The Need for Circuit Breakers

Whether it is a residential structure or a commercial building, everyone is exposed to electric hazards from domestic appliances, plant equipment and machinery. Shocks and burns from faulty plant equipment can result in lifelong damage and cause serious injuries. Circuit breaker protection is used along with grounding for protecting electronic appliances from overloading and heat build-up. Circuit breaker protection is absolutely essential in today’s world because the safety mechanism of this equipment guards a structure and its occupants against the electrical hazards of faulty wiring, damaged insulation, improper grounding, short-circuit and voltage fluctuations.

The Longevity of Circuit Breaker

Certain types of circuit breakers need more maintenance if they are not fitted with genuine parts. When genuine replacement parts are unavailable, the functioning of circuit breakers is adversely affected and results in frequent repairs, downtime and power failures. The factors that affect the service life of a circuit breaker are:

  • Number of Switching Operations
    While there is no predefined requirement regarding the service life of a circuit breaker, the switching rate under normal load and overload condition varies between O-t-CO for short-circuit capacity testing. The durability and longevity of a circuit breaker also depends on the magnitude of the breaking current.
  • Maintenance
    Maintenance cost is a major factor in determining the serviceability of circuit breakers because it is inclusive of inspection costs, manpower costs, preventive maintenance expenses and also depends on the availability of genuine replacement parts for corrective maintenance. Since maintenance expenses are consistent, they have a direct impact on the reliability and longevity of circuit breakers.
  • Hours of Outage
    A variable cost is to be incurred on every hour of outage during preventive maintenance. If replacement parts are easily available, the outage time can be significantly reduced.
  • Environmental Factors
    Temperature, the presence of certain fluids and vapors, sulfur hexafluoride and polychlorinated biphenyls asbestos are among the primary environmental concerns that adversely impact the efficiency and reliability of circuit breakers.

Conversion Terms Important to Extending the Service Life of Circuit Breakers

According to the conversion standards stated by the IEEE for switchgear equipment, the following are a few terms which you should be familiar with to ensure correct services:

  • Racking – is the act of removing a physical component between the connected and disengaged position in a specific compartment.
  • Reconditioning – is the process of retaining the existing switchgear component while ensuring compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions and keeping only approved parts.
  • Retrofill – is the conversion procedure that involves the replacement of functional components of a circuit breaker within a compartment of the vertical section that features a different design.

Different Solutions to Extend the Service Life of Circuit Breakers

  • Reconditioning
    If genuine parts are available from the OEM, the switching rate is low, and the circuit parameters are below the rating, reconditioning can suffice for 5 years. If original parts are not easily available, it can affect the performance of the circuit breaker and also lead to a failure. Since reconditioning relies on reverse engineering it can be hazardous when used for increasing the capacity of the circuit breaker.
  • Replacement of Circuit Breakers
    This method may require minor modifications to the structure or control wiring for completing the interface. Standalone systems can be assembled to replace oil circuit breakers for enhanced dependability and reduced maintenance and downtime.
  • Retrofill Conversion
    Retrofill is a feasible solution if the existing enclosure has the room to accommodate all the components to be used in conversion. Advanced technology can be integrated into the existing enclosures if the installations are unique. The cost of conversion varies between a new circuit and a complete replacement.
  • Replacement of Switchgear
    Installing new switchgear that features advanced technology is required during an extensive site preparation where the dimensional layout is totally different and needs reconfiguration of cabling. This is a costly solution but increases energy efficiency and offers complete safety.
  • Interactive Training
    Training offers a good starting point for the maintenance and testing of circuit breakers. Many vendors have online modules and interactive programs that do not require any special skills to learn testing procedures and maintenance processes.

There are several safe and effective methods to extend the service life, durability and dependability of circuit breakers using conversions, replacements and reconditioning. Incorporating advanced technology can improve the life expectancy of the circuit breaker and keep it in good shape even beyond its service life.