How Smart are your Switchgear Controls?

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In this era of technology and communication, it is hard to imagine that simple issues stemming from an aging power system can cause serious damage as well as pose major safety risks. Within a power system, switchgear controls can be thought of as the operating system or ‘brains’ of the electrical switchgear. Existing facilities with aging operating systems open them up to multiple vulnerabilities ranging from the risk of unplanned downtime to complete system failure.

Modernization solutions exist that upgrade the switchgear’s operating system with intelligent technology and help avoid such failures. Business requirements change over time; having an upgraded switchgear operating system helps ensure reliable power and continued business operations.

Upgrading aging electromechanical relays to digital relays helps to improve electrical reliability and equipment productivity.

Switchgear Controls Health Check Guide

The following are important recommendations for evaluating the health of your switchgear controls (operating system):

  • Use system documentation to review hardware and software for obsolescence. Have repair parts readily available as it is a critical attribute to having a reliable, robust system.
  • Physically evaluate the condition of the switchgear and controls – looking for signs of wear and tear, overheating, exposure to moisture or component failure.
  • Consider all electromechanical relays for replacement as newer multi-function relays can help reduce the overall device footprint and offer remote reporting and monitoring capabilities. In addition, newer multi-functional relays or a Human Machine Interface (HMI) can also be used to provide better situational awareness of the system.
  • Add an HMI to help provide a simpler user interface, as well as better functionality and system troubleshooting capabilities.
  • Check the overall system maintenance and testing schedule to see if it is time to schedule preventive maintenance. In addition, consider recommissioning the operating system.
  • Determine if current codes and standards may have affected the sequence of operation or hardware configuration.
  • Relocate operator controls away from the gear to enhance overall system safety.

The health check guide helps provide significant system improvements, but in complex scenarios you must always employ a holistic approach while seeking out modernization upgrades. The right approach includes obtaining a system level understanding of your needs before buying any pre-packaged solution.

Reliable power is an often overlooked, but critical component of our livelihood. Whether we consider a hospital, a data center, an industrial manufacturer or a school, nothing operates without it. Hence, existing switchgear controls should always be given consideration when prioritizing any upgrades. More information can be found here.

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  • You brought up a great point about how a system’s health can be determined even by simple wear and tear on the controls and levers. I also like that you mentioned that institutions as vital as hospitals rely on switchgear. It’s important to me that when my family is in the hospital that everything is working well and safely. I think anyone with switchgear would be smart to have it inspected regularly and replaces as needed.

    • Sahil Shanghavi

      6 years ago

      Thanks for your comment Daniel. I agree with you. Certain hospitals are very diligent in making sure that their switchgear is maintained properly for optimal operation.

  • Sandy Vasser

    6 years ago

    This is an excellent discussion on what is possible. With the replacement of electromechanical relays with multifunction relays, there is an opportunity to link power systems analyses with the settings of the relays so that settings are automatically adjusted based on changes to the power system.

    • Sahil Shanghavi

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the compliment Sandy. You correctly point out that Power System Analyses such as Short Circuit, Coordination and Arc Flash studies, play an important role in capturing updates or upgrades made to the existing system.

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