Panel enclosures are exactly what they sound like — structures built to protect equipment from surroundings that have been deemed problematic in some way. What’s more, they keep people safe. Given the vast array of environments that can exist in workspaces (e.g., warehouses, factories, office buildings), the type of panel enclosure that may be needed will be different based on a given situation.
In choosing the correct enclosure for a use (residential or commercial), the following must be addressed:
Types — Much of the work in starting the search for the proper enclosure starts with understanding what protection is necessary for components inside, as well as the kind of access being allowed. Does wall-mount or freestanding make more sense? Are pushbutton enclosures a better choice than disconnect boxes? Could a dual-access option be more ideal? It’s these questions that have to be answered so as to help narrow down choices. The following are the types of enclosures that may be up for consideration. In short, as the type number goes up (along with accompanying letter designation), the amount of protection provided becomes more stout:

  • Type 1, 2, 5, 12, 12K, 13 (indoor location enclosures)
  • Type 3, 3R, 3S, 3X, 3RX, 3SX, 4, 4X, 6, 6P (indoor/outdoor location enclosures)
  • Type 7, 9 (hazardous [classified] location enclosures)
    Further information about these types can reviewed in detail through ANSI/NEMA 250-2020, as well as UL-50 & UL-508.
    NEMA & IP Ratings — The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, or NEMA, is a standard used to help classify the protection an enclosure offers. As the name suggests, the standard applies to North America. So, if a company operates a facility in another part of the world, a different rating system would need to be accounted for. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) handles the standards & Ingress Protection (IP) codes are the resulting classification system. Knowing where the enclosure will be will help determine by which ratings it should be built to reflect.
    Construction — Steel tends to be the predominant material used in the construction of panel enclosures. However, the grade of steel will vary depending on the environment in which the enclosure will be found. Options may include carbon steel, as well as 304 & 316 stainless. However, certain facilities may opt to use aluminum, fiberglass reinforced polyester, or thermoplastic ABS.
    Size — The last thing anyone wants to do is order a panel enclosure that is the wrong size for the application. That said, the size of the enclosure needs to take into account more than just what the internals will need for clearance. Factors include: heat dissipation, space for physical mounts, and venting. In other words, the enclosure has to be spec’d out so that sensitive internal components aren’t physically compromised by heat & friction at the very least.
    Security — A panel enclosure houses sensitive components that are at the heart of a facility’s operation. The last thing anyone needs to do is root around somewhere they don’t belong or don’t fully understand how to operate. Questions about access for certain personnel & ease of servicing need to be addressed, as does what kind of locking/security mechanism will work best.
One of the more recent developments in the need for panel enclosures has been the idea of Internet of Things (IoT). The concept of IoT relates to facility/workplace devices/machinery staying connected across a vast network. The more we keep everything tied to everything else, the more we have to protect the connection. As such, the right panel enclosure to ensure privacy, security, and protection of intellectual property.
    Knowing how best to address panel enclosures starts with working with a manufacturer/supplier who can help you find the right item for your operation. LoDan Electronics, Inc. has been a trusted name for nearly sixty years. Our combination of experience & dedicated customer service are what sets us apart from other firms. See how our team can help you with your next project.