Three-phase motors power many industrial and commercial machines. One can find these machines in material handling, water treatment, air conditioning systems, ventilation, heating, marine, machine tools, and aviation applications. However, a range of fault conditions can damage these reliable devices when not addressed quickly. This can lead to a shortened operating lifetime or even a failure, resulting in significant repair costs and downtime.
Phase monitoring relays can detect these faults, notify the operators, and stop the machinery before it develops permanent damage. These relays detect the presence of all three phases, their correct sequence, and that all phase voltages are within the specified range. Should an error develop, the relay opens a set of contacts, initiating an alarm condition, and powers down the machine. There are many types of phase-sensing relays. They can handle a wide range of phase configurations, voltages, and errors.
Among the common failure modes of three-phase motors, are those related to their three-phase power source and their effects on the motor. An imbalance in the phase voltages, or a loss in one of the three phases, can result in the remaining phases driving higher-than-normal currents into the motor. This can lead to a loss of rotational power and excessive vibrations. Likewise, over-voltages and under-voltages can force the motor to draw excess current for driving the same load, and this can shorten the life of the motor. An incorrect phase sequence may cause the motor to reverse the direction of rotation. This can have significantly disastrous results on the load connected to the motor.
Phase monitoring relays monitor the state of the three-phase power source. The three-phase lines that they monitor also power them. Apart from the phase sequence, they also monitor the loss of any phase voltage. Only when all the phases are present, and are in the correct sequence, do the relays activate. Whenever there is a loss of any phase, or the phase sequence is incorrect, the relays de-energize.
Some phase monitoring relays also have the capability to monitor the voltage levels of all three phases. This typically uses a true root-mean-square measurement. The relay deactivates whenever the voltage drops below a preset threshold. Some relays also offer adjustable limit settings along with voltage detection. Other relays monitor phase asymmetry along with tolerance. Typically, phase monitoring relays offer a delay before actuation. This prevents spurious activation from temporary voltage levels or asymmetry issues. In some models, the delay is adjustable.
The DPA01CM44 is an example of a three-phase monitoring relay meant for three-wire configurations. The three-phase source powers the relay. Relay models available operate at voltages of 208, 230, 400, 600, and 690 VAC. Although relays for mounting on DIN rails are typical, plugin models are also available. The relay output configuration can be single or dual SPDT contacts.
Normal voltage and phase conditions allow the relay to remain activated. That means, the normally open contacts of the relay output remain closed. Abnormal conditions make the relay operate within 100 milliseconds. The front panel on the relay has status LEDs to indicate relay activation and power on.