The need for speed: Ethernet for smart circuit breakers

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Operating expenses represent the majority of a building’s lifecycle costs, sometimes exceeding 80%. Energy and maintenance are a big part of these costs. Considering that 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is typically wasted, and moving to predictive instead of preventative maintenance can reduce costs by 8% to 12%, there’s still massive potential for savings in buildings. Smart circuit breakers with Ethernet connectivity can play an important role in helping you tap into these opportunities.

Digitizing your power

The first step to savings is giving your facility team a full understanding of energy consumption and power conditions. This requires being connected at all times to make sure you don’t miss any critical events or trends that could be putting uptime or energy efficiency at risk. To enable this, power distribution systems are becoming fully digitized, with connected devices and smart apps converting data into actionable information. With better information comes better decision making, more savings, and higher reliability.

Connected devices can include sensors, meters, and circuit breakers. Some of the newest smart circuit breakers combine traditional protection functions with accurate power and energy metering, power quality monitoring, breaker health, event and maintenance logging, alarms, and diagnostics.

Fast access to insights

Having richer data helps facility operations and maintenance teams stay on top of conditions, respond more quickly to potential problems, and restore power faster if an outage occurs. For example, local data access for technicians can support maintenance or problem solving. This can be provided by a circuit breaker’s front panel display. For safe, hands-free access to a greater scope of data, some of the most advanced breakers offer wireless connection using a smart phone app.

Though local connectivity is important, deeper insights are only enabled through networked communications. Data is uploaded automatically to analytic software in a central engineering office, for example, or to the cloud for wider access to the organization and its service partners.

Ethernet: the high-performance standard

The simplest and most efficient way to connect a power distribution system’s smart devices is Ethernet. It’s the standard backbone of every computing infrastructure, available throughout every new or renovated facility. Its universal protocol has made it the connectivity standard for IT, building management, SCADA, and power management.

Ethernet offers convenient and error-free connection, flexible wiring architectures, and simple network configuration. It also acts as the doorway to remote access, cloud computing, and the Internet-of-Things, while compatibility with WiFi enables mobile access.

Fortunately, many advanced power meters and circuit breakers offer Ethernet ports.

So do power distribution ‘smart panels’, compact enclosures that combine metering, protection, and control devices. With the explosion of IoT-enabled smart devices in facilities, faster connectivity is crucial and this is why Ethernet is so powerful. Boasting 10 Gbit/s transfer, it’s 250k times faster than Modbus, and 800 times faster than industrial field bus standards. This means large amounts of data from hundreds of distributed devices can be uploaded quickly. In addition, Ethernet is a client/server protocol, meaning that critical information, like alarms, are sent immediately to facility teams.

For example, Schneider Electric’s MasterPact™ MTZ range of air circuit breakers offer integrated Ethernet ports as well as smart phone app and front panel data access. In combination with EcoStruxure™ software, extensive analytics on breaker and power network conditions help enable predictive maintenance, optimize asset and power performance, avoid risks to uptime, and speed up power restoration.

This has been the seventh post in our series on how the newest smart circuit breakers are helping improve operational efficiency and reliability. To learn more about the MasterPact MTZ range, visit the dedicated website.

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