Why is an electrical shutdown needed for a modernization project?

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Customers often ask me why an electrical shutdown is needed for a modernization project. Most say they can’t afford downtime. But here’s why a scheduled outage is absolutely necessary.

While it’s understandable that an interruption is not ideal for facility operations, safety is of utmost importance. Powering down and de-energizing equipment for modernization eliminates arc flash hazard, removes the chance of damaging equipment and mitigates shock and electrocution danger. These safe conditions ensure engineers, field service reps, contractors and anyone involved in the project are protected.

Also, without a scheduled outage you don’t get an overall picture of the equipment condition. Frequently, when engineers perform an invasive evaluation before the install, they’ll unearth hidden issues. Serious issues like an insulation breakdown or significant rusting to the existing structure can put the larger system at risk of failure down the road if not addressed.


Low Voltage Direct Replacement Upgrade

During the installation outage, the Field Service Representative (FSR) will go through the process of “normalization.” Some of the interlocks could act differently when trying to rack the breaker in and out, or wiring could be an issue with secondary contact to the cell. During the normalization process, the FSRs evaluate each breaker rack to ensure the replacement breakers will have the same form, fit and function for every single cell.

Scheduling an outage before the install is performed gives the engineering team time to conduct a thorough evaluation of the gear and update the customer drawings so there are no surprises.

Planning for downtime

A direct replacement upgrade, which is designed to fit into the existing cubicle with little-to-no modification, will require much less downtime than a more design and labor intensive retrofill solution. For example, a direct replacement might take an hour to complete while a retrofill for the same type of breaker can take anywhere from 12 to 14 hours to install.

Regardless if you’re doing a direct replacement or retrofill, preparing for an outage will make the process go a lot smoother and minimize the impact of downtime. Consider these best practices:

  • Look at multiple factors when scheduling the outage such as seasonality, peak times for business, or customer deployments. Identifying these factors and weighing the pros and cons together can help determine the most ideal time to conduct the outage. More often than not, engineering teams and FSRs can accommodate scheduling to perform the outage after hours or on the weekends to curtail the impact on both facility and business operations.
  • Try to schedule the outage around something else. Use it as an opportunity to also perform preventative maintenance or to do a complete system study so you’re getting added value out of the downtime.
  • From a resource standpoint, think ahead about what equipment, such as a portable generator or external lighting, will be needed on site and who (contractor, field service, etc.) will be responsible for procuring the gear. If overlooked, it could tack on days to the project waiting for the necessary equipment to be delivered.

When it comes to downtime, safety is the No. 1 concern followed by the quality of the install and of the final design. Without an outage, assumptions and unknowns about the state of the electrical gear can lead to issues down the road in operating the equipment. Taking the initial outage to get to a 100 percent design will make a significant impact in minimizing risks and downtime in the field.

Click here to find out how to reduce the risk and associated costs of an unplanned outage.

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  • Paul,

    Very nice article and it clearly communicates the need for an outage during a modernization project.

    I understand that Retrofill projects may require two shut downs – could you elaborate more on that sir?

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