Today’s 2G and 3G digital mobile phones integrate cameras, music players, emails, internet connections, text messages … and oh yes, and you can use them to make phone calls.
This blog post is actually about circuit breakers. So why begin with mobile phones? Because they illustrate the strong market trend towards integrated, multifunctional devices that get ever smaller.
A dream the integrated circuit breaker?
As a power distribution professional, I have a dream – of an all-in-one circuit breaker. But before anyone says “dream on”, let’s be practical about it and take an application. Lighting for example.
An integrated circuit breaker would do more than break a circuit. It would protect, switch, monitor and signal, and communicate. All in a single simple device. In a switchboard, it would save space and energy – both commodities are that are at a premium.
Lighting systems in buildings and industrial facilities today use with multiple separate devices: circuit breakers, contactors, and all the auxiliary devices.
That’s a first gain: simplified management, all in the same device for a whole installation. What else, though.
Space saving. For a start, you wouldn’t have to wire up the contactors. In fact, some colleagues and myself reckon there would be up to 70% less control wires and 50% less power connections. Even conservatively we think you could gain 25% of space.
All-in-one circuit breakers would save energy, too
Less space – and less energy. In any building lighting is an electricity guzzler. But before we talk about the lights themselves, our small-size all-in-one circuit breaker would secure you savings. It would be bistable.
To close the contacts on a contactor you supply power to an electromagnet – the coil. Coils generate heat and, by the same token, heat loss. What’s more, to keep the contactor’s contacts closed you need to power the coil. So heat and power are constantly on the flow with nowhere to go.
An all-in-one circuit breaker would use electronics. It would send an electric impulse – a signal – to close the contactor. It would stay closed until another electrical impulse told it to open up. In between times, no power would be needed – so no current or heat. In this way, the all-in-one circuit breaker could bring 30% savings on contactor power in a 1000 sq. foot. supermarket.
Remote management for electricity efficiency
And with its monitoring-signalling and communication functions, it would save even more power. It would keep you informed of lighting status – which lights are on or off and where. You could then schedule to turn on and off at set times in selected locations. By using lights only when you need them, you would be controlling one of the most power-hungry posts in an installation.
And you would be able do it so from a distance – from a few meters to hundreds of kilometres away. In today’s globalised market place, companies have multiple sites and multiple applications. That kind of function is no luxury.
The all-in-one circuit breaker a dream? It exists and works already
I know what my answer will be next time someone says to me: “A circuit breaker that protects, switches, monitors, signals, controls, and manages all in one simple compact power-saving, space-saving device? Dream on.” I’ll ask them to pass me their 3G phone. I’ll ignore the phone, the messaging, the music, the recording, the video and camera functions and just look on the Internet. Then I will say: “Dream on? Look at the web on your all in-in-one phone. It says the all-in-one circuit breaker exists already. Want to know more?
Or do you think, too, that the time is ripe for integrated circuit breakers and have ideas for applications?
I’d love to hear from you.