Outdoor Enclosures: Handling Installation Constraints

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In the first of this three part series, I talked about how to account for weather conditions impacting outdoor enclosures. In this post, I’ll cover installation constraints and give you tips on how to handle them.

So, what are these installation constraints? Well, they come in three categories: infrastructure, switchgear and finally maintenance. Take care of these and you’ll boost the safety, reliability, durability and energy efficiency of an outdoor enclosure.

Let’s start with infrastructure and something near and dear to every electrician’s heart, as well as being important to every piece of electrical gear: ground or earth. In the developed world, the availability of a good common, is a given. The same isn’t true in emerging economies. What you think is a good ground may not be.

So, I’d strongly advise using a doubly insulated enclosure. That avoids problems that arise from a poor ground.PB502695

Cables are another infrastructure element you should pay attention to. If cables or enclosures have to be moved, then the result can be a weakening of the cables. You can reduce or eliminate this potential problem with the use of retaining clips and restraints. They’ll keep things in the proper position.

A final infrastructure tip is to make sure to protect against pollution, humidity and other environmental effects. You can help achieve this by using sockets and entry points that provide a seal against the outside world.

Now we’ve come to the second part of these guidelines, which involve the switchgear being protected. What’s important has to do with the size of the enclosure and the temperature inside it. The interior capacity has to, clearly, be big enough to accommodate all of the switchgear. Depth is usually a tighter constraint than either height or width.

But, temperature is also important. The amount of heat generated by drives, controllers, switches and dimmers is a key factor. If the inside of an enclosure is too cramped, then it’ll be difficult – and perhaps impossible – to eliminate this heat using passive means.

An example of why this is important can be seen in our new outdoor heavy duty control panel solutions. All new enclosures offer the ability to support considerable weight. However, the three different ventilation architectures (as shown below in Figure 1) available vary in how much heat they can passively handle in public as well as in private outdoor installations. For instance, one of them offers an IP55 protection rating against dust and water but at the same time, it allows the extraction of 1500 watts of heat.

Figure 1-Three ventilation architectures

A word about using outdoor heavy duty enclosures. Care should be taken during installation because typically electronics and other sensitive equipment will already be mounted inside and jerky movement, say when being positioned by a crane, may cause the mounted equipment to come loose.

Finally, a third installation point to keep in mind is this: it isn’t enough to install an enclosure. You also have to maintain it.

So, that means an installation near a train track or a highway may need to take special care in placement. As trucks or trains travel by, they can create winds that cause problems.

Or consider another aspect of maintenance: the changing of filters. Being able to get access to the entire interior switchgear of an enclosure in comfort and safety can be important in minimizing maintenance time when swapping out filters.

Likewise, access in general should be considered. If an enclosure is placed in an elevated position, for instance, then that may help ensure on-site security and prevent accidents.

So, to get the most out of an outdoor enclosure, consider

  • infrastructure, such as cables and electrical power quality
  • the switchgear and its interaction with the environment, and
  • maintenance and ease of access.

For more information, consult our outdoor technical guide, How to define the right outdoor solution and optimize its durability, or view a helpful video on heavy duty control panel solutions. You can use our ProClima software to guide you in making the right selection for your outdoor enclosure project.

Also, be on the lookout for my next post. In it, I’ll talk about the human side, or the interactions between people and enclosures.

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