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How often should switchgear be tested?

January 10, 2023

switchgear being tested

First, let’s cut to the chase. Generally speaking, switchgear testing should be completed semi-annually with a visual inspection and infrared completed annually. There may be some factors that would warrant more frequent testing, such as equipment issues or deterioration, manufacturer defects, or high reliability requirements.

Your Schedule or the Machine’s?

Preventive maintenance services are just good business. All machines will eventually need servicing, and all components will fail sooner or later. The decision isn’t whether maintenance is necessary; but whether the service occurs on your schedule or the equipment’s.

Emergency services from the unplanned maintenance demands of a run-to-failure maintenance program can be considerably more expensive than planned work. Plus, we must factor in long wait times for replacement parts and unhappy customers while you’re waiting. Preventative maintenance services keep you in control of downtime, and including your switchgear in the rotation is critical.

Switchgear Prevents System Damage

Switchgear is a category of devices that includes switches, circuit breakers, and all associated equipment for controlling, regulating, and protecting the equipment. The purpose of properly maintained switchgear is to provide a means of local electrical distribution. Switchgear also provides isolation and protection of critical components in the event of a fault in the power system.

When these faults occur, the switchgear disconnects that section to prevent further damage to the rest of the system using some of the same basic protective mechanisms used in household circuit breakers.

In other words, when properly maintained, switchgear protects people and electrical equipment when other equipment malfunctions. What happens when these disconnect switches fail? Regular switchgear testing helps prevent dangerous risks and hazardous conditions for your crews.

Classifying Switchgear

Low voltage switchgear is typically rated up to 600 volts. Medium voltage switchgear can be rated up to 38KV (sometimes higher depending on the insulator). Anything above 100KV is considered high voltage.

Switchgear may also be broadly classified into indoor and outdoor types. The type to use is based on the housing necessary to prevent damage to the switchgear and safeguard workers during normal operation and maintenance.

Because of the variety of needs and demands, the switchgear configuration is usually unique to the operation. Developing a maintenance schedule requires careful inspection and consideration of the devices and then balancing those with the operation’s needs.

Everything Works Fine… Until it Doesn’t.

Assigning a low priority to switchgear maintenance is an expensive mistake that puts the safety of your crews at risk. The increase in downtime and loss of production due to failure to maintain essential electrical equipment can quickly cost far more than the work to maintain it.

An injury event can have a deep personal impact on the employees of a company. Not to mention the resulting legal and medical expenses, visits from OSHA, and potential further shutdowns that can be impossible for some companies to overcome.

Determining when and what to check isn’t as complicated as it may seem. We have compiled a list of common equipment types, what maintenance procedures are necessary, which inspection processes to use, and, of course, how often each needs to be completed. You can print our easy-to-read Periodic Maintenance Schedule PDF to keep your equipment on track.

Thoughtful routine maintenance is less stressful and less costly. It creates a safer working environment for personnel and adds years of useful working life to expensive equipment. The key is to partner with an industry expert who understands your unique configuration and the demands on your equipment. That way, you can determine how often your switchgear should be tested and develop a plan that makes the most sense for your production schedule and budget.

Are you struggling and need support? Our case study on switchgear testing shows how we’ve caught issues before they’ve caused major difficulties. We have the tools and knowledge to assist you.