In our modern age, it seems that automation has found its way into almost every walk of life. From electrical control panels in large scale industries and production lines to precise small scale instrument monitoring. The terminology can be complex and confusing so what does it really mean?
Electrical Control Panels (ECPs) – what do they do?
In essence an ECP helps keep track of all the processes used within a project all at the same time. Whilst this sounds simple, the scale of projects within which they are used are quite daunting and the processes far from simple; nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers, mainframe computers, the list goes on.
An electrical control panel, sometimes referred to as a panel board, service panel or power distribution board, is a flat panel with the ability to control multiple instruments. From relatively simple panels with a small number of controls to larger more complex and intricate panels, electrical control panels are typically used in large scale industrial projects, supplying electricity to a number of operations within a specific project.
Typically operating at 600V, these panels use power and control circuits mounted within the panel itself to provide signals for monitoring and controlling the specific requirements of the project.
Components of an electrical control panel
In general an ECP comprises the following components;
Housing: the outer cover with a layered plastic/metal coat and insulated paint to eliminate the risk from short circuit or electric shock.
Circuit breakers: Included to prevent overheating and associated fire risks, the circuit breaker will trip in case of power overload or excessive fluctuation.
Mains disconnect: The primary disconnect and central power override switch for overload or short circuit faults. Essentially the ON/OFF switch!
A number of digital displays are also likely to form part of the ECP. Modern panels incorporate touch screen and automated displays which replace the previous switches and push buttons seen in earlier versions. Modern ECPs are vastly more efficient at controlling operations, particularly where multiple processes utilising varying power supplies are required.
What to look for when considering Electrical Control Panels
Before purchasing your control panel there are a few things to consider;
Your ECP should be suitable to withstand the weather/climate conditions for its intended use. You should expect a QC stamp or certificate from the manufacturer which should confirm that it meets the correct current safety standards in terms of the components used and the operational standards for which it is designed. These include but will be limited to temperature controls, circuit breakers, integrated voltmeter and switch fuses.
There is no doubting that the advancement of ECPs has led to great advances in industry – a technological revolution in fact. They have made both the monitoring and controlling of processes simpler whilst allowing strict QC checks. Strict maintenance and care procedures will allow efficient and smooth running to ensure you get the best from your ECPs for years to come.