logo

Blog

Electrical Busbars: How to monitor these assets

March 15, 2024

Electrical busbars are critical assets used in switchboards or power distribution systems to efficiently conduct and distribute electrical energy. As an essential part of electrical installations, understanding the functionality, types, and applications of busbars is crucial to ensure the maintenance of these systems and prevent failures that could cause damage and compromise the production process.

In this article, you will learn about the importance of electrical busbars, different types, applications, and the best monitoring strategies to prevent failures, downtime, and accidents.

What are Electrical Busbars?

As mentioned earlier, electrical busbars are critical assets that ensure the distribution of power throughout the industrial plant. In general terms, an electrical busbar is a strip or bar made of metal used to distribute electrical energy within a system. Additionally, it serves as a common connection point for multiple circuits, allowing the transfer of electrical current between various components such as generators, transformers, circuit breakers, and distribution panels.

Electrical busbars are typically made of copper or aluminum due to their excellent electrical conductivity, durability, and low electrical resistance. They are usually designed as flat and rectangular conductors, although other shapes, such as circular or hexagonal, can also be found. The choice of material and busbar size depends on the amount of current it needs to carry, as well as the overall energy requirements of the system.

Generally, busbars are installed inside an electrical cabinet or switchboard and are mounted on insulating supports to prevent short circuits. Additionally, electrical busbars are connected to the input and output terminals of various electrical devices, allowing the flow of electricity between them.

Main Components of Electrical Busbars

You already know that electrical busbars are essential assets in power distribution systems, but what are the main characteristics of an electrical busbar?

Composition

Copper and aluminum are the most common materials used in electrical busbars. Copper offers superior electrical conductivity, while aluminum provides a more economical option. The choice of material, therefore, depends on factors such as current capacity, cost, weight, and application requirements.

Conducting Surface

Electrical busbars have a flat and smooth conducting surface to ensure efficient electrical contact and reduce resistance. Additionally, the surface may be exposed or coated with materials such as tin, silver, or nickel to increase conductivity, prevent corrosion, or improve solderability.

Shape and Configuration

Busbars come in various shapes and configurations, including rectangular, round, or tubular. The shape and size of a busbar depend on factors such as current load, voltage level, available space, and mechanical requirements.

Insulation

In some applications, electrical busbars require insulation to prevent accidental contact or short circuits. Insulation can be achieved through various methods, including insulating sleeves, coatings, or enclosures.

Busbar Supports

Busbars need to be properly supported and protected within the power distribution system. Therefore, insulating supports, such as spacers or insulators, are used to hold the electrical busbars in place and maintain the necessary spacings and gaps.

Connection Methods

Busbars are typically connected to other components or electrical devices using mechanical connectors or busbar clamps. These connectors ensure a reliable and low-resistance electrical connection between the busbars and the connected components.

Busbar Joints

In large power distribution systems, it may be necessary to connect multiple busbars to accommodate high current loads. Busbar joints or splices are used to create electrical continuity and maintain low resistance in these connections. Busbar joints can be made using mechanical screws, welding, brazing, or specialized connectors.

Cooling and Heat Dissipation

Busbars can generate heat due to the electrical current flowing through them. In high current applications, cooling methods such as natural convection, forced air, or liquid cooling may be employed to dissipate heat and prevent busbar overheating.

Labeling and Identification

Proper labeling and identification of busbars are crucial for maintenance, problem-solving, and safety purposes. Therefore, busbars are often marked with labels, tags, or color codes to indicate their function, voltage rating, current capacity, and phase identification.

Contactors

Contactors are devices that control power electrical loads from a control circuit.

Disconnect Switches

Disconnect switches enable the opening and closing of electrical circuits. They are essential for isolating specific sections, ensuring the safety of professionals during maintenance. Additionally, their presence is fundamental to ensure stable electrical supply.

Types of Electrical Busbars

Single Busbar Arrangement

This is the most common type of busbar system. In a single busbar arrangement, all feeder lines and transformers are connected to only one busbar. Typically, this type of system is chosen for simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, it does not offer much reliability, as a busbar failure can disrupt the entire system.

Double Busbar and Double Breaker Arrangement

This type of system consists of two main busbars, and each feeder or transformer is connected to both busbars through double breakers. This configuration provides more flexibility in operation, as in the event of maintenance or failure in one busbar, the other can take over the entire load. Additionally, this system is more reliable than the single busbar arrangement but is also more costly due to the presence of additional equipment.

Main and Transfer Busbar Arrangement

This type of system consists of a main busbar and a transfer busbar. Under normal operation, only the main busbar is in use. However, in case of maintenance or failure of the main busbar, the load can be transferred to the transfer busbar. This offers greater reliability compared to the single busbar arrangement but is not as complex as the double busbar and double breaker arrangement.

Ring Busbar Arrangement

In this system, the busbar is arranged in a ring format. Each device, such as breakers and transformers, is connected to the ring at specific points. This configuration provides efficient energy distribution and is resilient to failures at any point of the ring, as energy can still be transmitted through other parts of the system.

Applications of Electrical Busbars

Electrical busbars are used in various industries and power distribution systems. Here are some of the more common applications:

Power Distribution Systems

Busbars are widely used in energy distribution systems from the main source to different points. They provide a centralized and efficient method of transporting high currents and voltages to various electrical equipment, such as distribution panels, transformers, breakers, and distribution panels.

Switchboards and Breakers

Busbars are integral components of switchgear and breakers assemblies. They connect incoming and outgoing power lines to switches or breakers to control and protect electrical circuits. Electrical busbars are designed to handle high fault currents and thus provide reliable electrical connections in distribution boards and breakers.

Data Centers

They are also commonly employed assets in data centers to distribute power to server racks and data cabinets. In this context, they provide a flexible solution for power distribution, allowing for easy additions, modifications, and maintenance. Additionally, busbars in data centers offer high current carrying capacity and efficient power transmission to meet the demanding power requirements of servers and network equipment.

Industrial Applications

Electrical busbars play a critical role in industrial applications such as factories, refineries, and power generation facilities. They are used for power distribution to large machines, motors, control panels, and other electrical equipment. Moreover, busbars in industrial environments are designed to handle high currents, withstand aggressive environments, and provide reliable electrical connections.

Electric Vehicles

Busbars are essential components in electric vehicles for power distribution within the vehicle’s electrical system. They connect the battery to various components such as the motor controller, power electronics, and charging system. Therefore, electrical busbars in EVs require high current carrying capacity, low resistance, and efficient heat dissipation to support the high power demands of electric propulsion systems.

Renewable Energy Systems

Busbars are used in renewable energy systems, including solar and wind power installations. They can be employed in energy inverters, combiner boxes, and distribution panels to collect and distribute generated electricity. Furthermore, electrical busbars in renewable energy systems ensure efficient power transmission, minimize losses, and support the integration of renewable energy sources into the electrical grid.

These are just a few examples of the wide variety of applications for electrical busbars. As you can see, they are versatile components that play a crucial role in the efficient distribution and transmission of power in various contexts.

Continuous Monitoring of Electrical Busbars

In general, the monitoring of the condition of electrical busbars is done periodically, with a considerable time gap between each check. This is because there are risks associated with proximity to this type of asset; continuous contact could compromise the safety of maintenance professionals. Additionally, electrical busbars may be located in hard-to-reach areas, making inspection work and information gathering difficult. Typically, any intervention on this type of asset requires prior scheduling, mobilization of a team, and total system shutdown.

On the other hand, the gap between one reading and another, by itself, poses a huge risk to industries, considering that electrical busbars are indispensable assets in the operation of activities. During the time when no analysis is performed, signs of failure may appear unnoticed, causing accidents and putting people and equipment at risk. Moreover, in case of failures in these systems, the power supply to the plant is compromised, halting its operation.

Electrical Busbar

Therefore, continuous monitoring (24/7) of the health indicators of electrical busbars is the best way to prevent failures and increase the reliability of these assets. The Dynamox Solution is capable of early identification of signs of failure in these equipment, thus contributing to raising the levels of reliability and availability of industrial plants.

Solution for monitoring Electrical Busbars

The Dynamox Solution consists of wireless vibration and temperature sensors, a gateway for automated data collection, a web platform, and an app for data analysis. It also offers parameterization services, enables data integration, and provides expert dashboards for non-conventional assets.

Sensors

In the specific case of electrical busbars, TcAg model sensors are used for temperature monitoring. These devices can monitor temperature and triaxial global vibration up to 2.5kHz, have a range of up to 150 meters in open field, and their metal base allows easy fixation using appropriate adhesive. Additionally, the robustness of this sensor ensures tolerance to high temperatures.

These characteristics make the TcAg perfect for continuous and remote monitoring of electrical busbars. These sensors are installed at hot points of the equipment, at the terminations/electrical connections of the busbars, in each phase of the equipment, in the case of busbars, or at the terminals, in the case of transformers and contactors. This way, the application of sensors at these points allows monitoring temperature levels and detecting overheating in the system.

Gateways

The presence of gateways in the plant enables data collection from sensors without exposing maintenance professionals to safety risks generated by proximity to assets, especially in the case of electrical busbars. Moreover, there is no limit to the number of sensors supported by each gateway, meaning that even in extensive industrial plants covering a larger area and collecting information from more than one panel at the same time.

Since electrical busbars are critical assets for the operation of industrial plants and require the attention of maintenance teams to identify any signs of failure, the Dynamox Solution for electrical busbars assists in managing the maintenance of these assets and ensures more safety and reliability.

Get to know Dynamox’s complete portfolio of electrical busbars

Check out the complete portfolio on electrical busbars and see all detectable failure modes, as well as explanations of operation, practical examples, and a case study showing the Dynamox Solution in action!

Access to the complete electrical busbar portfolio

Did you like our material? Learn more about the maintenance industry by visiting our blog or get your questions answered by speaking with one of our specialists.

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our content


Share:

Twitter
LinkedIn
Facebook

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our content

Don't miss Dynamox's latest news and updates

Dynamox S.A

Rod. SC-401 600, km 01, R. Parque Tecnológico Alfa, Módulo 05 - João Paulo, Florianópolis - SC, 88030-909 | Telephone: +55 48 3024-5858