When it comes to industrial circuit breakers, they come in all shapes and sizes. No one circuit breaker will possibly fit all buildings and electrical needs – that’s why there are so many of them! There are many classifications and classes of circuit breakers out there, but one of the most important distinctions is between low voltage and high voltage industrial circuit breakers.
It may seem like the voltage is the only separation between these two, but there are many more attributes that keep them in distinguished classes. Here are some of the things that you should look out for:
Low voltage circuit breakers (< 1000 VAC) are primarily used for direct current applications. You will see them in subway lines and other applications where an excess amount of electrical power is not required. In contrast, a high voltage circuit breaker (> 72 kV) is not currently used for direct current applications. Research is currently being done to see if high voltage circuit breakers will be able to serve this purpose in the near future.
Shutting Down the Arc
A low voltage circuit breaker can close the arc by using electrical motor operators that that can be controlled via remote control. Alternatively, they can use an air circuit breaker mechanism to shut down the arc. A high voltage circuit breaker will instead rely on mediums such as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) or carbon dioxide in order to quench the arc. There are also multiple interrupters installed in series.
Low voltage circuit breakers, due to their low voltage capacity, are able to be mounted in multiple tiers. A high voltage circuit breaker will usually be able to stand on its own and does not require mounting of any kind.
Low voltage circuit breakers do not have to be monitored very often, at every 1-3 years, while high voltage circuit breakers need to be inspected every 6-12 months. With that being said, there are some striking similarities in these inspections. Both involve checks for any humidity or excess heat within the surrounding environment, along with faulty equipment or parts. Both are also tested in terms of electrical performance to see if they are working properly.
Circuit breakers for lower voltages are typically enclosed within a building. Higher voltage circuit breakers are stationed outside and require a large amount of space for air insulation.
Related to location, high voltage circuit breakers are quite large in size, and some even require a set of stairs just to have access to the main switchboard. This is one of the primary reasons why they are kept outdoors in the first place. Low voltage breakers, on the other hand, are not so large and can be kept indoors without any worries related to space.
Due to their smaller size, it is usually easier to install several low voltage circuit breakers than it is to install one massive high voltage circuit breaker. There are fewer moving parts, and it is far easier to transport a low voltage breaker from one place to the other.
Given a size and location, the answer to this question is fairly straightforward. Low voltage breakers are going to cost much less than high voltage circuit breakers on the basis of shipping costs and materials.
In conclusion, you can see that one is not superior to the other. You need to have both types in an industrial building if you wish to meet the electrical needs of the building and the people who are in that building. As long as you know when a certain type is more appropriate, you will be able to use them effectively.