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3/11/2018 MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor?

(Part 2)

Energy and Power / Medium Voltage

MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (2)

MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? PART 2 (on photo: SIEMENS’s Sion vacuum circuit-
breaker is designed for use in all common types of medium-voltage switchgear)

Continued from first part: MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (Part 1) 1/5
3/11/2018 MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (Part 2)

When applied properly, both medium-voltage circuit breakers and medium-

voltage fused contactors should provide decades of reliable service. Applied
incorrectly, either can lead to major headaches.

Comparison Table 2/5
3/11/2018 MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (Part 2)

Characteristic Circuit Breaker Contactor (NEMA E2 with

Continuous High (1200 A, 2000 A, Moderate (400 A enclosed –
current 3000 A or 4000 A) NEMA size H3, or 720 A
enclosed – NEMA size H6)
Switching Switch currents from Switch currents from very low
capability very low (magnetizing) (magnetizing) values to
values to full system interrupting capability of vacuum
short-circuit current contactor without fuses (at least
10 x Continuous rating)

Fuses operate for currents

higher than the interrupting
capability of the vacuum
contactor alone, up to the
interrupting capacity of the fuse

Endurance – High(typically 10,000 Very high, 750,000 operations for

Mechanical operations) (refer to 400 A and 400,000 for 720A
Endurance – High Very high
For vacuum
vacuum,, typically Switching continuous current,
10,000 operations at 400,000 operations for 400A or
rated continuous current 200,000 operations for 720 A
For vacuum, typically 30 Switching short- circuit current,
to 100 operations at full endurance data not established
short-circuit rating in NEMA or UL standards; short-
circuit current interruption
requires replacement of current-
limiting fuses

Application Not appropriate for very Well suited for very frequent
limitations high endurance switching operations
applications 3/5
3/11/2018 MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (Part 2)

Operation Electrically operated Electrically operated only

(manual operation for
maintenance or
Control scheme Mechanically latched – Usually magnetically held –
circuit breaker remains vacuum contactor opens on loss
closed on loss of system of system voltage; vacuum
voltage contactor will close
automatically on system voltage
return with two-wire control;
manual restart required on
system voltage return with three-
wire control Latched contactors
are available
Overcurrent/ Requires protective Requires protective relays for
short-circuit relays overload protection and current-
protection limiting fuses for short-circuit
Short-circuit let- High (three to five cycles Low (current-limiting fuses
through energy or more of short-circuit interrupt in 1/4 cycle for highest
current) short-circuit currents, and peak
magnitude is limited)
Remote operation Well suited Well suited
Control power Control power needed Control power usually provided
for protective relays, by control power
circuit breaker operation transformer (CPT) incorporated
and space heaters (if in the controller
Construction Draw out, if metal-clad Draw out or stationary
(ANSI/IEEE C 37.20.2)
Stationary, if metal-
enclosed (ANSI/IEEE
C37.20.3) 4/5
3/11/2018 MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (Part 2)

Space Larger enclosure; NEC® Smaller enclosure; NEC®

requirements required workspace required workspace equal; Rear
equal access not required
Purchase cost Relatively high Moderate
Maintenance Medium (long
(long Low (simple mechanism, need to
maintenance intervals, clean insulation, replace fuses)
need to clean insulation)
Reference: SIEMENS Tech articles

About Author
Mohan Krishnasamy

Electrical Design Engineer having +3 Years Experience( Voltech Manufacturing

Co., Ltd - Switchgear Division) in Medium Voltage & Low Voltage Switchgear
Field. Freelancer Programmer Of Panel Design Calculation For Mechanical &
Electrical As per IS,IEC Standards 5/5