Your Existing Switchboard can be saved………well maybe.
Why Refurbish your Switchboard?
The switchboard might simply be at the “End of Life” and needs to be upgraded.
A few points to consider:
- The Carcass of the switchboard might be reusable.
- the Back board, if it contains asbestos, don’t risk it, replace it.
- Older “Bakelite” Terminals become brittle with age
- Fault finding in older switchboards can be time consuming and very costly.
- The messier the board the harder for the heat to escape, creating and extending fire risk.
- Old control equipment will use more energy
- If the switchboard is congested, new modifications and additions will make it harder and more expensive to complete.
- Safety risk management.
Don’t be caught out with False Economies
Very few manager’s will measure the repair and maintenance costs of their mechanical services switchboard, most will put it to the back of their mind until a repair or modification is required.
The older the switchboard and the more history of changes it has had, the less likely documentation will be current and the more likely there will be hidden control and energy issues from antiquated control methods, installation materials and equipment; this is costing you money in energy and time.
“Putting off” an upgrade or refurbishment might be fine for this years budget, but keep in mind you are carrying faults and false economies forward. Equipment and labor will naturally be higher in costs next year, and, electrical energy will definitely be a higher cost, even if you use the same amount of power.
Improving the energy conservation and reducing your electrical energy costs are prime reasons for refurbishing the switchboard, so how can a new switchboard reduce your energy costs?
- Loose wiring will cause equipment to chatter and restart, restarting equipment,especially motors, lights, and electric heats will draw more current than their normal run current, this is more energy and more costs.
- Older control equipment is not as energy efficient as modern equipment, drawing more energy than required to perform the same function.
- Efficiencies gained in new wiring, larger core cables, better terminations, more secure terminations.
- Efficiencies gained from improved circuit design, fewer “conditions” or “status” to activate a device.
- Efficiencies gained from using material which are more efficient in their operation, such as contractors, switching relays, and controls.
Work Place Health and Safety
Electricians are a careful bunch, and conscientious that the danger of electricity is not visible to the eye, but is extremely dangerous.
An older switchboard can have many dangers lurking behind a seemingly problem free board; for example:
- brittle terminals
- loose connections
- loose control equipment
- incorrect wiring
- incorrect use of the color coded cables
- wiring changes completed without proper documentation
and so the list goes on.
We can see in the example in the picture a simple terminal cover has broken off, exposing the 415 volts contact.
Working on a live board is never a good idea, and their are precautions and methods for doing so, such as rubber mats and a second trades person present.
Keeping the switchboard maintained and / or having it refurbished when the equipment is at “end of Life” reduces these risks.