Varistors are commonly used elements which protect power supply networks against high-voltage surges or lightning. Therefore, quality and endurance of these elements is important to avoid losses when an expensive laboratory equipment would not be protected from random overvoltages. Additionally, excessive leakage currents generate serious costs due to high energy consumption. The paper presents shortly properties of varistors that comprized different ZnO grain types and can have various quality which changes continuously during exploitation (due to exposition to overheating and overvoltage pulses). Therefore, it is important to monitor varistors during their ageing (causing changes within their microstructures). A few methods of varistor property diagnosis were considered and compared with the methods currently applied in laboratory or industry applications. A new measurement (diagnostic) system that can monitor varistors during ageing and can be widely applied in power networks is presented. The proposed system fulfills requirements of the industrial customers which demand various methods for power line protection. The proposed system can be simply developed into a more advanced wireless diagnostic system of long power supply lines.
Testing of varistors using thermography was carried out in order to assess their protective properties against possible overvoltage phenomena in the form of high-level voltage surges. An advantage of the thermography technique is non-contact temperature measurement. It was proposed to assess the properties of varistors working in electronic devices as protective elements, on the basis of estimating temperature increments on varistor surfaces, registered by an infrared camera during surge resistance tests with standard voltage levels. To determine acceptable temperature increments on a tested varistor, preliminary testing was performed of P22Z1 (Littelfuse) and S07K14 (EPCOS) type varistors, working first at a constant load and presently during surge tests,. The thermographic test results were compared with measured varistor capacity values before and after tests. It was found that recording with thermography temperature increments greater than 6°C for both P22Z1 and S07K14 varistor types detects total or partial loss of varistor protective properties. The test results were confirmed by assessment of protective properties of varistors working in output circuits of low nominal voltage devices.