Why Temperature Is Critical to an Industrial Control Panel Enclosure

 

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Components in an industrial control panel enclosure are subjected to heat generated by equipment inefficiencies as well as heat transferred from outside sources, high ambient temperatures, and nearby industrial machines. The components may also experience low temperatures due to cold weather.

As long as they are maintained within the manufacturers’ specified temperature range, the reliability, performance, efficiency, and physical integrity of the components will be protected. However, once the temperature inside the enclosure exceeds that range—even for short periods of time—risk of early failure, leading to unexpected costs and downtime, increases.

Typical equipment housed in industrial control panel enclosures includes variable frequency drives, PLCs, contactors, and power supplies. In general, these operate best at temperatures no higher than about 40°C. For every degree above that, manufacturers may derate drive efficiency, for example, by one percent, leading to increased heat in the enclosure.

Long-term costs and effects

High operating temperatures can result in long-term costs due to decreased reliability and increased maintenance and downtime. Components may fail early, or the entire system may need early replacement, adding thousands of dollars to existing operating costs.

Common risks of high temperatures in industrial control panel enclosures include:

  • Unexpected shutdowns, as some equipment may be designed to toggle off in high heat.

  • Erratic performance, including lower efficiency.

  • Damage to equipment that is not designed for high temperatures.

  • Shortened equipment lifespan due to accelerated aging.

  • Rarely, excess heat could lead to equipment meltdowns and fires.

At the other end of the temperature scale, low-temperature environments also present risks to electrical equipment. These include:

  • Startup problems due to lack of lubrication.

  • Hardened or brittle plastic and elastomer materials used as insulators, making components unsafe and unreliable.

  • Condensation buildup, leading to arcing, corrosion or even fires.

  • Ice formation on equipment, increasing the chance of short circuits.

In designing an industrial control panel enclosure, care must be taken to ensure the equipment inside the panel will be maintained within both the low and high temperature limits recommended by the manufacturer.

Some enclosure cooling system manufacturers also provide an integrated heat package which maintains the enclosure temperature at or above the minimum recommended for the electrical components.

For help in selecting the right type and size of enclosure cooling equipment for an industrial control panel, contact the experts at Thermal Edge.