Events of the last few months have served as a timely reminder of UK consumers’ dependence on the electricity network. Now more than ever it’s crucial everyone has access to their TV and WiFi for news, links to the office and entertainment while they’re stuck at home.

During this time, as always, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) have been working tirelessly to keep customers on supply. To achieve this they’re adapting operational practices to ensure time-pressed staff can stay safe and get the job done with fewer excavations, face-to-face house visits and depot trips.

Dealing efficiently with low voltage (LV) network faults is key to keeping customers connected and reducing the risk of costly penalties. As the world adapts to a ‘new normal’, DNOs have responded rapidly by fine-tuning their fault management strategies. At Kelvatek we’re working in partnership with utilities to ensure that their LV auto-reclosing devices – and the data they collect – can be harnessed to pinpoint faults more accurately, and ultimately perform repairs faster and with less disruption.

Fitting an auto-recloser like our WEEZAP, REZAP and BIDOYNG devices can keep customers on supply when there’s an intermittent fault on a circuit. But what really matters is getting to grips with the underlying problem before it goes permanent and becomes an expensive and disruptive liability.

The intelligence built into our LV devices can detect, what are sometimes very subtle signs of upcoming problems on a circuit. The data they capture is sent to SAPIENT, where powerful machine learning algorithms are applied to determine the likely cause and location of the problem. Our experienced engineers will then carefully validate this information before alerting DNOs via a Go-Locate (marked up map) notification.

Once that Go-Locate has been issued, there’s a golden window from around 2-16 hours when underground fault gases are at their peak. That’s the best time for a single operator to pinpoint the exact fault location with our sniffing equipment – with no need for knocking on doors or performing costly cut-and-tests. With faults often going permanent within days of a transient pinpoint, the clock is ticking to get repairs planned in and fix the problem before customers go off supply.

Figures suggest that DNOs could benefit from at least a 40% increase in their utilisation of existing equipment. Key to this is ensuring that equipment is not only actively but also effectively deployed on the network.  Here’s how operators can get the most out of their equipment with our five-step fault finding lifecycle:

FIT: In response to a no-supply alert or pre-faulty activity, install LV equipment – BIDOYNG, REZAP or WEEZAP – then contact SAPIENT to confirm details of installation.
FOLLOW Go-Locate: Data captured by our devices is analysed by SAPIENT to narrow down the likely location of a fault. Once a Go-Locate’s been issued, staff can be allocated.
FIND FAULT: Investigate the report, using SNOOPi to sniff underground gases and our TRANSFLEKT TDR analyser to help pin down the exact fault location.
PLAN REPAIR: Nearly half of all faults go permanent within three days of being pre-located, so it’s critical to get the fault repair planned in as soon as it’s found. When repairs are complete, call SAPIENT to provide feedback on the fault location and repair.
REMOVE EQUIPMENT: Once the fault’s been repaired, uninstall the device so it can be re-used at another location. ‘Dormant’ devices that haven’t indicated any fault activity for 30 days can also be uninstalled for re-use elsewhere.

At Kelvatek we too have adapted to this ‘new normal’. We’re continuing to provide training, resource materials in new formats, including how-to guides and webinars. Instead of visiting depots in person we are utilising online tools and platforms to provide this support, and offering virtual training to help DNOs in implementing and benefiting from effective fault management strategies. We’re all in this together, and we encourage DNOs to work with us to keep SAPIENT up-to-date by phone or email when LV devices are installed, removed or re-purposed. Working in partnership we can build a clearer picture of networks and their fault histories – and in turn letting us provide the most effective support when it matters most.