What is the best way to ensure sustainable control panel design?

Ensuring sustainability should be at the top of the list for all businesses in order to meet current requirements without compromising those of tomorrow. Achieving sustainable control panel design offers a significant way to lower the overall cost, whilst also ensuring sustainability.

Why is sustainability important?

If we continue to consume resources at our current rate, the generations to come will be adversely affected. As the population and demands placed upon resources continue to grow, the cost of energy will also rise and this is something we are already seeing. As a result, choosing the most sustainable systems possible is not only better for the planet but better for our businesses too.

The impact of sustainability upon control panel design

Whilst we understand the importance of sustainability in terms of protecting future generations and the planet, it can be difficult to see the implications that it can have upon control panel design. Sustainable design does, in fact, impact upon control panel design in a number of ways; such as minimal equipment footprint, ease of installation, minimal or no maintenance, reduced costs and installation time.

Many businesses think of improving their environmental credentials and ‘going green’ by installing efficient lighting systems, reducing emissions and water consumption. Although facility improvements such as these are undeniably great for the planet, many businesses or industries fail to consider the environmental impact that control panels can have. Therefore it’s important to bear in mind that developing sustainable control panel solutions isn’t about making a few minor changes here and there; instead it is about adopting a fresh approach which considers sustainability throughout; from the design and manufacture of a control panel, through to its installation and after-care.

Despite the fact that sustainability is something which we’ve only had to get to grips with over the past few years or so, its target is an ongoing and simple one: to ensure resources are optimised. In terms of control panel design, electrical systems designed by engineers use resources during their construction and for the duration of a building’s lifetime. Nevertheless, although many components within electrical systems use building codes to drive them, some flexibility is built into these codes which enable designers to reduce the amount of resources they use.

Control panels today vs control panels of the future

When considering the sustainability of control panel design, it’s helpful to consider the control panels of today in comparison to those of the future, alongside some of the important factors which need to be taken into consideration to ensure sustainable design.

The control panels we used today consist of a number of components including overload relays, motor controllers, circuit breakers and fused disconnect switches. Related control devices include selector switches, push-button stations, timers and control relays, along with wiring, terminal blocks, pilot lights and other similar components. All these elements come together to create control panels designed to be the brains of automation projects, making them essential for maximum performance and to ensure connected systems are reliable.

However, control panels have to cope with new design challenges on a daily basis, ranging from the need to ensure enhanced regularity, through to developments in control system technology and new approaches to design and fabrication.

Once a standard control panel is ready to be assembled it will include wiring from one point to another from I/O devices, with additional wiring to enable devices to be piloted on the door. Unfortunately, as the panel is modified over time, the design will become more complicated, unwieldy and overloaded. Furthermore, once additional changes are made, the complexity of the control panel increases and this, in turn, results in an increasing need for maintenance. Once all these factors combine, it becomes harder to add changes or perform routine maintenance without shutting down the system and causing lengthy and disruptive downtime.

Sustainable design for the future

Despite the fact that there are numerous standards and codes which determine how control panels operate, designers do, in fact, have plenty of flexibility over how complex a system they want to design when working towards improved sustainability. This means that the complexity of a control systems is an important factor when considering the long-term implications that the design will have upon the environment.

This means that the control panel designs of the future will incorporate current considerations concerning the footprint and depth of the panel, which components should be installed, the dimensions of the components, wiring and cabling. However, there are a number of emerging control panel design trends which are likely of have a significant impact.

These trends include, but are not limited to, sustainable designs which control maintenance and operating costs, whilst providing flexibility for system enhancements or upgrades, and smaller products which have been designed with an optimised footprint in mind. In addition, 3D printing is being used to develop prototype designs which help to eliminate faults once the product comes to market. Last and by no means least, by developing control panels which have a cleaner, user-friendly panel helps to reduce the amount of wiring required.

Dualtec – control panels designed with your future in mind

Here at Dualtec we specialise in designing and commissioning control panels designed with the future in mind. Our products are designed to provide control of maintenance and operational costs, whilst also offering enhanced flexibility for system enhancements and upgrades. Why not get in touch to find out more?

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