Sunday, May 23, 2010

Application Note

Detect Thermocouple Failure Without Upsetting the Process

One from the archives. Our customer needed to alarm on thermocouple failure without shutting down the process.

Thermocouple instruments commonly include upscale burnout indication. If the thermocouple breaks or fails open-circuit the instrument's output goes high, just as if the temperature had gone out of control. This often is used to insure failsafe failure, shutting the process down and sounding an alarm.

Our customer, a utility, needed an overtemperature shutdown on a monitored water temperature. They also wanted to trip an alarm upon thermocouple failure but without interrupting the process. We were able to suggest a simple dual-trip alarm setup to do this.

Our thermocouple instruments, like most others, offer a downscale burnout option. (Thermcouple failure causes the output to go low instead of high.) Using a dual-trip alarm, we set trip #1 for HI trip and trip #2 for LO. The HI trip, of course, was used to shut the process down on excessive temperature. The LO trip was set below freezing. Its relay would trip when the thermocouple failed but never under normal operation.

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