How to Cool Control Panel Enclosures in Small Spaces


There’s no getting around it. Critical electrical equipment housed in industrial control panels requires operating temperatures low enough to maintain efficiency and reliability. Without a properly sized cooling system, components such as VFDs, motor starters and PLCs are susceptible to reduced capacity, malfunctions or even premature failure, which can result in expensive downtime as well as unplanned repair and replacement costs.

Crowded quarters can often mean an increased ambient heat load surrounding the enclosure due to restricted airflow and a high density of heat-producing equipment, making it even more important to ensure components are protected from excess heat.

But some locations just don’t provide much room for an enclosure air conditioner attached to the sides or door of the control panel itself. Depending on the floorplan configuration, designers must consider different options for cooling control panels in tight spaces.

A best practice in designing an enclosure is to ensure the system will not be difficult or impossible to repair and maintain. Easy accessibility to the interior of the enclosure and air conditioner, as well as to external air filters, means the exact location, size and placement must be considered.

In order to satisfy the need for powerful cooling in confined spaces, some cooling system manufacturers offer narrow enclosure air conditioners, which fit on the sides of narrow width control panels.

Small, but powerful, compact enclosure air conditioner models can also be purchased, with the same valuable features as larger models but fitting into a reduced volume.

Urban planners know that when you can’t build out, you build up. The same applies to designing a cooling system for control panels. Following this principle, some manufacturers offer top mount units for use on enclosures with no room on the door or sides to mount an air conditioner.

Even with a smaller size and a different placement, these top-mounted enclosure air conditioners are built to provide a comparable level of cooling. They also feature the same options as side mounted systems, including programmable digital controls, remote monitoring, corrosion protection packages, low ambient temperature packages and integrated enclosure heating systems.

An enclosure air conditioner with a small footprint might not allow enough cutout surface area to sufficiently cool the panel. With options to adjust or expand cold air outlets, a system can be maximized for cooling, even when the air conditioner is located on top of, rather than on the side of the control panel.

To learn more about cooling system options for control panels in small spaces, contact the experts at Thermal Edge.