What is Arc Flash Analysis and Training?

Generator Services and Training

Arc flash analysis and training focuses on (a) analyzing a facility's electrical system to determine its propensity for flashes, and (b) supplying the training necessary to conduct the analysis. Training can be received in a variety of contexts, such as: at trade schools, in the field, or at seminars offered by industrial generator service companies, with the latter being the simplest option for technicians that are familiar with flash analysis but need updating in the latest practices and code requirements.

Conducting a Flash Analysis

For those who are unfamiliar with analyzing flash propensity, it begins with preparatory measures that gather the data necessary to perform the actual test: (1) An electrical components drawing that identifies all electrical components by name; (2) recording the lengths of cables and the details of cross section areas; (3) determining the minimum and maximum fault currents present at a building's electrical entrance; and (4) other facility information as required. With the data from these measures in hand, a technician enters it into equations in compliance with NFPA 70E-2000, or IEEE Standard 1584-2002. Depending on the results, circuit breaker/fuse box gear may be adjusted to offer higher protection against hazardous arcs.

The Occurrence of Hazardous Arcing

The anatomy of a hazardous arc is as follows: a rapid release of electricity occurs between one phase bus bar and another due to an arcing fault between the bars. In some cases, the fault is due to physical deterioration, such as loss of electrical insulation or circuit corrosion, while in others it results from faulty breaker switches/fuses that allow an overload or a short circuit to occur. Once a flash occurs, its strength and duration are determined by two factors: the environment in which it occurs (i.e. does anything impede the arc?), and the arc's strength (i.e. the stronger the current, the more impedance necessary to stop it.).

Facilities at Risk for Hazardous Arcs

Hazardous arcing rarely occurs in electrical systems with a voltage below 120 volts. But the more voltage a system possesses, the more likely the occurrence of arcing, and the more difficult to remedy it once it occurs. Yet, it should be mentioned that faulty breaker/fuse equipment and not high voltage is the cause of hazardous arcing, as flashing requires a physical catalyst not supplied by healthy breaker/fuse equipment. Once they occur, however, hazardous arcs can take on a life of their own, with the arc sustained by conductive plasma that uses air as a conductor.

Damage as a Result of Hazardous Arcing

As one would suspect, the stronger the arc, the more damage it produces, with the strongest arcs resulting in explosions that propel shrapnel. Loss of human life and severe damage to company assets are common in the worst-case scenarios. To learn more about arc flashing and how to train for its analysis, contact an industrial generator service provider.