Today, thousands of businesses sell used and surplus low- and medium-voltage electrical products, including circuit breakers, motors, power generators, transformers, switchboards, switchgear, electric motors, motor controllers, conduit and fittings, cable and wire, wiring devices, lighting, industrial electronics and protective relays.
These “back channel” sales are critical to keeping electrical maintenance projects on schedule when OEMs quote long lead times or a manufacturer discontinues a product line.
The fact is that far more used and surplus electrical equipment than new electrical equipment is in circulation today. Every day, companies, governments and utilities change construction plans, resulting in billions of dollars of used and surplus (new in box) electrical product being auctioned back into the electrical marketplace.
When you consider that OEMs support electrical equipment for five to seven years, while electrical systems in homes, buildings and factories regularly last as long as 50 years or more, the need for trusted electrical reconditioning, device testing and safety certification becomes obvious. Electrical safety must come first whether the device is destined to stay part of the original installation, or sold as a replacement part for another installation to get a line up and running without the cost of a major retrofit.
To fill this need and ensure that used, surplus and reconditioned electrical equipment is as safe as new equipment, electrical suppliers have formed three trade associations; each promulgating technical standards for testing and reconditioning used electrical equipment and installations:
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- Electrical Apparatus Service Association, Inc. (EASA) offers standards for reconditioning motors, drives and controls
- InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA) serves the electrical testing industry and focuses on field testing of electrical apparatus
- Professional Electrical Apparatus Recyclers League (PEARL) disseminates standards that ensure that electrical power equipment is reconditioned and reused properly
While EASA and NETA produce standards related to their areas of expertise (motors and field testing and service), this article introduces the 100+ electrical apparatus reconditioning standards PEARL has developed since it’s formation in 1997. PEARL’s reconditioning standards, now in their fifth revision, give technicians step-by-step best-practice instructions that explain in detail how to inspect, test, recondition, retest and document most common electrical apparatus, including:
- Circuit breakers
- Switchgear and switchboards
- Motor control centers
- Magnetic motor starters
- Disconnect switches
- Bus duct
- Wire and cable
- Metal conduit, fittings and accessories
- Wiring devices
PEARL reconditioning standards
Introduction to PEARL Standard Appendices: Section 1000 General Information; Section 1010 PEARL Calibration Standard; Section 6000 Tables
A technical standard is a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices. PEARL’s Reconditioning Standards define the term "reconditioning" as "the process of returning electrical equipment to safe and reliable operating condition based upon the design of the original manufacturer at the time of manufacturing.” The authority of these standards comes from existing industry standards, including testing and calibration from private organizations and government agencies; original device specifications; and accepted best practices that have been verified by third-party engineering evaluation.
Introduction to PEARL Standard Section 1100, Rev. 5, Low Voltage Disconnect Switches
This section refers to a wide variety of industrial and commercial-duty low-voltage disconnect switches, including load break or non-load break; switchboard, panelboard or wall mount; fused or non-fused disconnects; and electrically closed, electrically opened, both or neither. Low-voltage disconnect switches interrupt or open an electrical circuit, isolating the down stream circuit for purposes of inspection and maintenance. Low-voltage disconnect switches are often used as main disconnecting devices in switchboards and even more frequently used as feeder disconnects. Low-voltage disconnect switches can serve as enclosures for over current protection when they contain fuses. Disconnect switches can also be a part of a ground fault protection scheme when equipped with a shunt trip or a complete ground fault interrupter system that includes: a shunt-trippable disconnect switch, ground fault monitor, sensor and relay.
Introduction to PEARL Standard Section 1200, Revision 5, Low-Voltage Circuit Breakers
Low-voltage circuit breakers covered in PEARL Section 1200 Standards include molded case, insulated case and power breakers. Whether using thermal magnetic current sensing and tripping or solid state, they are removed from service and at some point reapplied more than nearly any other type of electrical hardware. The greatest volume of these re-applications is completed with no shop or field testing performed. The need for re-qualification to the extent possible is extreme. While manufacturer product is typically very robust and suitable for reuse under the proper circumstances, performance verification is critical prior to reinstallation.