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3 Essential Questions To Ask Before Replacing Switchgear

3 Essential Questions To Ask Before Replacing Switchgear

The ability and functions of switchgears decline over time. An old switchgear can adversely affect the continuity of services in an industrial facility, particularly when it comes to reliability and cost-effectiveness. For this reason, understanding the classifications of switchgears and their functions, as well as replacing aging ones is extremely important, especially in industrial facilities that require reliable electricity to operate efficiently.

However, replacing a switchgear can be overwhelming. Apart from the possible issues that may arise during switchgear installation, numerous factors should be considered to make sure that replacement is the wisest and most cost-effective option. Here are three of the most essential questions you should ask before deciding to replace a switchgear.

What is the reason behind the need for replacement?

There are several possible reasons behind your need to replace a switchgear. This reason will guide the rest of your decisions throughout the process. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the exact reason why replacement is your best option at the moment. Here are some of the common reasons to consider:

  • Reliability

As mentioned, reliable electricity is necessary for industrial facilities to have efficient operations. One of the major deciding factors that may drive your need to replace a switchgear is its current MTBF rate within various time periods, such as six months, one year, five years, or ten years.

Moreover, the production costs of unscheduled outages and the costs of temporary power in the course of repairs also need to be taken into consideration here.

  • Safety 

Aside from the reliability of electricity, another possible deciding factor when it comes to replacing an existing switchgear is the need to comply with safety regulations, minimise arc flash risk, increase protection functions, and lessen the general PPE with engineering controls.

  • Production Need

Industrial facilities constantly expand to facilitate larger and more improved operations. This often requires more electrical capacity, extended facility, or even more space, which is also another potential driver for the need to replace a switchgear.

  • Repair Expenses

Sometimes, the availability and cost of the spare parts for an existing old switchgear can be more expensive compared to spending on an entire replacement. In these cases, replacement rather than upgrade is obviously the most practical option to solve the issue of an aging and outdated switchgear.

What are the unexpected costs of replacement?

Choosing to replace an old switchgear completely is usually seen as the “cleaner” approach since you will no longer need to face issues related to modifying or retrofitting the existing structure. However, sometimes, there can also be unforeseen costs that may arise, especially during installation.

These unexpected costs are often brought by space restrictions. Your new switchgear should be no larger than the old one to avoid issues and additional costs. To ensure this, it is necessary to check your available space for the new switchgear before making the purchase. The number of feeders, metal-enclosed, metal-clad, 1-high or 2-high, draw out or fixed will all be affected by the available space.

Apart from space availability, the possible costs and time for design and engineering should also be taken into account. Unlike replacing mere components in the existing structure, a complete system replacement may be more time-consuming. Moreover, capital investment of new and more sophisticated machinery may also require greater electricity reliability, which may in turn add costs.

Can existing cables and conduits be used?

Oftentimes, your existing cables and conduits will not be in the correct place, be the correct size, and have the correct conductors in place, so replacing them may also be needed. This will provide additional downtime and disruption.

Nonetheless, there are still instances when existing cables and conduits may be used with the new switchgear. This usually depends on the location of the cable trays or conduits, cable entry for the old and new switchgear, condition of the cables, and their ability to carry the new load. When possible, you may end up splicing or rerouting a few cables, which can save money and a lot of downtime.

Replacing a switchgear is a huge decision that requires careful consideration. Because it involves a lot of costs, both expected and unforeseen, you should not decide to replace a switchgear on a whim. Instead, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice and assistance of a specialist who will help you determine what your existing structure truly needs.

Hiring an electrical and mechanical engineering company is always a good idea when it comes to tackling various issues in your industrial facility. This type of company usually offers a wide range of services such as electric motor rewinds, switchgear installation and retrofilling, and generator overhauling. When in doubt, asking for a specialist’s advice and assistance is what you need!