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How does your installation's evolution impact your electrical switchboard?

Published on 23 October 2020

When adding new devices, improving applications, optimising processes or expanding, the energy distribution requirements change. These changes have several consequences on your electrical switchboard.

Understanding electrical distribution

The switchboard generally called main low-voltage switchboard is the entry point for electrical energy for the low voltage installation. The incoming circuit is divided into several functional units (outgoing feeders), each of which is controlled and protected by the equipment installed in the panel (circuit breakers, contactors, fuse switches, etc.).

Functional units include all the mechanical and electrical elements that contribute to the fulfilment of a given function. They are a key element of safety of your operators, your equipment and your installation.

So-called "functional" electrical switchboards are generally dedicated to specific applications. These protection switchboards (motors, circuits, etc.) are equipped with functional units that group together the switchgear with its mounting and connection accessories. They ensure a high level of reliability and, depending on their chosen Service Index (SI), great flexibility for last-minute modifications and future developments on site.

So-called "functional" electrical switchboards are generally dedicated to specific applications. These protection switchboards (motors, circuits, etc.) are equipped with functional units that group together the switchgear with its mounting and connection accessories. They ensure a high level of reliability and, depending on their chosen Service Index (SI), great flexibility for last-minute modifications and future developments on site.

Is the switchboard able to meet new needs?

To connect these new appliances, the switchboard must be dimensioned accordingly to meet the new power requirements. To begin your approach, you need to study your new needs and do an audit of the existing system with a view to a new configuration of the electrical switchboard.

If there is still space available, the switchboard is scalable and can potentially meet the need. If there is not enough space, you will have to find a solution to make it evolve.

If the available power is insufficient, there are a few possible ways of upgrading: changing the transformer for more power, increasing the busbar current, checking the short-circuit current resistance of the switchboard and its equipment, or replacing the switchboard.

Few ideas to explore in our blog post: How to upgrade a LV switchboard in a crowded electrical substation?

Is the safety of people and property still guaranteed?

It should be noted that around 30% of fires are said to be of electrical origin! (source : INRS)

The main causes are :

  • heating of the cables due to overload,
  • the short circuit leading to an electric arc,
  • an insulation fault leading to an abnormal current flow between receiver and earth or between receiver and earth,
  • faulty contacts (such as loose or oxidised connections) leading to abnormal resistance and overheating,
  • lightning,
  • an electrostatic discharge. 

They are influenced by several factors:

  • Failure to comply with safety regulations when designing or modifying an electrical installation
  • Poor condition of the material and insulation in particular (deterioration, cuts, etc.).
  • Inappropriate use of equipment (portable device, extension cord, etc.)
  • Electrical authorization not adapted to the operation to be carried out.
  • Failure to observe safety distances from bare parts under tension.

To protect yourself from these electrical risks, it is important that you are equipped with protection in perfect working order and that your installation is correctly connected to the earth network. Changes to an electrical switchboard must be made according to new requirements after a study of the expected operation and the new dimensioning of the switchboard.

When upgrading your installation, keep in mind that it is imperative to protect yourself from electrical risks to protect your staff and your property.

In short

The evolution of your installation has an impact on the dimensioning of your electrical switchboard as well as the protection of property and people. This evolution must be anticipated by a study of the needs and an audit of the existing system.

 

Download the infography 4 steps before upgrading your switchboard