What is a torque and clean and why do I need one?
A torque and clean is a process done by a qualified electrical contractor, to perform required maintenance to your electrical system’s components. Your electrical gear is just like anything else and needs preventive maintenance. It is usually done after hours or on weekends during a scheduled shutdown, and is done with the power off and the system locked and tagged out. The torque and clean will ultimately prevent several common causes of failures your electrical system could experience over time. Here are a few situations that will be addressed.
First are loose connections. Electrical components are bolted or screwed together to make a solid metal to metal contact. These connection points can loosen over time. When wiring is installed the connections are torqued to a specific foot or inch pounds of torque. Electricity during peak loads creates heat due to the electrons moving across the conductors, voltage is basically pressure that is the force that moves these electrons. Copper is a soft metal, which is good because it is flexible to allow it to be pulled into conduit, and make bends in wire. When copper heats up it expands, when it cools it shrinks, and this can cause a connection to get loose over time of repeated use. During the shutdown all connections are checked and re-torqued to their specific requirements, so a future failure is eliminated.
Second is dirt, oil, dust and debris. You don’t need dirt, oil, dust, ants, geckos, or anything else that may live in your nice warm electrical gear to cause a failure, it never happens at a convenient time! During the torque and clean, your panels and electrical gear are cleaned of debris with alcohol and clean lint free towels and vacuumed out to remove all of these foreign particles. Cobwebs themselves can collect moisture on a humid day, and droplets of water can group together and run down the web to cause an electrical short of even worse, an explosion.
Third is often overlooked but very important. Many of your switches and breakers contain springs. These springs are compressed and over time, a metal spring will create a memory. How this affects you is that the instant that spring needs to open a breaker during a fault, or keep a set of contacts closed tightly when a large breaker is re-set, it might not want to do it. I feel that way every time I sit for long periods! During the shutdown breakers and switches are exercised and this gives the springs a chance to stretch out and reduce some of that memory.
Fourth is correct lubrication. Although you don’t want oil and grease on some parts, other components require different forms of lubrication. Handles of disconnect switches, and other moving parts will be checked for proper lubrication to make sure if they need to move, they won’t be stuck in place and forced to move, which could cause the part to break if forced, possibly causing a metal part to fall into a live conductor. It’s not just a matter of spraying it with WD-40, you should always consult a professional electrician to perform your work and know how to properly lubricate equipment.
The schedule to do this work varies, depending on the environment the electrical components are in, the type of equipment it is, and how dependent you are on your electrical power…. Can you afford to have a failure during the day at peak business? Do you want to deal with an emergency after a storm when the power goes off, and your main breaker won’t re-set? These are situations that a torque and clean can often prevent from happening.