Q&A: What are the dangers of aging medium voltage switchgear?

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Aging electrical equipment and components are not only inefficient, they are potentially dangerous. Overheating in medium-voltage switchgear and electrical enclosures, often caused by loose connections or friction (due to lack of, or improper lubrication), can shorten equipment lifespan, or result in costly downtime. So, what can you do to avoid these outcomes? Below we answer some of the most commonly asked industry questions.


Q: How do I know which aging equipment could put my facility at risk?

A: Facility managers can feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of applying limited operating and maintenance and capital funds in the right places. Having an arc flash risk assessment performed is a good starting point. This will identify improvements to the electrical system that can improve safety and reliability, while also providing an equipment condition inspection, updated single-lines, maintenance assessments, and other productivity-enhancing recommendations.

Q: What maintenance mistakes are commonly made with existing equipment?

A: Primarily, a lack of maintenance being performed. Electrical equipment gets installed and forgotten about, however, regular maintenance is essential for the upkeep and longevity of any system. Secondly, where maintenance is being performed, not following specific guidelines and procedures (torque settings, etc.) can cause financial and human damages. In addition, many facilities do not have current documentation of their electrical systems, such as single-line drawings. These are essential for supporting vital tasks like lock-out/tag-out (which is fundamental to any maintenance procedure), testing and troubleshooting, and load balancing.

Q: Can modern equipment warn about imminent failures?

A: Yes, absolutely. With the downsizing in labor forces, there are fewer opportunities to do in-person inspections by qualified personnel, as a result, the ability to program alarming for indication of potential failures is indispensable. Today’s intelligent power monitoring and controls systems can also support migration from time-based maintenance, to condition-based. This is where maintenance cycles can be based on actual circuit conditions instead of specific time intervals.

Q: Is it worth upgrading my existing electrical equipment?

A: The reality today is that facilities are facing rising energy cost issues AND changing code requirements. Upgrading aging electrical equipment allows for more flexible and scalable power availability.

Q: What should I consider regarding electrical system and/or component upgrades?

A: Aging or legacy equipment may not have to be replaced in order to upgrade the power system. A variety of life-extension, refurbishment, and reconditioning options are available. For example, switchgear modernization solutions leave the footprint of the existing equipment intact, while upgrading the line-up with new low, or medium-voltage circuit breakers to current technology. This reduces the need to use hard-to-find spare parts. Utilizing the existing structure and footprint saves time and money.

Learn how to control the costs associated with aging equipment and improve its performance and flexibility with our switchgear modernization solutions.

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