The Benefits of Annual Electrostatic Precipitator Inspections

detailed graphic of an esp

In this post, Jeremy Vaughn, Senior Parts Manager at ProcessBarron’s precipitator parts warehouse, outlines how annual electrostatic precipitator inspections improve efficiency and reliability while conserving resources. 

Inspections are a top priority for air pollution control equipment because that is the only way to keep the unit operating reliably and efficiently. The Clean Air Act led to a lot of APC equipment construction in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, especially electrostatic precipitators (ESPs). This equipment is aging, but your plant can take steps to keep it operating efficiently and reliably. 

Annual inspections are incredibly powerful because they establish a baseline and parameters for what normal operations look like in your facility. This information works hand-in-hand with daily/weekly/monthly inspections conducted by plant staff to help you anticipate critical failures in advance and head them off during your next planned outage. 

This post will show you how annual inspections pay off in 6 areas: 

  • Improve strategic planning 
  • Improve efficiency
  • Fix the root, not just the symptoms 
  • Avoid critical failures of obsolete parts
  • Plan predictable budgets
  • System documentation and specifications

Improved Strategic Planning

Your facility gains efficiency as you conduct inspections year after year because they will help develop a multi-year plan outlining what needs to be repaired now, what can wait a year, and what needs attention sometime in the next few years. We develop a detailed game plan during the annual inspection to know what manpower, construction equipment, and materials we will need for routine and non-routine maintenance during the next outage. 

For example, we might say, “We know we’re going to replace this chain next year, so let’s bring a plan on having replacement chain, hardware, and two extra guys who are experienced in that area.” That lets the superintendent plan everything from parts to the workforce needed for the repairs.

Improved Efficiency

Annual inspections don’t just help reliability, they improve efficiency.  When your precipitator runs at optimal efficiency, you create compliance headroom that can help you avoid excursions in your opacity, possibly resulting in scaling back the boiler or, worse, environmental fines. Even old ESPs can operate reliably and efficiently when they receive annual inspections and maintenance from experts who understand the total system from end to end.  

Fix the Root Problem, Not Just the Symptoms 

If someone repairs your electrostatic precipitator without explaining the problem’s root cause, you’ll probably have to fix that same problem again soon. We have customers who repaired the same $5,000 insulator year after year because the contractor didn’t have expertise in the electrostatic precipitator as a complete system, so they couldn’t understand why the insulator kept breaking. 

In an annual inspection, we identify and fix the problem behind the problem. We are focused on the unit’s health and not just on fixing cracks. Identifying the root cause of the problem saves money on parts and repairs, and it improves overall reliability by improving the health of your unit. 

Avoid Critical Failures of Obsolete Parts

During annual inspections, we identify components and parts that are no longer available. It’s one thing when equipment fails, and you have to wait 24 hours for overnight delivery of replacement parts. It’s entirely different when a part fails and you cannot find a replacement anywhere. Most plant staff are not in a position to know when OEMs stop supporting specific components. We identify parts that are no longer available so you can develop a strategic plan for upgrading. 

For example, we might identify controls in your system that haven’t been available for 2 years. If these controls failed, you would have to do emergency repairs and replace the entire system. Instead of waiting on the controls to fail, we collaborate with you to develop a plan to upgrade one cabinet at a time so you can work it into your budget. This provides a path to bringing your unit into this century without paying a premium for emergency repairs or purchasing a whole system within a single budget year.

Plan Predictable Budgets

Unplanned outages and repairs can cost millions of dollars, and there is no telling when this expense will hit. Annual inspections help customers avoid the unexpected. The long-range plan we develop together lets you plan major expenditures years in advance for:

  • Maintenance
  • Repairs
  • Spare Parts
  • Equipment upgrades

Document Your System Specifications

When we work on your planned outage, we document your system specifications. This helps us develop your multi-year strategic plan, and it also helps us quickly react when emergencies arise between outages. When you call and describe an issue, we already have drawings with measurements, so we know what you need. We know part numbers, when parts were purchased, what we have in stock, and what vendors provided each component. Documenting system specifications helps us provide unparalleled service for our clients. 


When we complete an annual inspection, we provide a complete report on where you were before the outage, what was accomplished, and where you are now. We also provide recommendations to help guide daily/weekly/monthly inspections conducted by plant staff. Your ESP will operate at peak efficiency when your team and our ESP experts collaborate and coordinate, enabling you to get more power into the unit and collect more dust, lowering your opacity. You can document improved performance in addition to increased reliability. 

Do you want to find out more about scheduling an ESP inspection during your next planned outage? Contact us today to find out more.