Different applications require different electrical enclosures. Where will your enclosure be located? What elements will it confront? What products will it be housing? Are you concerned about moisture, wind, complete submersion, and/or dust? To better understand how various electrical enclosures will perform in the line of duty, explore the electrical enclosure standards most recognized around the world: those published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Electrical Enclosure Standards
Importance of Standards
Standards allow manufacturers and consumers to easily communicate about products’ quality, features, and level of resilience. They promote safety and encourage manufacturers to design efficient products that meet certain performance levels. Most importantly, they help users make informed decisions, so that they can select enclosures that meet the specific requirements of their application.
Without strict standards, a wide variation in product design and performance would exist. We encourage all consumers to consider industry standards when purchasing new enclosures instead of focusing on finding the lowest price possible. In the long run, quality and performance are far more important than cost.
Popular Electrical Enclosure Standards
As we mentioned above, IEC, NEMA, and UL publish the three most popular electrical standards. Specifically, you will need to look at the publications NEMA 250, IEC 60529, and UL 50 and 50E:
- IEC 60529: These codes (also known as Characteristic Numerals) identify ingress protection levels (also known as IP ratings). They describe the enclosure’s ability to protect its contents from moisture, dust, dirt, people, and more. The standard allows for self-testing, though some manufacturers choose to have their products tested for compliance by an independent testing facility.
- NEMA 250: Like the IEC, NEMA conveys ingress protection. However, it also addresses construction (minimum design requirements), performance, testing, corrosion, and more. NEMA rates enclosures by Type, not IP rating. It also allows for self-compliance and thus does not require manufacturing site inspections.
- UL 50 and 50E: UL standards are based on NEMA’s specifications, but they also enforce compliance through third-party testing and on-site visits. With UL certification, a company can prove its NEMA standards.
All three standards address ingress protection. They look at the degree of protection offered by the enclosure against the ingress of solid objects (like dust) and liquids (like water). In addition, they address human protection from hazardous components contained within the enclosure.
Enclosure design standards, defined by UL and NEMA, focus on strength, sealing, material/finish, latching, flammability, ventilation, mounting, and thermal protection. UL also addresses bonding and grounding.
Purchasing an Enclosure
In Europe and North America, the industry enforces these standards for the reasons listed above (safety, efficiency, quality), but standards shift as you move around the world. In fact, in some countries there are no standards for electrical enclosures whatsoever. However, with the global economy always expanding, more and more countries are expected to adhere to these electrical enclosure standards as the years go by. To make an educated decision when shopping for a new enclosure, be sure to take the standards into consideration.
Finally, if you’re on the hunt for a company that can manufacture premium metal enclosures on your behalf, check out American Products Contract Manufacturing. Our high-quality, innovative enclosures enable our customers to assist the telecommunications industry in expanding and improving their network services. We offer NEMA type 1, type 2, type 3, type 3-R, type 3-X, type 4, and type 4-X metal enclosures, and we form these enclosures from aluminum, galvanized steel, carbon steel, and stainless steel to create a rugged and reliable structure. Give us a call at 1-877-960-3703 to learn more, or request a free quote online.