How much does an arc flash study cost?


blog author iconJon Travis
date icon2021 / 11 / 30
blog views icon2084
How much does an arc flash study cost?

If you’re thinking about whether or not you want to do an arc flash study then at some point you’re going to want to do an arc flash study cost estimate.

Well… you’re in the right place.

how much does an arc flash study cost

In this article, I’ll give you some examples and an estimating philosophy that will answer the question: 

How much does an arc flash study cost?

And remember, the numbers used in this article are to help people get a ballpark for budgeting purposes. 

The exercise to do a proper estimate would be much more involved… 

With that said, let’s jump in!

What is an Arc Flash Study?

An arc flash study (also known as an arc flash analysis) is an electrical engineering analysis of a facility’s electrical distribution system that determines how hot an electric arc explosion can get (what’s known as the incident energy) at any point that a worker might interact with that system.

The arc flash study produces all the information required to label each piece of electrical equipment with the specific level of the incident energy (measured in cal/cm2) available at each individual piece of equipment. To learn more, check out our Arc Flash Studies Guide

Arc flash study cost estimate

There are a few different factors to consider when try to figure out a cost estimate for an arc flash study.

An important factor is having an updated single line diagram of your facility on hand will help an engineering firm get to work on putting together an arc flash study analysis cost.

For now, start by looking at the size of your facility.

How big is your facility?

Probably the easiest way to start is to look at the size of your facility.

If you have a relatively small facility the costs will be significantly less than a large-scale operation (most of the time)… think on the low low end $3000, small to medium $7500 to $15,000 and on the high end $75,000 to $100,000.

There are some ultra facilities out there that are going to get you from the $100,000 to $500,000 range (maybe more) but these would be few and far between. 95% of the operations existing today should fall well within the $100,000 range.

The arc flash study itself is not based on the square footage of the buildings, but it has to do with the amount of electrical equipment inside that facility, so this method is not bulletproof.

A warehouse, for instance, will cost much less than an equally “sized” pulp & paper mill because of the amount of electrical equipment housed in each building is much different.

But this is only a starting point.

Choose a base number and then adjust for the points listed below:

  • How much equipment do you have?
  • What are we starting with?
  • Are things easily accessible?
  • Can your electrical workers lend a hand?

Free arc flash study definitive guide

How much equipment do you have?

This is probably the biggest determining factor.

An arc flash study is an engineering exercise with a number of steps that take a certain amount of time.

There are two steps that have a one-to-one correlation with the size of your electrical system.

  • collecting data; and
  • entering data into the model

The more “nodes” you have on your electrical system, the longer it’s going to take to collect the data and the longer it’s going to take to sift through the data and enter it into the model.

Examples of nodes would be transformers, cables, switch-gear breakers, fuses, disconnects, motor control centers, etc… basically every major component of your electrical system.

And as the old saying goes, time is money.

If you have a lot of equipment packed into your operation add 50-75% to your base estimate… if you’re closer to the warehouse-style operation reduce your base by 50%.

What are we starting with?

If you have an up-to-date single-line diagram of your electrical system, then you are miles ahead.

If the engineer working on your project can get a head start on the model or even become very familiar with your facility (from an electrical point of view) it will greatly increase the speed of the project.

Conversely, if your single line is badly out of date or totally non-existent then there is going to be a lot of extra time figuring out what is connected to what and how things are fed.

If you don’t have a single line, it’s not the end of the world and I wouldn’t spend time putting one together in order to initiate an arc flash study.

The engineers are going to need to collect the data anyway… so just roll it in as part of the project. Just remember that it’s probably going to increase the cost by 25-35% (depending on how much running around there is to determine the proper inter-connectivity).

Are things easily accessible?

Certain industries tend to be easier to do arc flash studies on than others because of their natural environments.

Depending on your specific industry or business model it might take more time to collect the data because:

  • things are spread out all over the city (think waste water management)
  • access to equipment is limited due to lack of downtime (think pulp & paper)
  • there is significant idle time in order to access equipment (think underground mining)
  • and many more issues…

All in all, you will need to factor these things in when trying to determine the cost. I used to work in underground mining and a rule of thumb was anything underground takes 50%-100% more than the cost on the street (because of the time required to get everything into the mine shaft and then reassembled underground).

Think about your operation and then adjust your base appropriately.

Can your electrical workers lend a hand?

Sometimes you’ve got some extra manpower that you’re already paying for to be on site.

In this case, it might totally make sense to have them do some of the leg work.

The data collection, single line updates, or tracing cable tasks could be done by in-house resources.

Now, I understand that they aren’t “free”… but it might make more sense than to increase the cost of an arc flash study.

If you can offer the engineer some in-house support then reduce your base by 15-20%.

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Calculating your arc flash study cost estimate

Hopefully, this answers the question of how much does an arc flash study costs for you…

So to recap:

  • Choose a base number (likely $3,000, $15,000 or $50,000)
  • Adjust for how much equipment you have (+- 25-50%)
  • Adjust for starting information accuracy (+- 25%)
  • Adjust for accessibility (+- 25%)
  • Adjust for electrical workers utilization (+- 15%)

While this is by no means a true engineering exercise it should get you ballpark on determining the cost of your arc flash hazard analysis cost.

If you would like more information on the cost of an arc flash study please reach out to me at jon.travis@leafelectricalsafety.com or contact us here.

How much does an Arc Flash incident cost a business?

You might be wondering from a cost perspective, why pay to have this done?

Besides the human and equipment costs (which can be significant) involved if there is an arc flash incident, there are also legal costs that your company could face for not having an arc flash study completed.

Below are a few examples of fines in North America:

  • In 2010, an Ontario company pleaded guilty and was fined $100,000 for a violation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker was injured. More here
  • A Kitchener, Ontario electrical company in 2019 was fined $55,000 and the supervisor was fined $5,000 after three workers suffered burns on the job because of an arc flash. More here
  • In 2019, OSHA cited a metal smelting company – for electrical hazards after an arc flash caused three workers to suffer severe burns at its facility in Hayden, Arizona. The company faces $278,456 in penalties for two willful violations and one serious violation. More here

At Leaf Electrical Safety we believe no one should feel unsafe when working with electricity.

Having the proper arc flash study labels in place at your facility quickly and accurately provides the information your electricians need in order to stay safe.

Looking To Learn More About Arc Flash Studies?

Download our free Definitive Guide to Arc Flash Studies to help get a more detailed understanding of the potential arc flash hazard at your facility.

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