buckets and gives the end user real time alarm information if there is an issue.”

According to one of the judges, that’s what put this product above the rest. But, the design considerations went beyond the monitoring capabilities to in order to prevent other causes of downtime too.

“MCCs control motors, which perform mission critical operations,” Planta said. “Cybersecurity is of paramount importance. Our design criteria therefore rejected wireless sensors because of the threat they pose from hacking.”

Preventing downtime via prediction is better than trying to find the quickest cure after the fact. Thermal monitoring can identify the build-up of excess heat on the power terminations well in advance of failure.

“The on-going quest of the data center industry is to achieve 100% uptime,” Planta said. “This technology is a part of that jigsaw towards the elimination of downtime risks.”