Aging Infrastructure

By Tyler Simmons on 5th Oct 2023

What is Aging Infrastructure and how you can plan for it?

As electrical infrastructure across your facility ages, you may begin to see issues. 

You may begin to see that older equipment fails more often. Even if it’s not a catastrophic failure, it will often need repairs or reconditioning more often. 

Dated equipment is often not the most effective way to complete a process. You may be experiencing higher thermal losses or lower accuracy in your processes. 

Aging electrical components are a problem for many reasons. We’ll cover how it can affect your facility and team, as well as some ideas of how to begin combatting the effects of older systems.  

Why is aging infrastructure a problem?

You may see that the electrical equipment around your facility is getting older, but why does it matter? As that equipment ages, you’re going to see it start to affect your facilities safety, reliability, efficiency, and viability. 

Safety risks

If electrical components aren’t predictable, they aren’t safe. As components get older, their risk of failing in dangerous ways increases. 

Older capacitors have a risk of exploding due to solidified electrolytic gel. Old wires and connections have the risk of coming loose and causing arc flash events. Old and worn insulation and enclosures may not protect your team the way they should. 

The risks of dangerous failures increase over time if you don’t perform regular inspections and preventative maintenance. Even if you do, all electrical equipment has a limit to how long it can safely be operated.


Whether you’re a food packaging facility, a water district, or a mining extraction site, downtime is a problem. If your processes aren’t running when they’re supposed to, you are losing money. 

When unexpected downtime becomes more frequent and begins to affect your ability to deliver to your stakeholders, your reputation with your customers and those you serve will take a hit. 

Aging VFD system

Increased costs

The more often your equipment is down, the more often you need to repair or replace it. When it goes down unexpectedly, you’re often stuck paying for rush fees on orders or expedite fees on work, meaning the costs quickly compound. 

These costs can affect both the operation and capital budgets as you look at multiple avenues of getting up and running again. This not only affects your immediate pocketbook, but it can also reduce the number of future projects you want to undertake as you scramble to put out fires. 

Reduced efficiency and other benefits

Many parts of your electrical infrastructure are there to provide a benefit. VFDs may save energy, capacitors could increase power factor, and generators may add reliability and uptime. 

If that equipment fails or is not effective, you begin to lose those benefits. You may not even originally notice the loss as your process keeps running. 

For example, some VFDs come with a bypass so that if they fail, you can continue to run your motor at 100% speed. You may be running on bypass and keeping your process moving, but not realize that you’ve lost all the energy efficiency that was saving you money on your electric bill.  Your processes still run, but now it becomes more expensive to operate.

Violations of regulations of policies

Many industries have regulations, standards, and policies they are required to maintain. Whether these come from a government agency, a third-party organization, or your internal policies, equipment failing or not working as intended may cause you to fall out of compliance. 

One wastewater customer that we worked with was facing this exact problem. When one of their VFDs or generators failed, they ran the risk of not being able to control water flow and spilling contaminated water into a nearby river, which would result in massive fines from the EPA. Having reliable, effective equipment was a necessity for them. 

How Should I address aging infrastructure?

Every facility will eventually run into issues with aging equipment. Although there are many types of electrical equipment, there are a few basic things you can do to address this issue across the board. 

Preventative maintenance

Preventative maintenance is one of the best ways to identify aging infrastructure and begin forming a plan. Proactive maintenance enables you to inspect equipment, identify issues, perform proactive reconditions, and keep equipment in the best condition possible. 

Proper preventative maintenance requires an investment in your on-site team or that you find a trusted contractor, but it pays for itself in the amount of problems you avoid. 

Critical spare parts

Critical spare plan

Having a plan for what equipment needs a spare, how many spares to keep, and how to have them ready and accessible is crucial. This means that even if you experience problems from aging infrastructure, it can quickly be solved. 

Having the right spares and a plan for them helps you avoid making rushed decisions. You’re able to get up and running and then evaluate your options, which will often save you money in the long run. 

Retrofit VFD panel

Equipment upgrades and retrofits

Not all equipment ages at the same rate. Capacitors typically have a lifespan of 5-7 years, while VFDs are expected to last 10-12 years. Rather than run some parts too long or replace an entire system, look at targeted upgrades and retrofits. You may only need to replace the VFD and not the full MCC, which can help to save money and reduce downtime. 

Let us help you plan

Aging electrical infrastructure is a problem that you’ll run into no matter where you work. The sooner you plan, the more headaches you can avoid.