Although some people might view standards and guidelines as restrictive, in many industries they provide a valuable method of communication. When manufacturers design and construct electrical enclosures that comply with NEMA or IEC classifications, they clarify important information about the protections offered by an enclosure. So when a consumer needs an enclosure to work in a particular environment, they can pinpoint the appropriate NEMA and/or IEC rating, shop for enclosures that meet that rating, and purchase the perfect product. Two of the most popular standards are created by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). NEMA vs. IEC classifications: what’s the difference? Scroll down to find out . . .
NEMA vs. IEC Classifications
When deciding which standards to abide by, manufacturers typically select reputable listing organizations with a proven record of creating useful enclosure standards. NEMA and IEC both make the grade in this regard. IEC is a global leader when it comes to the preparation and publishing of international standards for electrical enclosures. While based in the United States and popular amongst Americans and Canadians, NEMA is also a global organization promoting electrical standards around the world. Today we will discuss IEC 60529 and NEMA 250, the applicable publications.
What’s the difference?
When considering NEMA vs. IEC classifications, it’s important to note that these two standards are similar in many ways. They both address ingress protection and specify the degree of protection offered by an enclosure against the ingress of solid objects (dust, dirt, debris, lint) and liquids (water). In addition, they both address how well the enclosure protects humans against hazardous components contained within the enclosure. Finally, they both allow for self-testing and self-compliance. Although some manufacturers pay an independent testing facility to test their products for compliance, self-testing is allowed.
NEMA and IEC differ in the following ways:
- NEMA addresses construction. It discusses minimum design requirements for enclosures.
- IEC identifies ingress protection levels (IP ratings). IEC standards for electrical enclosures are relayed in ingress protection levels (also known as IP ratings). NEMA uses types.
- NEMA addresses corrosion. Unlike the IEC classifications, NEMA incorporates the level of protection enclosures offer against corrosion.
In addition, please note that NEMA ratings and IP ratings do not directly correspond to one another. Since they cover different protections, you need to explore them both independently.
What about UL?
Of course, NEMA and IEC are not the only popular options for electrical standards. You might wonder why we haven’t mentioned Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards, instead choosing to focus on NEMA vs. IEC classifications. Although UL rounds out this trio – NEMA, IEC, and UL publish the most highly favored standards for electrical enclosures – UL is the most disposable in this debate. Why? They’re based on NEMA’s specifications. UL standards enforce compliance using third-party testing and on-site visits, so that companies can prove their NEMA standards. NEMA, on the other hand, does not mandate compliance. Thus, a manufacturer’s products may meet NEMA standards but also contain UL certification to prove compliance.
Ready to Purchase an Enclosure?
Industry standards assist in the communication process between manufacturers and consumers, promoting safety, efficiency, and high performance levels. They prevent variations in products’ performances, simplifying the shopping process. Once a consumer knows the appropriate NEMA and/or IEC rating for their intended application, they can select an enclosure with confidence.
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