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Insulators are one of the few components in power systems that find themselves continually exposed to a full spectrum of possible service stresses that together or even individually can cause failure. These stresses include: high electric field, pollution, wetting events, corona, temperature variation, mechanical shock, interaction with birds and other wildlife, wind, solar radiation, oil leaks, lightning and switching impulses, biological growth, vibration and vandalism. If you factor in the risk that the insulator becomes defective during manufacture, has been damaged during handling or installation or was improperly specified for its service environment, today’s low failure rate for insulators is truly an accomplishment. Indeed, the reliability and durability of modern insulators speaks to how well engineered and manufactured most of them now are.

Still, a lot can go wrong and, given their huge population on power networks, even low failure rate is no guarantee that there will not be serious problems. And, whenever something bad happens to an insulator, there will invariably be reliability and cost consequences.

Keeping words to a minimum, these images depict examples of what can go wrong with insulators and why they are so deserving of careful selection and scrutiny.

1. Gun enthusiasts in Canada seem to have used these old breaker bushings for target practice (photo INMR). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Photo for Topic 3 Aug 1 1

1. Gun enthusiasts in Canada seem to have used these old breaker bushings for target practice (photo INMR).
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2.Puncture near insulator’s live end in spite of special design featuring excess silicone material at ‘triple point’ (photo courtesy of Ofil Systems). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 3

2. Puncture near insulator’s live end in spite of special design featuring excess silicone material at ‘triple point’ (photo courtesy of Ofil Systems).
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3. Birds in northeastern Australia have used this line post to exercise powerful beaks (photo courtesy of Powerlink). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 3 1

3. Birds in northeastern Australia have used this line post to exercise powerful beaks (photo courtesy of Powerlink).
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4.Defective manufacture has made this 500 kV insulator housing crack (photo INMR). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 4

4. Defective manufacture has made this 500 kV insulator housing crack (photo INMR).
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5.Pin post destroyed by radial cracking of porcelain body (photo courtesy of AltaLink).MERA insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 5

5. Pin post destroyed by radial cracking of porcelain body (photo courtesy of AltaLink).MERA
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6.Birds in Brazil coat glass string in highly conductive excretions (photo courtesy of Cemig). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 6

6. Birds in Brazil coat glass string in highly conductive excretions (photo courtesy of Cemig).
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7.Corroded pin on glass disc operating in contaminated coastal/desert environment (photo courtesy R. Znaidi/STEG). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 7

7. Corroded pin on glass disc operating in contaminated coastal/desert environment (photo courtesy R. Znaidi/STEG).
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8.Porcelain bushing housing at polluted Ontario 230 kV substation shows impact from repeated pollution flashovers (photo INMR). insulator Bad Things Can Happen to Insulators Bad things 8

8. Porcelain bushing housing at polluted Ontario 230 kV substation shows impact from repeated pollution flashovers (photo INMR).
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