Power quality is something most people don’t encounter until they need to know it. It’s something we deal with every day without realizing it. It is also easy to overlook until there is a problem with it. Power quality is a collection of metrics that are important for keeping power suitable for use by large organizations. Power quality most frequently applies to the power sources behind data centers and other computer-focused organizations as these are the most likely to be sensitive to issues arising from low-quality power.
The first aspect of power quality is continuity of service. This is exactly what it sounds like: how reliable the supply of power is. Most power grids have reliable continuity of power with respect to it being on or off. True blackouts are relatively rare in a modern power grid. However, the effective numbers can change when you are dealing with very high wattage. The higher the current draw is the more likely there will be issues with its continuity because the total availability becomes an issue. Even if power is available there may not be enough power.
The next aspect is variation of voltage. Differences in voltage are much more apparent on larger power grids. Gradual changes in voltage can interfere with the timing and function of even robust electronic equipment. High power quality will necessarily entail stable voltage as much as possible.
Transient voltage events are another consideration. These are sudden spikes in voltage. While a gradual change in voltage can inhibit the function of an electronic device, transient voltage can cause substantial damage. This is what many people mean when they refer to a “power surge.” Managing the effects of these is a critical aspect of power quality.
The final component is the reduction of harmonic disruptions. Harmonics are caused by the application of non-linear current loads. These complicate alternating current patterns which can throw all the other elements of power quality out of whack. Preventing harmonics from emerging is one of the hardest elements of power quality to keep in check, but also one of the most important.
Achieving mission critical power quality solutions is the purview of professionally-provided and installed power management tools. Uninterruptible power supplies are an excellent example of this. High-quality UPS systems can prevent a host of these issues if installed and applied appropriately. If you care about the health of your electronics on a large scale you will need to care about power quality.