Temperature monitoring and electrical connections

As in all areas of the electrical ecosystem, safe performance is dependent on adherence to all codes, guidelines and product ratings when using any parts and equipment.

Electricity, Power and Heat

Industrial facilities use more than 100 gigawatts of electrical power in an average day. It is essential to design and maintain these power systems to transmit this power safely. Fortunately, that has been one of the design objectives for at least the last century.

Overheating is an indicator of early component failure. For most systems, the easiest way to check for overheating is a temperature check. Some systems, such as some motors, provide monitoring with built-in Smart Sensors to communicate with a monitoring and control system (such as ABB Ability).

As electricity flows through a conductor, some energy is lost as heat due to the resistance of the conductor. Higher currents dissipate more heat, so a conductor that is transmitting more electricity than expected will have a higher temperature. A faulty connection will have a higher resistance, so it will also have a higher temperature than the surrounding conductor. These faults have the potential to worsen over time, so early detection often requires periodic inspection with an infrared camera to find these “hot spots” before there is a failure. The National Electrical Code specifically recommends infrared inspections as “beneficial to reduce the number of costly and catastrophic equipment failures and unscheduled plant shutdowns.”

Infrared inspections can be provided by the electrical utility or by a certified third-party; inspections can also be performed internally using commercially available cameras and trained personnel. Modern infrared cameras can cost anywhere from $299 to over $40,000.

Color-Keyed® compression connectors

One way to help enhance safety is with connectors that are designed in accordance with the UL 486A-486B Standard for Safety for Wire Connectors, such as ABB Installation Products Color-Keyed compression connectors. These connectors are tested for high-temperature operation and for high-current cycling operations to evaluate whether properly installed connectors will come loose or lose connectivity under normal or even under extreme conditions. Connectors which pass these tests and are UL Listed are designed to help deliver safe performance when installed properly.

Color-Keyed compression connectors are engineered to produce secure cable connections without hot spots or loose connections. The Thomas & Betts compression method compresses the connector body onto the cable, converting round strands to hexagonal shapes and producing a near-solid mass of conductive material. The compression operation permanently forms the die number into the conductor, allowing a later inspection to easily verify that the correct die was used and the correct compression operation was performed. The connector also has the proper cable size marked for inspection purposes. These features, and the superior performance of Color-Keyed connectors, show up in infrared inspections: fuses and circuit breakers show up as hot spots, while Color-Keyed connectors do not.

As in all areas of the electrical ecosystem, safe performance is dependent on adherence to all codes, guidelines and product ratings when using any parts and equipment.

 

Sources:

(Calculated 100GW from 952,149 thousand MW-hr annual industrial total)

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About the author

Daniel Edwards

Daniel is a Senior R&D Engineer for Fastening and Connectivity products. He works on new product development and supports Ty-Rap, Deltec, Ty-Duct, Color-Keyed, Sta-Kon and Dragon Tooth brand products. He has also supported Superstrut, Kindorf, and T&B Cable Tray. Daniel has worked for ABB for 5 years, and has almost 20 years of product design engineering experience.
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