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The maintenance manager's guide to circuit protection

The maintenance manager's guide to circuit protection

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Published by Hans De Keulenaer
In this guide, circuit protection is detailed as a way to ensure an installation is safe and functional. This document is concerned primarily with protection against the effects of over-currents and fault currents for property protection, but the improvements presented may also lead to secure people as an indirect benefit. There is a focus on circuit breakers as well as on issues that are likely to arise in circuit maintenance and it takes a systemic approach.
In this guide, circuit protection is detailed as a way to ensure an installation is safe and functional. This document is concerned primarily with protection against the effects of over-currents and fault currents for property protection, but the improvements presented may also lead to secure people as an indirect benefit. There is a focus on circuit breakers as well as on issues that are likely to arise in circuit maintenance and it takes a systemic approach.

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Published by: Hans De Keulenaer on Feb 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/12/2013

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P ow e Q u al  i   t  y
Maintenance Manager’s Guide
Power Quality 
The Maintenance Manager’s Guideto circuit protection
Hydraulic-magnetic CB operation; a, b, c - overcurrent; d - fault current
 
Power Quality
2www.leonardo-energy.org
1. Why is circuit protection installed?
The primary objective of Electrical Installation Practice is to provide aninstallation that is safe and functional. Since it is inevitable that faults willsometimes occur in electrical systems and the appliances that theysupply, steps need to be taken to ensure that the safety of people andproperty is maintained. For the protection of people, exposure todangerous voltages must be prevented by, for example, good insulation of live parts, proper earthing and earth fault detection. For propertyprotection it is necessary to prevent over-currents that could causeoverheating and fire and fault current, i.e. the uncontrolled flow of energythat might lead to ignition or explosion. This document is concernedprimarily with protection against the effects of over-currents and faultcurrents, but, of course, the rapid disconnection of faults enhances safetyby reducing the risk of exposure of people to dangerous voltages.Typically, electrical installations follow a tree architecture, the root of which is the point of common coupling (PCC) where there is a protectivedevice provided by the energy supplier. At this point, the supply is definedin terms of capacity – the maximum power that can be normally drawn –and the prospective short circuit current – the maximum short circuitcurrent that could flow through a solid short circuit applied at the PCC.Next in line are the installations main switch and distribution board wherethe supply splits into a number of sub-circuits, which may be final circuitsor feeders to other sub-distribution boards, each with a protective device,as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1
 – Generic installation topolog
 
 
The Maintenance Managers’ Guide to circuit protection
3www.leonardo-energy.org
2. How are protective devices selected?
 At every point where the current carrying capacity of the conductor changes (e.g. points a to d), there is a circuit breaker, for which there arethree specific requirements:
it must be capable of breaking the maximum prospective fault currentat that point
it must respond to over-current in such a way as to disconnect thecircuit before the excess heat generated in the load circuit cable issufficient to damage the cable or materials in contact with it
it must limit potential damage to the load circuit by limiting themagnitude, duration or energy of a fault current to a safe level whiledisconnecting the circuit from the supply.In
 
an ideal situation, only the breaker for the faulted circuit will open,disconnecting the fault and leaving the rest of the installation unaffected.This is essential for critical loads, but it is often difficult to achievecompletely at an affordable cost, so alternative strategies are also used.
3. Prospective fault current
The prospective fault current is the maximum current that could flow at aparticular point of the installation if a solid short circuit were to be appliedthere. The prospective fault current depends on the supply impedance atthat point, including the source impedance and all cables and accessoriesin the circuit, so, assuming that there are no transformers, it decreases aselectrical distance from the source increases.The prospective fault current is very important in the selection of theprotection strategy and of the individual protection devices. Everyprotective device must be either capable of breaking this current (at itsposition in the installation) without excessive arcing and without beingdamaged in the process or must be assisted to do so by an upstreamcircuit breaker. This is discussed further under ‘Selectivity or discrimination’.

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