“Reduce, reuse, recycle” — the 3Rs — is a familiar phrase that reminds people to make environmentally responsible decisions. For power distribution systems, there’s another important R — retrofit. Retrofitting focuses on reusing, refurbishing, recycling, and renewing electrical distribution equipment, rather than simply replacing it altogether.
Electrical distribution retrofitting consists of replacing switchgear components to upgrade, renew, or provide more functionalities, such as connectivity. It is often used on outdated active components like circuit breakers in primary distribution, contactors, and protection relays to prolong the switchgear’s lifespan. Obsolete active components can be refurbished and repaired or recycled, and switchgear housing and accessories, such as plugs, lights, and extra LV cabinets, can be reused.
How do you determine if it’s time to modernize? There are some important issues to take into account:
Improved reliability: Preventing downtime is always a top priority, so ensuring you have reliable equipment is essential.
Maintenance cost: Maintenance costs and the risk of product failure rise as the product ages. Modernizing and upgrading existing power distribution equipment, rather than replacing it, can reduce maintenance costs while saving time and labor.
Spare parts availability: If spare parts are no longer readily available, the continuity of service and support is at risk.
Urgency of modernization: It’s crucial to assess and prioritize the most vital parts of the installed base for modernization. This involves considering the available budget, tools, and expertise.
Degree of equipment wear: Aging materials reduce equipment reliability.
Technology and improved capabilities: New technology allows more capabilities, better performance, and reduced maintenance requirements.
Safety: Equipment failure, which can cause serious injury and damage, is more likely with older equipment.
Retrofit solutions extend the life of equipment and keep it compliant with evolving standards and legislation, while reducing the environmental impact and cost compared to installing a new product. For example, in a typical primary distribution installation, retrofitting the circuit breakers while keeping the switchgear housing and accessories instead of replacing them, saves around 40 tons of CO2 and 773,904 MJ of energy. This is equivalent to a car driving 8 times around the world and 135 barrels of oil respectively.
Modernizing equipment doesn’t have to mean a major capital expense. Retrofit operations can cost up to 65% less than new installations. They aren’t just economical, but are also quicker to install, which cuts production downtime, reduces installation risks, and requires minimal civil work. Calculation tools create a life cycle assessment, which analyzes the complete environmental impact of a product and financial cost. It will help in making the decision whether to replace equipment or modernize.
Save money, time, and reduce the environmental impact by retrofitting equipment. Learn more in our new white paper, “How Retrofit Services for Electrical Distribution Contribute to Circular Economy.”