The True Cost of Owning a Power Analyzer
Power analyzers are the kind of product that many people falsely assume will be a one-time expense of whatever price is listed by the manufacturer or distributor. Unfortunately, the reality is that to get the best value and to assure you and your customers that the measurements are accurate you will want to factor in the cost of maintenance and updates.
Your analyzer is as good as its measurements are. Industry standard time between calibrations is 1 year. Most analyzers do not vary much over time, but if you are providing measurements to decision-makers, it is a relatively low cost to re-calibrate the analyzer each year in order to eliminate any question about accuracy and to be certain that decisions are based on facts. Investigate the cost of calibration for the analyzer of your choice before you buy.
Your current probes are a bigger source of error than the analyzer is over time. Be sure they can be calibrated (many cannot be). Determine the cost of calibrating the current probes you will be buying.
Some manufacturers provide calibration services for their own equipment, some do not. Often times, the ones that do offer calibrations charge hundreds of dollars for the analyzer alone, plus additional costs for individual current probes. If done every year, this can get very expensive over time. It’s possible to even spend ¼ of the analyzer’s list price for calibrations every year! The most cost-efficient solution would be to find a maintenance plan that covers calibrations for the analyzer and all accessories in the power analysis kit, preferably provided by the manufacturer.
“Fixes” and Improvements
Just like an app on your phone, a power analyzer needs updates to fix bugs and errors that are found over time. To our knowledge, every power analyzer manufacturer provides free firmware updates for bug fixes. Generally, performance upgrades are not included in these firmware updates because that would be providing additional features that the customer has not paid for. It would be preferable, though, to find a power analyzer from a manufacturer that offers firmware feature upgrades whenever possible. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.
It is not uncommon for manufacturers to offer a one to three year warranty on the power analyzer and accessories in case of defects. If a product in your system breaks, they will repair or replace it for no additional charge. However, what if your equipment fails in year four? In most cases, the user is forced to buy replacement equipment for a system that should have lasted longer. This can be hundreds, even thousands of extra dollars at times (per kit) depending on what parts fail.
How Much This Will Cost Over Time
This depends on which power analyzer is purchased. Power analyzers and power analysis kits often include warranties from one to three years, so the length of warranty can factor into the cost of ownership. In most cases, as long as equipment is under warranty, the user will not have to pay for repair or replace parts that fail prematurely (usually batteries are not included). Seeing as almost all power analyzer manufacturers do not offer extended or reinstated warranties, repairing and replacing an analyzer or accessory can be a several hundred or thousand dollar expense.
If everything works and no repairs are needed, then calibrations are the only expense. Depending on where the equipment is serviced, these can be under $100 (for each current probe) to upwards of $500 per analyzer calibration. Finding a calibration service provider that charges a low fee for the entire system (analyzer and usually 4 current probes) will lower the cost of ownership over time.
In any case, factor in the expenses that occur after the purchase of a power analyzer. Neglecting maintenance can defeat the purpose of buying an instrument you will depend on for accurate measurements and trustworthy answers to power related questions.