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Home / Technical Articles / MV Circuit Breaker Or Vacuum Contactor? (1)

Application considerations

To compare the application of medium-voltage circuit breakers and of fused contactors, we must understand the basic characteristics of each switching technology.

Left - Vacuum Contactor 6kV 400A; Right - 12 kV, 40 kA Indoor Vacuum Circuit Breaker
Left – Vacuum Contactor 6kV 400A; Right – 12 kV, 40 kA Indoor Vacuum Circuit Breaker

Comparison presented here shows the major characteristics of medium-voltage circuit breakers and medium-voltage fused contactors that influence the application. Of course, the table entries are generalized, and the information varies by the voltage and current ratings of the equipment.

However, the comparison is valid for an overall understanding.

Medium Voltage circuit breakers are favored when:

  1. Typical loads include transformers, capacitors, larger motors, generators or distribution feeders.
    (Ratings required exceed those of vacuum contactors 400A or 720 Aat up to 7.2 kV)
  2. Continuous load current is high (e.g., larger transformers, larger motors)
  3. Switching is not very frequent (e.g., weekly or monthly);high endurance (1,000s of operations) is satisfactory
  4. Process continuity is critical (e.g., no time for fuse replacement).
  5. Reduced-voltage (RV) starting is not needed (RV starting complicates switchgear bus arrangements).

Medium-voltage NEMA Class E2 controllers (fused contactors) are favored when:

  1. Typical loads include motors or smaller transformers.
  2. Continuous load current is low or moderate (e.g., smaller motors or transformer.
  3. Switching is very frequent (e.g., daily or several times per day); very high endurance (100,000s of operations) is needed.
  4. Process continuity is compatible with fuse replacement time.
  5. Reduced-voltage starting is needed to reduce starting duty (and voltage fluctuation) on system.
Historically, circuit breakers have been used for medium-voltage motors in certain industries, especially in utility generating stations.

As these stations have aged, and station operation has changed from base-load to peaking service, many of these motor-starting circuit breakers have experienced total operations well in excess of the endurance required by the ANSI/IEEE standards. As a result, these applications have had higher maintenance costs than if medium-voltage fused contactors had been used originally.

In contrast, users in the process industries have long favored the use of fused Contactors for such applications, and have enjoyed long service with lower maintenance costs.

Will be continued…

Reference: SIEMENS Tech articles

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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


  1. Daniel Bareiros
    Dec 21, 2016

    Hola. mi duda es : si un cartucho de vacio se perfora, este pierde aislacion y la distancie entre los contactos es muy reducida.. que sucede con la seguridad de quienes trabajamos sobre la salida del equipo ?

    Hi. My question is: if a vacuum cartridge is perforated, it loses isolation and the distance between the contacts is very small .. what happens to the safety of those who work on the output of the equipment?


  2. Rahim
    Dec 24, 2014

    Hello Dear sir,
    we need offer about circuit breaker if your company have the mention part please send your quotation.
    Circuit breaker details:
    • 1 EA MV (17.5 KV) Circuit Breaker
    • Brand: Schneider Electric,
    • Model: EVOLIS, Ur: 17.5 KV, Up: 95 KV, Ir: 1250 Amps, Isc: 25 KA, tk:3s, Seq: O-0.3s-CO-3mm-CO, Frq: 50/60 Hz,
    • Motor Voltage: 100 to 125 Vdc,
    • Diagram N: 51223378F0,
    • Made In: France

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