In this series of posts on Switchgear Failures and How to Predict and Prevent Them, we will discuss:

Switchgear Failures Have Severe Consequences

Switchgear deals with voltages in the range of a few kilo volts (kV) to hundreds of kV. These high voltages present high risk to both capital and workers when the switchgear equipment fails. Arc flash is one extremely dangerous example of a failure event. The heat from the explosion is enough to vaporize copper busbars. The highly-conductive smoke and plasma can spread out and trigger failures in adjacent switchgear cabinets. The leading causes1 of switchgear failures are loose connections, worn out/broken insulation on the cabling, external agents like dust and water, and faulty protection mechanisms. Failures can cause lengthy outages–always a blow to an electrical company and its reputation.  The costs to replace equipment and compensate workers for injuries can be enormous.

Stop Failures Before They Happen

Existing inspection mechanisms cannot always prevent a catastrophic failure like a high-voltage arc fault. Most protection mechanisms (e.g. fuses, circuit breakers and ground fault protectors) aren’t helpful in predicting a switchgear failure. They are intended to stop, or at least mitigate, a fault when it occurs. Some maintenance processes require regular manual inspection, which is still fraught with risk and adds to the overall cost of maintaining the switchgear equipment.

Arc-flash explosion in electrical switchgear equipment2

Most of the leading causes of switchgear failure are accompanied by an increased thermal signature in critical areas of the switchgear assembly. With continuous monitoring, temperature increases can provide adequate warning of catastrophic failure. In addition to being continuous, there is a need for the monitoring to be wireless and battery-free (passive). This makes the monitoring equipment itself maintenance-free and allows for a non-intrusive way of monitoring the environment.


2Image sourced from: on August 28, 2017.

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Temperature Monitoring Avoids Switchgear Failures