Smart circuit breakers: the key to more reliable, productive, and efficient facility operations

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This is the first in a series of blog posts on recent advances in smart circuit breaker technology. In this post, we’ll look at the broad range of benefits this new trend offers facility maintenance and management teams.

Ongoing global industrialization and urbanization will create an estimated 50% increase in energy consumption by 2050. With 42% of the world’s energy being used in buildings and more than 30% of that energy wasted due to inefficiency, there are big opportunities still waiting to be captured.

These efficiencies need to be tapped without any risk to power continuity. Every minute a data center is down can mean huge financial losses. Any power disruption in a hospital can put lives at risk. All types of operations, from buildings, plants, and campuses to wind farms are now expected to deliver 100% uptime and productivity.

Power distribution systems are at the center of these challenges and opportunities, delivering electricity to loads in harsh environments that can include temperature extremes, dirt, chemicals, and vibration. Digitalization and the ‘Internet of Things’ will connect 50 billion things by 2020. These advances are helping power systems rise to meet all challenges, with components like circuit breakers becoming smarter and more connected.

Boosting operational efficiency and continuity

With operational expenses representing approximately 75% of a building’s life cycle costs, maintenance managers are expected to deliver high quality service while being cost-efficient. Studies show an 18% cost savings is possible using a preventative versus reactive maintenance approach. The newest circuit breakers support these efforts in multiple ways:

  1. Speeding up outage restoration. A smart phone app connects to the breaker, guiding the technician through a series of steps to quick identify the issue and then safely reclose the breaker without any mistakes.
  2. Simplifying periodic checks. Circuit breakers deliver scheduled maintenance reminders to a smart phone, and allow for notes to be recorded and shared with the rest of the service team.
  3. Keeping the power system 100% failsafe. If the risk of a trip is rising, a smart circuit breaker will send alerts to personnel via smart phone, so the technician can diagnose the issue at a glance and fix it quickly thanks to remote access to settings and data.
  4. Predictive maintenance scheduling. Analytic software uploads breaker diagnostic reporting (e.g. number of operations, contact wear), plus other environmental measurements, and then uses this to calculate breaker-aging. This helps service teams predict maintenance needs and anticipate risks to reliability. Condition-based maintenance can also reduce the frequency of inspections, saving time and costs.

Uncovering energy inefficiency

To comply with new efficiency standards and regulations, such as ISO 50001, requires going beyond equipment upgrades. It requires continuously tracking and analyzing facility-wide consumption, allocating costs, and validating energy billing. To support this, the IEC 60364-8-1 standard recommends Class 1 accurate metering on incoming power feeds and at least Class 2 metering at a downstream LV switchboard. The newest generation of LV air circuit breakers helps meet this requirement:

  1. Cost-effective access to energy data. Embedded Class 1 energy metering in LV circuit breakers located at the service entrance and on main feeders avoids the costs of installing additional energy meters.
  2. Fast data transfer. Energy data needs to be efficiently collected to be analyzed. Smart circuit breakers now offer direct connection to Ethernet networks, delivering the fast data transfer needed by service teams to access the large amount of power, energy, and equipment status information now available.
  3. Supported by analytics. Smart circuit breakers share data with the newest analytic applications, helping both facility and energy managers visualize energy performance across one or more facilities, benchmark buildings against each other, reveal opportunities, sub-bill departments or tenants, validate savings, and support regulatory reporting and green building certification.

A new standard in advanced protection

Fortunately, circuit breakers with new levels of intelligence and connectivity are now emerging. The MasterPact™ MTZ range from Schneider Electric can be used in even harsher environments, withstands greater levels of shock and vibration, and offers many new capabilities all in the same footprint. The breaker notifies maintenance teams of alarm conditions, while its intuitive 5-color HMI provides clear indication of any issues. A new mobile app allows data retrieval over Bluetooth, even if power is off, and guides technicians through fault diagnosis and power outage restoration.

MasterPact MTZ offers embedded energy metering accurate to 1%, with 3rd party certification to the latest standards. Ethernet connectivity enables seamless integration and compatibility with the EcoStruxure™ Power architecture and Schneider Electric suite of facility and energy management solutions. The breaker is also ‘future ready,’ adapting its functionality to changing needs through downloadable digital modules.

Click here to learn more about the MasterPact MTZ air circuit breaker. And watch for the next post in this smart circuit breaker series, which will take a closer look at improving response to outages.

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  • I thought it was interesting that there will be a 50% increase of energy consumption by 2050. I’ve been studying wasn’t to save energy in my home, but never considered that there were smarter circuit breakers. I think a new circuit breaker could potentially save my household money.

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