Keep current on electrical equipment

July 13, 2012
Sheila Kennedy shares the latest tools for testing, analysis, protection and control.

When properly designed and maintained, electrical systems in industrial environments are safe, long-lasting, cost-effective, and energy-efficient. New tools are available to improve system testing, analysis, protection, control, and incident response.

Testing and analysis

Innovations in power quality analysis for industrial electromechanical systems enable power consumption reductions and equipment performance improvements, while also generating the data needed to justify energy-saving devices. Fluke’s newest power quality analyzer, the 435-II, assesses the level of power distortion, measures how much power the distortion renders unusable by other devices in the facility, and calculates how much the unusable, wasted power costs.

“The 435-II power analyzer is the only tool ever developed that can both measure and quantify the level of harmonics,” says Frank Healy, Fluke’s ( power quality products manager. “Quantifying the harmonics tells the technician how serious the problem is and enables ROI calculations comparing the cost of the problem versus the cost of the solution.”

Oscilloscopes with high signal integrity provide a more accurate visual representation of electrical signals. Agilent Technology’s ( U1620A 200MHz handheld oscilloscope has two isolated channels and a color VGA TFT display. It simplifies the viewing of signal waveforms with its 1,000-times zooming, dual zoom windows, and transflective display.

“The U1620A helps to ease troubleshooting and maintenance tasks in industrial power applications with its 2 Mpts deep memory to capture long, non-repeating signals and by identifying waveform anomalies quicker with the dual window zoom feature,” says Edwin Hoh, market development manager for Agilent Technologies. “The high-resolution VGA display with three viewing modes — indoor, outdoor, and night vision — allows waveform analysis to be done in all lighting conditions.”

Protection and control

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected].
Subscribe to the Technology Toolbox RSS feed

Moisture puts electrical systems at risk of downtime and unscheduled repairs. The new T&B Fittings High-/Low-Temperature Liquidtight System from Thomas & Betts ( protects electrical cabling from moisture in temperatures from -76 °F to 302 °F.

“Industrial environments have always created challenges in providing for safe, reliable distribution of electrical power,” says Tony Kolznak, product manager for the electrical division of Thomas & Betts. “We are continually developing many new, specialized products, such as our High-/Low-Temperature Liquidtight System, to provide complete protection for electrical cabling and connections in extremes of temperatures, or exposure to water and harsh contaminants.”

Overhead electrical distribution systems also need protection from moisture. “Water getting in the busway has been an issue for some due to roof leaks and even pipe condensation,” says Stewart Rapp, offer launch leader for Power Business at Schneider Electric ( Rapp also sees increasing demand for metering in plug-in units to strengthen energy management and control. “Customers want to understand how much energy a given line is using. They are starting to look at why more energy is being used in one area versus another.”

Schneider Electric addresses these concerns with its I-Line II Busway with splash-resistant IP54 ratings and new PowerPact with Micrologic circuit breaker type plug-in units, giving customers enhanced capability to protect and manage their overhead electrical distribution system.

Having multiple connectivity options across various motor control and protection methods offers more flexibility in how the systems are configured, monitored, and controlled. Eaton recently introduced its C441 Ethernet series of communications cards, which allow customers to select from Ethernet/IP, Modbus TCP, HTTP Web services, and Modbus RTU communication protocols in a single card.

“With motor protection solutions equipped with fieldbus protocols, maintenance and operations teams are monitoring key failure indicators on motors and pumps in real time,” says Kevin Trimmer, product manager at Eaton ( “Having these remote diagnostic capabilities helps users address system performance issues before they cause downtime or excessive energy waste."

Incident response

The reaction time when arc flash incidents occur affects the extent of damage, injury, liability, and costs incurred. The PGR-8800 relay from Littelfuse accelerates detection of arc flash incidents. “Speed is extremely important, as early detection of an arc flash minimizes damage to expensive equipment, the potential for fire, and more importantly, injury to personnel,” says Tony Locker, product manager for Littelfuse (

The PGR-8800 identifies and trips on an arc flash 300 times faster than the blink of an eye, which takes about 300-400 ms, according to Locker. By detecting both excessive current and light, it avoids nuisance tripping caused by unrelated fluctuations. The relay has up to 24 light sensors, including optional fiberoptic cable sensors to protect less accessible locations.