Article
The need for surge protection isn’t a new issue for industrial facility managers. Transient high voltages have likely been damaging plant equipment since electricity was first introduced. But today’s digital equipment can be more sensitive to surge events than earlier analog versions. This is why it’s important to consider whether existing protection is adequate when upgrading connected motors and controls.

Don’t Forget Surge Protection in Your Next Plant Upgrade

Chuck Ross
The need for surge protection isn’t a new issue for industrial facility managers. Transient high voltages have likely been damaging plant equipment since electricity was first introduced. But today’s digital equipment can be more sensitive to surge events than earlier analog versions. This is why it’s important to consider whether existing protection is adequate when upgrading connected motors and controls.

How surges occur
Voltage surges can add hundreds or thousands of volts to a facility’s electrical circuits. They can occur over a very short period of time, but even events as brief as a millisecond still can destroy electronic circuit boards and other equipment. Surges have a number of causes, with lightning strikes being the most obvious contributor. Other external factors can include:

  • Electrostatic discharges
  • Utility load switching
  • Capacitor bank operations
  • Distribution grid power-quality problems
However, while plant managers might want to point a finger toward their local utility when surge events occur, problems are most likely to arise from within their own facility. According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, 60% to 80% of surges are created within a facility. These surges might be smaller than those caused externally, but their impact can build up over time. Internal surges can be caused by:

  • Starting/stopping equipment like motors and some lighting systems
  • Loose power connections
  • Static electricity discharges
  • Inductive coupling related to operations of elevators, variable frequency drives, fluorescent light ballasts and copy machines
Meeting today’s needs
Plant managers are being challenged to improve their facilities’ operational and energy efficiency. This often means upgrading older equipment with newer variable speed motors and digital controls. Surge protection can be overlooked, especially in piecemeal replacement efforts, and this can have expensive consequences.

“Systems are drawing more and more electricity. An updated system usually means a greater load, so its surges are going to be higher than what the original SPDs it had in place are rated to protect against,” stated Richard Dale, product manager at Littelfuse. “Many facilities forget that their SPDs must be updated along with their systems to meet increased demands.”
Photo courtesy of Littelfuse
Kraloy JBox Junction Boxes with Hinged Cover
advertisement
inSIGHT™ Circuit-Lock® Disconnects
advertisement