Electricity has radically changed how humans live, defining how many of us spend our time at home, working, and more. While highly beneficial, electricity is also a volatile force that can be dangerous if not managed properly. Safety devices are electrical equipment that are highly beneficial for electrical distribution, often implemented to ensure that faults and overload conditions are prevented from flowing freely through a power system. By stopping the flow of a fault, such equipment can mitigate damage to electrical devices, components, and individuals. The switchgear is a common part of an electrical power system, consisting of disconnect switches, fuses, circuit breaker equipment, and more. Such apparatuses are important for de-energizing equipment, isolating zones for work or for clearing faults.
A typical switchgear will consist of two component types, all of which are placed in a single housing. The first type of components placed within the switchgear assembly are power conducting components, those of which typically come in the form of switch devices, circuit breaker equipment, fuses, and lighting arrestors. With such electrical devices, the switchgear will be capable of either conducting or interrupting electrical flow for its carriage or mitigation. The second part types present within a typical switchgear are control systems, those of which come in the form of control panels, protective relays, current transformers, potential transformers, circuity, and other parts that allow for the management, monitoring, and protection of power conducting components.
Switchgears date back to the early days of electricity generation, improving greatly over the years to become the devices that we now rely on today. In order to guard a supply system, the switchgear may either be enclosed within a building for lower voltage applications while higher voltage switchgear equipment is often mounted outdoors and will be insulated with air. Based on the switchgear and its construction, operations may either be manually carried out or remote controlled with the use of motor drives.
Depending on whether switchgears are used for transmission lines, generators, or a power transformer, there are varying switchgear types that each provide their own benefits and unique designs. The gas insulated switchgear (GIS) is one in which the housing is sealed and filled with insulating gases such as sulfur hexafluoride so that electrical connector and interrupting components may be placed more compactly. Such devices are powerful, often being used for switching stations, transformer substations, and other equipment.
The metal-enclosed switchgear type is also common, featuring a number of circuit protection devices alongside control systems and metering equipment. Unlike some specialized types, the metal-enclosed switchgear may take advantage of typical compartments and does not need any special separation barriers for its functionality. For their applications, such switchgear types are most beneficial for commercial or industrial facilities where electrical currents have a voltage above 600V.
While many switchgear types are beneficial for standard applications, the arc resistant switchgear is a robust apparatus capable of withstanding tremendous energy releases that are caused by electrical faults. With the use of a plenum, arc flash energy can be contained and redirected for the protection of both electrical devices and personnel. Arc resistant gear often comes in various types, each of which provide varying levels and forms of protection. As such, it is important that one thoroughly reads through the specifications of particular devices before making a purchasing decision to ensure that the right equipment that is needed is procured.
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