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Electric arc, what it is and how to prevent it

Electrical arcing is a very dangerous phenomenon for people and equipment: let’s see what happens

when it forms and how it can be prevented.

Short circuits that can occur near an electrical panel are very dangerous and can result in arcing, which is the ionization of air that results in intense heat, the spread of noxious gases, and the emission of ultraviolet rays.

Since very high temperatures are reached, the phenomenon is very dangerous for people and equipment, which can be damaged even with the melting of very strong materials greatly increasing the risk of fire.

Let’s try to understand what exactly happens when arcing occurs and how it can be prevented.


The steps

The process can be summarized as follows:

1. First of all, the air inside the framework is overheated due to the high energy, and at first there are temperatures with different values of the various zones of the framework.

2. The internal pressure increases and there is an opening in the frame from which superheated air escapes, leading to a subsequent decrease in pressure.

3. All the air is expelled, precisely because of the high pressure.

4. The temperature of the electrical cabinet almost reaches that of the electric arc, and all metals and materials that come in contact with the arc are damaged and eroded with the emanation of highly harmful gases.

Therefore, it is very dangerous for an individual to be in the vicinity of an electric arc: the temperature of the electric arc can reach 8 thousand degrees causing burns, and the noise can reach 160 dB, creating severe hearing damage. In addition, an individual who happens to be in the vicinity of the failure could be subject to injury from exploded material and inhalation of harmful substances.



How can these possible harms be prevented?

The first rule is that electrical systems must be installed by trained technicians, as this is the only way there is a guarantee that it meets current safety regulations.

Risks that result from direct contact can be reduced through the use of cable insulators or mechanical spacers that prevent the individual from approaching electrical parts.

It is possible to protect oneself from indirect contacts, on the other hand, through specific measures implemented at the time the installation is built. An example of this is the grounding of metal devices and the use of so-called surge protectors that interrupt current leakage even at very low values.

Also not to be forgotten is the use of double-insulated electrical appliances whose casing has two layers of protection: the outer one is made of material that is unable to conduct electricity.

Lastly, it is recommended to follow specific precautions when it is necessary to intervene on the systems, such as using personal protective equipment and promptly reporting any anomaly to the system, always avoiding DIY interventions.