Published on February 18, 2021

Anyone who handles electrical equipment has encountered some form of switchgear. This term encompasses numerous pieces of technology that help to manage an electrical supply system. Whether you work with indoor electrical cabinets or generators outside commercial buildings, switchgear installations prevent current overloads.

The main function of switchgear is to shield electrical systems from irreversible damage such as overheating or combustion due to severe overload. Having switchgear systems in place is a proactive way to protect the machines, generators and equipment companies rely on to fulfill their responsibilities.

Common Examples of Switchgear

Switchgear has a permanent home in all industries. You can think of this technology as a means of cutting off currents before they get a chance to put humans, equipment, and machines at risk of an emergency.

One prime example of switchgear technology would be a circuit breaker in a residential or commercial building. If property owners draw too much power from an electrical source, there are elements in place to disconnect the fuses for the health of the system. Industrial switchgear operates similarly, but the technologies are engineered to deal with vast amounts of power.

Review the details below to understand common forms of switchgear, such as:

  • Fuses
  • Isolator controls
  • Circuit breakers
  • Switches
  • Relays
  • Indicating instruments
  • Current transformers

Switchgear Functionality and Placement

All switchgear is integrated within an electric supply system. Most technologies are to activate automatically in case of a surge, but there are instances when an equipment operator may use manual controls to achieve the same results.

Switchgear systems are to be placed in both high- and low-voltage areas of an electrical assembly. Two of the most important pieces of switchgear installations are relays and circuit breakers for current interruption. Below is an outline of how switchgear installations work:

  1. An electrical fault is detected.
  2. Relays work to close off the area of the circuit where the issue is present.
  3. The corrupted part of the electrical system is de-energized.
  4. Stable parts of the electrical system continue to function as intended.

Determining the Right Switchgear for an Electrical System

The types of switchgear present in an electrical system will be based on application and voltage. Generally, switchgear is rated on whether an electrical network runs on low, medium or high levels of power. Understanding voltage classifications and equipment specifications makes it possible for a professional to install, inspect and troubleshoot electrical systems with care.

Speaking to a credible installer will help you determine the correct approach for preventing an electrical overload. Low-, medium- and high-voltage switchgear are categorized according to specific criteria:

  • Low-voltage switchgear: For systems running on 1,000 volts of AC power or less.
  • Medium-voltage switchgear: Suitable for machines operating on 1,000 to 35,000 volts of AC power.
  • High-voltage switchgear: Necessary for any electrical system using more than 35,000 volts of AC power.

What Is Switchgear Insulation in a Power System?

Power systems feature enclosures where fuses, switches, circuit breakers and other components are hidden from environmental elements. Insulation mediums are common within electrical power housings to limit the chances of an arc flash. A switchgear enclosure will include one of the following insulation agents for protection and emergency cooling:

  • Air: One of the most cost-effective insulators for power systems. Electrical housings must be large to accommodate pieces that can withstand a sudden arc flash.
  • Gas: Switchgear may be surrounded by pressurized gases like Sulfur Hexafluoride. Gas insulation methods work well in tight spaces and utilize tanks for power transmission.
  • Oil: Mineral oil can be used to stop the movement of an electrical arc. This insulation medium creates a bubble across the path of the arc so that it can’t restrike.

Power Distribution and Paralleling Switchgear

Voltage currents move about power systems in an organized fashion for stability. The type of switchgear necessary for a machine will depend on what an electrical engineer hopes to achieve by integrating the technology. Individuals using switchgear for power distribution or paralleling effects will follow different installation procedures:

What Is a Power Distribution Switchgear?

Power distribution switchgear directs current and overloads appropriately. This process might involve closing off specific circuits until the equipment resets or returns to normal operating conditions. As the name implies, distribution switchgear selects a path for current without harming nearby connections.

What Is a Paralleling Switchgear?

Paralleling switchgear is recommended when multiple power generators are linked to the same network. For example, if a main generator fails, there are backups in place to keep systems running 24/7/365.

Paralleling switchgear allows for power load management and system service and repairs. Businesses can have several generators running on standby, and each piece of equipment is synchronized in terms of voltage, frequency and phase angle. With paralleling switchgear, users can direct the correct level of power to equipment with more than one connected generator.

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Power Products & Solutions is your source for electrical system testing, repairs and preventative maintenance. Our technicians have been serving the South East Region for over 30 years, and we’ll visit your facility at a time convenient for you. From system diagnostics to component replacement services, we’re your NETA-certified company that completes jobs on time and on budget.

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