Electrical enclosures can vary dramatically in size, structure, material, and design. Although they share some common objectives – to protect the enclosed electrical equipment from the environment, to protect users of the equipment from electrical shock, and to mount electrical equipment – they can differ tremendously. As such, the requirements for electrical enclosures depend heavily on the users’ needs. Today we will discuss common enclosure standards as well as individual concerns many people have when ordering an electrical cabinet or enclosure.
Requirements for Electrical Enclosures
When we discuss industry requirements for electrical enclosures, we typically refer to standards as opposed to necessary, compulsory conditions (i.e., requirements). These standards help manufacturers and consumers communicate with one another. They also promote safety, efficient design, and a strong performance level. Although companies are encouraged to follow safety standards and may embrace one or several standards, they are not required to participate.
Common Enclosure Standards
Most manufacturers of electrical enclosures comply with safety requirements set by a reputable listing organization. In the United States, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and Intertek are the three major listing organizations. Internationally, many manufacturers use the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which sets a family of standards for electrical enclosures, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a technical professional organization that sets standards to advance technology and benefit humanity.
To get a solid overview of electrical enclosure standards, review IEC 60529, NEMA 250, and UL 50 and 50E. We described these popular standards in our previous blog post, Electrical Enclosure Standards.
Requirements of Customers
Since manufacturers of electrical enclosures do not need to follow many requirements (only their selected standards), most requirements for electrical enclosures come from customers. What do customers like to see in an electrical enclosure? What considerations and concerns do they have? Which features and aspects of enclosures should you consider as you shop for a new cabinet to house your electrical equipment?
If you need an electrical enclosure, consider the following factors as you create your list of requirements and preferences:
- Material: Enclosures are available in a variety of materials: metal, plastic, fiberglass, die-cast, etc. As you explore your options, consider their weight, stability, cost, mounting options, appearance, and durability.
- Protection: Review the NEMA ratings, which describe the protection level of the product from the environment, before you make your purchase. These ratings are sometimes misunderstood, so consider discussing your needs with the manufacturer/retailer beforehand. NEMA ratings can help you understand whether an enclosure can be used indoors and/or outdoors, whether it can protect against the ingress of water, whether it can withstand the formation of ice, and much more.
- Mounting & Orientation: How will your enclosure be mounted – or will it be free-standing? Will you orient the enclosure vertically or horizontally? Be sure to choose an enclosure that fits these simple, logistical considerations.
- Climate Control: Internal and external heat can both damage electrical equipment. Depending on your equipment’s heat output and its external environment, you may need to explore options for heat transfer. Selecting the right cooling system for your enclosure can be crucial.
- Size: Selecting the right size for your enclosure may sound simple, but many different options are available. If you aren’t careful, you could “overbuy,” purchasing more enclosure than you truly need. However, if your enclosure proves too small, you may need to upgrade in the future. This is especially important if your enclosure will need to incorporate future advances in technology. So as you browse enclosures, consider how your enclosure’s contents may change over time as well.
- Versatility: Can you readily modify your chosen enclosure? You may think this is unnecessary, but several years down the line, you may need to significantly adjust your equipment and its enclosure. You can easily modify some enclosure materials, making it simple to add/remove brackets, hinges, etc.
- Modularity: Speaking of versatility, have you considered a modular enclosure design? Modular enclosures allow you to customize your enclosure to suit your needs. They use small independent parts to form more complex structures, offering great versatility.
Where to Buy
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.