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What Are Vertical Break Switches And Why Are They Vital In The Electricity Business

Our modern lives revolve around one thing, energy. This could be from eating food to powering our bodies to getting electricity to power our increasingly energy-hungry world. Energy is the one essential thing that makes our world exist.

However, while most people understand that food comes from a farm, not many people fully understand where our electricity comes from and how essential specific components are to our lives.

One such element is what is known as a vertical break switch, and without this device, you wouldn’t be able to read this post.

What Is A Vertical Break Switch

A Vertical Break Switch (VBS) is an essential part of a power plant that prevents power from being transmitted to the grid when there is a fault on a circuit, causing an outage to the system. Generally, the VBS will either open or close a circuit depending on how much voltage is applied.

The VBS is designed to handle high-impedance circuits and will be able to complete a circuit without overloading the circuit. These heavy duty vertical switches are typically used in power transmission equipment that allows a voltage to be applied over a more extended period than would usually be possible.

Typically, a circuit breaker will provide an instantaneous break-over to a new voltage level if the current goes beyond the set point. The vertical break switch delays the application of the voltage until the current drops below the setpoint, allowing a more extended period of voltage to be applied to the circuit.

When working on de-energized lines, vertical break switches are necessary to comply with safety regulations. In addition, the devices are fully load-breakable when they are combined with current interrupting enhancements.

Why Are They So Important?

Vertical break switching units are part of what is known as High Voltage Switchgear. Electric equipment is a highly engineered item that can be isolated by using circuit breakers and current interrupters.

Generally, High Voltage (HV) Switchgear refers to equipment installed in large transformers at power plants with a high voltage side. In a power network, transmitting switchgear controls the flow of large amounts of electrical power.

With rated voltages ranging from 145 to 800 kV, the module can operate at up to four kA for normal load currents and up to 80 kA for short-circuit currents. The switchgear in a substation can be connected in various ways, with the double bus-bar configuration being the most common.

There are two types of switchgear: open type with air insulation and enclosed type with metal enclosure. Modern networks of power systems require switchgear protection. A switchgear’s purpose is to ensure that equipment is protected from overload and short-circuit damage, from generation to distribution.

There are three main functions that switchgear aims to deliver:

  1. Electrical protection: In addition to protecting electric machines and appliances, it provides additional security. Circuits that are becoming overloaded will allow current to continue flowing through unloaded circuits.
  2. Control: It allows the load to be supplied from multiple sources, thus increasing system availability. A current interruption device (circuit breaker) is one of the most critical components of switchgear. It is possible to operate circuit breakers manually when required, but they can also trip automatically when overloading or a fault occurs. Using a protection relay detects a fault and triggers the alarm before an overload can do any damage.
  3. Electrical isolation: Insulation serves as a means of insulating circuits and powered components. This protects repairs to power systems and equipment. This ability to continue to allow power without interruption makes vertical breaks so crucial in the electrical sector.

Design Features

There are several design components of these break switches that allow them to perform their designated job correctly.


The blade is what disconnects to break the circuit. With moving blades, maintenance staff can remove ice and other contaminants from contact surfaces without damaging the blade or contact surfaces.

Since the counterbalance spring is incorporated into the tubular housing, there is no environmental impact, and safety is also enhanced. It can be mounted vertically, horizontally, or underhung and is field-adjustable, and copper alloys or aluminum alloys with high conductivity are used as all current-carrying components.

When the blades are in the open or closed position, specially-set blade stops ensure proper positioning. During any intermediate point between fully closed and fully open, with the blade perfectly balanced, there is no danger that it might fall into the closed position. 

Blade Stops

Switchblade stops determine the position of the mechanism when it is completely open and closed. The settings during production are often factory set, but options for field adjustment also exist. 

Jaw Contacts

Copper makes up the high-pressure contact shoes, so they remain durable and highly conductive throughout.

Independent alloy springs keep the contact shoes under constant pressure. A hardened bolt attaches each contact shoe to the spring. 


These ensure an efficient flow of energy. Electrical insulators are materials used to keep current flowing through a circuit or circuit breaker without any energy dissipating into the environment.

They are usually chosen to be non-conducting, semi-conducting, or insulating, depending on their properties.

Hinge Mechanism

This part is what lifts the blade for disconnection. Copper and copper alloys are the only materials employed in the current path, and no springs are used to carry current.

The Omega-shaped hinge shunt encircles approximately 75% of the blade with a silver-plated strap. An operating blade remains in continuous contact with the trunnion during the entire cycle of the shunt, which is held under high pressure by a silver-plated, threaded trunnion.

Additionally, the connections do not corrode, oxidize, or separate since they are protected from outside elements.

How Else Is Switchgear Used?

Switchgear devices include switches, fuses, circuit breakers, isolators, relays, current and potential transformers, indicating instruments, and control panels. Heavy current loads or faults in the electrical power system tend to damage equipment and cause service interruptions.

Switchgear protection devices are needed to prevent any damage from occurring to electrical equipment. De-energizing power equipment and clearing faults are accomplished using a range of switchgear devices.

A vertical break switch is a vital part of any power station that handles high voltage electricity. In the absence of this, any form of electrical overload could harm other equipment and lead to grid downtime.

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