Article
Enclosures play a vital role in protecting electrical installations – but they also pose challenges to that equipment’s safe operation.

If Your Electrical Equipment Can’t Stand the Heat, Give it Some Cooling

Chuck Ross
Enclosures play a vital role in protecting electrical installations – but they also pose challenges to that equipment’s safe operation. Boxing in electrical equipment provides necessary protection but it also can trap in heat that equipment creates during operation. That’s why contractors need to consider cooling solutions whenever they’re specifying a freestanding enclosure.

In a video on the nVent Hoffman website, that company’s training manager James Swanson explains that enclosure cooling options fall into three general categories:

  • Open-loop cooling includes any approach that brings outdoor air into the box. This can be accomplished with something as simple as a slotted louver, or it might involve a fan for more active cooling. Filters can be added to some fans to prevent dust infiltration. Important considerations with open-loop designs include the fact that the temperature inside the enclosure will still be warmer than the ambient air temperature of the space where it’s installed. Plus, any filters will only protect against dust – airborne corrosive elements and humidity will still be allowed inside.
  • Closed-loop cooling recycles the air inside the enclosure, which keeps corrosive chemicals and moisture away from the electrical equipment. These approaches use small air conditioners or heat exchangers attached to the enclosure to provide needed cooling. Closed-loop designs also offer the advantage of being able to maintain a consistent temperature inside the enclosure, regardless of how hot or cold the outside air might be.
  • Conductive cooling simply involves oversizing the enclosure to a scale in which the skin of the enclosure can act as its own heat exchanger. A downside to this approach is, again, the temperature inside the enclosure will be higher than that of the surrounding environment, so impacts on protected equipment need to be considered.

Not taking possible cooling needs into account can lead to several negative consequences. These include derated drive performance, the possible loss of warranty protection and, potentially, equipment overheating and failure. That’s why it’s important for contractors to help enclosures keep their cool if they don’t want to face the heat of angry customers whose operations have been brought to a halt.


Photo courtesy of nVent Hoffman
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