5 Climate Precautions to Take with an Industrial Control Panel Enclosure


Regional climates play a critical role when planning control panel installations. Carefully analyzing climate conditions at the control panel enclosure site prior to installation helps identify the extent to which the electrical components will be exposed. Harsh indoor and outdoor climates can create multiple sources of risk for potential electrical equipment failure.

Although electrical components are sealed off from direct intense weather conditions inside the enclosure, harsh conditions such as extreme temperature variations must be accounted for. Other environmental factors include high humidity, condensation and dust can affect panel layout and design calling for an active thermal management solution to protect electrical components.

Failure to take appropriate climate precautions could result in choosing an inadequate panel enclosure or thermal management solution that potentially damages costly electrical equipment.

Protecting Electrical Equipment from Harsh Climates

Taking appropriate climate precautions can potentially lower installation costs and reduce maintenance frequency while extending the service life and long term reliability of the electrical components, avoiding down-time and electrical component malfunctions.

Before selecting the ideal thermal management solution for your application the local climate extremes should be evaluated.  Here are some factors to consider and possible solutions to reduce the impact climate can have on your electrical equipment.

1. Excessive Heat

The first step in determining the total heat load potential generated from electrical equipment inside the enclosure is to utilize an online Enclosure Temperature Management calculator. The result will help determine the size and type of cooling solution needed to keep components cool.

Besides ambient air temperature, solar heat gain plays a major role in heating electrical enclosures from the outside. In order to reduce external heat gain, the use of an enclosure with a light color finish is better able to reflect solar energy. Locating the enclosure away from direct sunlight or under a protective shade cover helps minimize the effect of solar heat gain.

2. Bitter Cold

Some electrical components are sensitive to cold, particularly in situations where electrical equipment is not continuously active. Plastic components subject to extreme cold become brittle increasing the risk of failure. In climates where temperatures drop too low, a heating system may be required in order to maintain warm and safe operating temperatures.

3. Rain and Snow

Electrical components should never have contact with water. Outdoor control panel enclosures must be able to withstand rain especially when associated with strong winds which can force water into the sides of an enclosure. Choosing a fully sealed NEMA type 4 or 4X enclosure equipped with a closed loop cooling system will prevent any moisture from entering the enclosure keeping your electrical equipment safe.

4. Condensation

Accumulation of moisture can be as equally detrimental to electrical components as extreme heat. Condensation can result in high humidity climates, however large sudden changes in temperature can have a similar effect. Maintaining steady air-flow through the control panel enclosure with the use of an air-to-air heat exchangers or an enclosure air conditioner helps reduce the formation of condensate. In situations when the ambient temperature falls below the dew point, heating elements may need to be installed to keep internal temperatures above the dew point.

5. Wind

Greater heat transfer away from an enclosure is one benefit wind provides, but it can also force dust and dirt into an improperly sealed electrical enclosure, possibly causing electrical components to malfunction. During enclosure installation it’s best to position the door away from the prevailing wind to help keep dust from blowing directly into an open enclosure during maintenance or through a poorly sealed cabinet door.

Outdoor control panel enclosures able to protect electrical equipment from harsh climates typically require a thermal management system that meets NEMA Type 4, or 4X standards.

Climate-Proofing Solutions

Observing local climate conditions should be a part of every control panel design phase and NEMA rating standards for enclosures should be reviewed in order to provide optimal protection for your electrical components, saving you money in the long run.

The experts at Thermal Edge offer reliable cooling solutions for control panel enclosures in a wide range of outdoor applications including hazardous environments. Contact an experienced sales rep today if you need help selecting the right system for your application.