By Brian Hale
One very important factor to consider when determining the location of your new practice or the expansion of your existing practice is your electrical requirements. Medical Offices typically consume more electricity on a day-to-day basis than a general office due to the multitude of equipment that is in operation at any given time.
Typical code requirements require a commercial electrical panel to be installed at 80% load capacity. “Load Capacity” refers to the maximum amount of amperage designed to be pulled through the system at any given time. Installing at 80% or less load capacity allows for future expansion of components in the office that require electricity usage. This is important for any office to allow for more future components to be installed that consume electricity and impose more “load” on the system. It is also very important that the panel is not installed at full capacity due to the fact that you do not want circuit breakers to begin tripping and shutting down components that are consuming electricity that are vital to your business operation. Circuit breaker tripping occurs when circuits begin to be overloaded due to too much Amperage being drawn through the circuits. Circuit breakers are sized and designed to prevent the wires on that particular circuit from over-heating due to too much electrical current being transmitted through the wire. In order to keep your practice safe, these individual breakers must be sized and installed correctly with their corresponding wire that is installed. Circuits being routed incorrectly or the panel being overloaded will require costly re-wiring or an upgrade and replacement of the electrical service and panel.
One large source of power consumption in your office will be the heating and air conditioning system. Electric heating consumes more energy than cooling. If natural gas is available to your office space, utilizing it for heating your space will significantly decrease the electrical requirements for your space. This is always beneficial for electrical loads imposed on the electrical panel and will allow for more components to be installed that consume electricity in the space. Gas Heating may also make the difference between having a 200 amp service and being required to upgrade to a 320Amp or 400Amp Service which will be a cost increase to the project.
If you are considering a multi-tenant building with a shared electrical service, it is important to consider the distance from this service to your space. The further the distance from the space, the more cost will be incurred because there are longer feeder wires required between the electrical meter outside and the panel inside the space. Pulling these feeder wires is typically performed above the ceilings inside the building through a metal conduit. If this conduit is not already installed, it will have to be installed after hours if it is being extended past existing businesses that may be presently operating inside the building. If there are already feeder wires installed to your space, they could be undersized for your new electrical panel, and in this case, they will have to be removed and replaced by wires that are sized accordingly.
Your electrical system for your office is nothing to think lightly of or cut corners on. The installation of an insufficient system can be detrimental to the performance and functionality of your office. The installation of these systems must be designed and approved by a certified Master Electrician or a licensed Electrical Engineer in all cases. The electrical system, along with the plumbing and HVAC system are the three most vital components of your office. Next time we will talk about the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) system in your new space.