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How to protect your low voltage equipment from environmental risks?

Published on 25 February 2020

Using your low-voltage switchboard in severe conditions i.e. when there are external elements that may hinder the maintenance of its good insulation, requires special protection.

Protect your low voltage panel from humidity and heat

According to EN 61439-2, ambient air temperature must be between -5°C and +40°C and average temperature for 24 hours must not exceed +35°C. Your premises must be ventilated and/or air-conditioned at a constant temperature to protect your installation from overheating, as this leads to downgrades, premature ageing of the insulation and supports, as well as untimely tripping.

Résistance anti-condensation tableau basse tension

Condensation can appear on your LV panel when it is less used. It leads to corrosion or breakdown caused by a drop in the level of insulation. It is necessary to avoid having a high level of humidity, the room must be heated at a constant temperature to prevent formation of condensation takes place at the dew point, i.e. a difference of approximately 30°C and a sudden fall in this temperature gradient between two surfaces. You can also add self-thermostatted anti-condensation heaters (photo) that start at a set temperature to regulate the panel's hygrometry and prevent condensation.

 

Predicting earthquake risk

The risk of earthquakes must be anticipated when purchasing your equipment. If you have to equip yourself in a high-risk area and if your production stoppage is critical, you should consider purchasing a panel able to withstand this type of event.

The protection by maintenance or evolution of your switchboard is very difficult. An original design capable of remaining functional during high magnitudes is the only solution to protect against this type of risk. This choice must also be qualified according to the level of environmental risk in your area to enable you to anticipate earthquakes whether they are due to human activity or natural origin.

 

Protect your Low Voltage panel from external aggressions and environmental pollution

These risks are mainly present in the chemical, petrochemical or any other industry emitting aggressive gases. Unprotected low-voltage switchboards only withstand a few months depending on the concentration of these gases.

Pollution linked to processes is most often the presence of sulphur, ammonia or hydrogen sulphide (H2S). These gases will attack the busbars by creating a chemical reaction with copper and silver plating. These reactions result in resistive contacts: the creation of heating and thus the risk of fire.

To protect your low-voltage installation, you need to protect the air inlets with the installation of filters. Another solution: pressurise electrical rooms so that polluted outside air does not enter the room. In addition, the design of your switchboard must be adapted to the ppm level appropriate to the environment of your installation, which will greatly contribute to extending its lifetime.

 

Remove conductive dust from your busbars

Dust has a tendency to enter the panel due to dry air. In the food industry or in mines this is a regular problem because of flour or coal dust. Dust can cause ignition by changing the leakage line or by changing the nature of the insulation (the dust becomes conductive with humidity for example).

It is recommended to regularly remove this dust during preventive maintenance. This involves cutting the LV switchgear, removing the busbar screens and access plates to remove the dust that settles on the busbars and insulators. Usually the cleaning solutions are manual wiping, compressed air, vacuum or cryogenic cleaning. This maintenance is also an opportunity to check the tightness, the absence of overheating and the absence of cracks or breakage of the insulators.

Thanks to this cleaning and preventive maintenance you will extend the life of your low voltage installation and prevent the formation of leakage lines.

 

In summary, to protect your low-voltage installation from environmental risks you should :

  • Keep your board at a constant temperature between -5°C and +35°C
  • Heating your room to avoid humidity
  • Specify your seismic risk requirements during the original design of your Low Voltage switchboard
  • Filter the air in your room to remove polluting gases and particles
  • Regularly remove conductive dust during preventive maintenance