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Save installation time with new-generation ATS

29 August 2018

Len McGanity, Product Manager for ABB, explains the importance of Automatic Transfer Switches (ATSs) and how the latest generation of switches can save time and effort when installing critical power and fire safety systems.

What’s the purpose of ATSs and why are they useful?

Even the most reliable power supplies rated at five nine reliability (99.999 percent) will go through an outage at some point. The consequences of a power outage for mission-critical sites such as hospitals, datacentres, telecoms sites and commercial and industrial sites could be incredibly detrimental. 

ATS units protect power continuity by ensuring a smooth transfer of power from mains to secondary supplies if an outage does occur. ATSs are also used in high-rise residential and commercial buildings served by sprinkler pumps, smoke extractors fans, emergency lightning and fire lifts. The ATS switches loads and powers up backup generators, before switching back again – but only when it is safe to do so.

Today, ATSs are installed in virtually every building more than three stories high. Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, safety systems towers and tall buildings are a particular area of scrutiny – so it’s worth reviewing assets and comparing them with the latest technology. 

What are the most important features in an ATS?

As ATSs play a pivotal role in mission-critical applications, it is essential that they have high-reliability. Therefore, it is worth choosing one with as few electronic connection points between the switch and its controller as possible. Electronic points can be a potential source of failure, and some ATSs may feature as many as 30 connection points. However, the latest ATSs have a higher inherent reliability due to only having a single digital wire connector. 

It is also worth choosing an ATS with a self-contained design that has plug-in modular accessories. This avoids the need for external components, accessories, wires and cables and it also enables the use of standard cabinets. This saves time and effort during installation and is useful for panel builders when the customer has specific requirements.

It is also helpful to reduce downtime and service costs for operators as they can change modules quickly if needed. 

Another consideration is the ability to withstand harsh and extreme environments, often found in industrial settings. An ATS should operate reliably in the most unexpected situations and in spite of extreme temperatures, voltages, vibration or exposure to a short circuit. To achieve this, the latest generation of ATSs have in-built condition monitoring, to ensure that when the operator needs to switch to back-up the ATSs are always ready. 

What communications interfaces are important?

Cloud-based monitoring and control is on the rise – facility managers now want remote and cloud-based control, monitoring and diagnostics to make the most of operating budgets by carrying out maintenance only when it is required. 

With built-in metering, diagnostics and a flexible communications interface with external control systems, the latest generation of ATSs can support these ambitions. The interface also allows for remote programming, configuration and testing during the installation and commissioning phase. When it comes to needing to save time on a project for a facility that has tens of ATS units on different circuits this can be a great advantage. 

Compatible with a facility’s existing technology is also important, so it’s worth making sure if the chosen ATS uses the right protocol for the facility. In some units any two can be used at the same time from Modbus, Profibus, DeviceNet, Modbus TCP, Profinet, EtherNet/IP and Open ADR, and the IEC 61850 smart grid communication protocol. 

What other services can an ATS provide?

Non-critical automatic load shedding is possible with modern ATSs. They can automatically disconnect low priority loads. This is ideal for sites equipped with backup generators that are only sized to power essential equipment.

Why has ABB developed the TruONE ATS?

The feedback from the industry is that the current ATSs are complex to install because they require a variety of sensors and interfaces. 

As a result, ABB developed the TruONE ATS as the first device to incorporate the switch and controller into a single package that can accommodate accurate metering, sensors and communications modules. Compatible with standards in North America, Europe and Asia, it allows for straightforward installation in standard enclosures. It also offers future-proofing because it enables remote diagnostics and cloud-based monitoring such as the ABB Ability digital platform. 

Ergonomic studies found that the TruONE can speed up installation by 80 percent and cut cabling and commissioning time by up to 90 percent. This is thanks to the single digital connector between the switch and the Human machine Interface (HMI), allowing the HMI to be mounted on the exterior of a panel door, where it is completely isolated from line voltage – enhancing safety for operators. 

The TruONE also allows for emergency manual operation under load, so an operator can restore power immediately in the case of an equipment malfunction. This avoids the need to evacuate a building in order to manually change over the supply. In terms of mechanics, the switch uses new materials and construction to make load transfer more reliable. 


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