All equipment and components have an effective use lifespan, after which replacement is necessary. For electrical switchgear and components, this is around 20 years. However, retrofitting switchgear also delivers many benefits beyond simply replacing components at the end of that lifespan. Retrofitting can involve completely replacing cabinets or individual components and including and updating non-functional parts (signage, decals, operator instructions).
The Benefits of Retrofitting Switchgear
We’ll look at the benefits of retrofitting switchgear and how to plan and execute a retrofit at your facility.
Due to the nature and function of electrical switchgear, outdated switchgear can pose a significant health risk for operators and nearby employees. Retrofitting switchgear is also critical for protecting equipment from damage. Retrofitting switchgear reduces the risk of components failing or other safety hazards. Wires, for example, can generate heat, or their insulation degrades, creating a risk of fire or electrifying components. Retrofitting switchgear with newer components and ensuring safety decals and other visible warnings helps protect human health and the integrity of the equipment.
Equipment failure and subsequent downtime can be very costly for your business, leading to lost productivity and revenue, customer disruption, and the costs of repairing or purchasing replacement equipment. Old, outdated, or improperly used components also create safety concerns and financial risk through liabilities and the potential for legal action. Retrofitting switchgear is a revenue security action that lowers potential risks and costs, such as improved power factor correction, reduced line losses, and optimized system performance.
Replacement of Obsolete Components
Dated components in electrical switchgear can cause issues when they’re no longer interoperable with other components or hold back potential functionality upgrades. This happens when standards change or the companies that produce the replacement parts shut their doors. Keeping equipment updated is also a form of preventive maintenance, as replacing older components before a failure happens forces you to execute proactive strategies instead of reactive ones.
Safety regulations may vary depending on the industry, such as how quickly gensets must operate in hospital facilities. Retrofitting switchgear to meet regulations that have changed since the equipment was installed is mandatory to ensure ongoing compliance, but it’s generally important to ensure components are in good working order to meet non-required standards.
Replacing an entire control system can be costly, but retrofitting certain switchgear components, such as relays, circuit breakers, or monitoring systems, can improve the equipment’s overall level of reliability without needing a full replacement. Upgraded components may also be rated for greater voltage or uses, leveling up the entire control system.
Technology improves over time, and retrofitting switchgear to upgrade components can improve functionality. A leading example is how PLCs and HMI have been improved over the past decades, giving operators greater control and a greater range of options. Upgraded components often allow remote control, further empowering operators and creating opportunities for better productivity.
Electrical switchgear with loose wires, duct tape holding the door closed, and instructions or safety warnings written by hand are not a good look, either aesthetically or, more importantly, for safety inspectors. Retrofitting switchgear can include improving display by reducing signaling components or changing them for an HMI; this can make it quicker to identify issues or program a PLC while reducing the need for individual light or switch replacement. Safety decals and instructions should also be applied properly and not done with a marker pen.
Improving Warranty Timeline
Newer equipment will not only be closer to rated, factory-tested conditions, but it will also have a warranty in case it does fail. Extending your electrical switchgear's warranty timeline improves the equipment's financial risk profile.
Easier for Operators to Use
Several components can be retrofitted into electrical switchgear, giving operators greater flexibility and functionality options. This includes automating system functions meaning fewer resources or training will be required. The greater use of PLCs also makes actions and settings much easier to manage.
Preparing for a Switchgear Retrofit
Retrofitting switchgear delivers several advantages in terms of costs, safety, and usability; maximizing these benefits and scaling them across your organization requires effective planning. The first step is assessing your equipment's current status in terms of component lists and via physical and visual tests. Several components can be upgraded across different units, while some may only need replacing if they are degraded.
The benefits of retrofitting switchgear will also not be realized if the replacement parts are of questionable quality, which can happen when buying components online. It’s always best to work with trusted vendors with high-quality components that can provide guarantees.
At Enercon, we help customers retrofit switchgear in numerous situations and will work on equipment that we haven’t manufactured originally. Our team is highly knowledgeable about switchgear retrofits, so you can get in contact here to discuss your needs.