Baseline testing may sometimes also be known as benchmark testing. It is performed on electrical equipment to test its performance and validate its specifications. The result of baseline testing yields a kind of benchmark against which future testing and equipment performance can be measured or compared. This enables a person to get a good idea of the quality of performance of an electrical equipment or device when compared to a known standard of reference, as well as the performance of the electrical equipment over time. Once an electrical equipment or device begins to perform below the benchmark level, then it may be regarded as no longer functional or damaged. Hence the term benchmark testing.
Baseline tests are often conducted on new equipment immediately after installation, and against the benchmark set by this baseline testing, a person will be able to track any possible deterioration, instances of failure or lowered performance. Being able to track the performance of electrical equipment in this way enables you to detect impending problems, avoid surprises, and possibly even predict potential electrical failure.
Of course, manufacturers do conduct electrical tests on their equipment prior to sale. This is not what baseline testing refers to. In fact, there may be great variance between the results of those tests and the baseline testing performed before use and installation. This is because electrical equipment may have already been subjected to external wear and tear and physical handling before use. So baseline testing not only establishes a benchmark by which future maintenance testing can be compared to, but it also offers a way of assessing the state of electrical equipment as compared to manufacturer’s specifications. If there is a significant difference, you may have faulty equipment which you should not be using.
Besides which, baseline testing is often performed by licensed electricians, who may be considered as an objective third party independent of the manufacturer, as opposed to manufacturer’s testing. Also, electricians can perform their tests using calibrated instruments, specialized training, with reference to the industry standards and tolerances, and taking into consideration the circumstances under which the electrical equipment is to be used. This means that not only do you validate the performance of an electrical equipment or device, you also manage to validate that it is the most appropriate product for your specific needs.
Some professionals also refer to what is known as acceptance testing, where an electrical device is tested four times:
- Factory testing, which is performed before shipping to the end user
- Testing upon receipt, which means precisely what it says
- Installation acceptance testing, where the equipment is tested immediately after it has been installed
- Prior to real-world operations, one should be able to “test drive” any equipment before any purchase is made. This is sometimes referred to as start-up or pre-op testing
Subsequently, periodic maintenance tests of devices and electrical equipment should be conducted at regular intervals. Doing this enables you to gather the relevant data that shows you how a specific piece of equipment performs over time. Then you will be able to detect irregularities in its performance, which over time will give you an idea of how a specific piece of equipment deteriorates with use.
Two data can be collected during these routine maintenance checks, regarding an equipment’s condition and reliability as you find them, and as you leave them. This factors in any maintenance or repair work you may have undertaken based on its lowered performance. Doing this enables you to track not only an equipment’s work performance over time but also any difficulties it may begin to demonstrate. And recording both as-found and as-left data also enables you to evaluate your own methods of repair and maintenance: how effective your maintenance work is, and which solutions have been shown to yield positive results as compared to other alternative solutions.