A number of electrical problems can create hazardous conditions for your crew and machinery, including short circuits, overloaded circuits, and more. Circuit breakers are the primary method of protecting people and equipment from these dangers. As in all aspects of workplace safety, regular maintenance systems and preventive maintenance will help keep workers safe while avoiding expensive breakdowns and costly repairs.
The Cost of Avoiding Maintenance
One leading factor of industrial circuit breaker deterioration is the fact that they are rarely in operation and spend most of their time idle. While most machinery makes it obvious when a breakdown occurs, you may be unaware of a problem until a breaker fails and brings your production to a halt.
Dirty circuit breakers can also fail to operate correctly; grime and debris must be prevented from accumulating in the breakers. Over time, the lubrication used in circuit breakers can also break down and prevent the components from operating correctly and safely.
Common Routine Tests
The easiest way to ensure that industrial circuit breakers are functioning correctly is through routine testing. This can usually be completed without stopping production lines. To ensure a thorough test for your breakers, NETA specifications should be used to ensure that the devices adhere to NETA-certified acceptance standards.
While the exact testing protocols will vary depending on your specific operations, there are standard procedures that are likely to be performed to assess industrial circuit breakers. For example, all key components such as contacts, connections, and arc chutes, should be examined. Low-voltage breakers should undergo primary and secondary injection testing to ensure fault trip and overload protection.
A circuit breaker analyzer is a device used to test the timing of the open and close functions of a circuit breaker and ensure the synchronism of the poles in different operations. A micro-ohmmeter is used to perform resistance testing to prevent hot spots in the breaker and look for potential problems. Lastly, an infrared inspection may be done to search for hot spots resulting from defective components or connections that lead to component failure.
Routine Breaker Maintenance
Some types of industrial circuit breakers will require more maintenance than others. For example, a molded case breaker needs very little attention, while others should be included in a periodic maintenance program.
The frequency of routine maintenance should be determined based on the environment of your operations and your specific equipment.
One crucial routine task is to clean the breakers. The accumulation of debris in a breaker can prevent the breaker from tripping, cause deviations in the power supply, and more. Cleaning a breaker can be completed by taking off the cover and removing any buildup using vacuum tools, lint-free swabs, and isopropyl alcohol.
Industrial circuit breakers also require lubrication to function properly. A number of items should be inspected for adequate lubrication, including operating mechanisms, pivot points, the main contacts, and primary and auxiliary connections.
Lastly, many types of industrial circuit breakers require regular tightening and retorquing. The breaker’s manufacturer will list the recommended values for specific breakers, and these figures should be confirmed on a regular basis.
Schedules to Avoid Downtime
Rather than an unexpected shutdown, planned interruption to production schedules will always be better for virtually all industrial situations. Regular maintenance and testing according to a set schedule are critical factors in ensuring that maintenance is completed when it is convenient for your operation.
What this routine looks like will depend on the type of breaker as well as the environment in which machines are running. A relatively clean environment, such as those found in the manufacturing of electronics, will likely require less maintenance than one with a great deal of dirt or debris.
A testing schedule should also be created to ensure that all circuit breakers are in working order. This schedule will also be determined by the type of breakers being used. For example, high-voltage breakers should be tested every six months, at minimum, whereas low-voltage breakers can go a maximum of three years between tests. Molded-case breakers need very little maintenance at all. The most critical factors for routine maintenance and testing for industrial circuit breakers are not only creating a schedule that is appropriate for the environment and the equipment, but also ensuring adherence to this schedule. If you’re not sure how frequently to test and inspect your electrical equipment or what type of routine maintenance is necessary, Quad Plus can help. Please contact Jim Woulf at (920) 515-4155 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Routine maintenance and testing are far easier to work into your production schedule than unexpected downtime.