Article originally published Oct. 20, 2016 and updated for relevance.
As applications require more processing power, equipment generates more heat. Excessive heat can cause serious damage to equipment, shortening service life and even leading to catastrophic failure. To keep electrical equipment running at top speed, heat must be managed. Learn why enclosure cooling is necessary and how to oversee heat management according to national standards.
Here are the top five enclosure-cooling facts every manager should know to keep equipment performing efficiently.
1. Equipment Needs Protection
Why is managing heat necessary? Cooling extends equipment life, reducing expense over time. It also keeps manufacturers’ warranties valid. Essentially all electrical equipment needs protection from extreme heat. Heat can come from many sources, including:
- AC power supplies
- Welding processes
- Blast furnaces
Growing demand for more capacity and speed from network applications means more heat generated by electronics. Ensure that your enclosure is equipped to manage increasing amounts of heat.
2. Staying Cool Means Less Downtime
Heat can have serious ramifications on electrical equipment. Damaging heat can result in reduced performance and even significant failure. Heat-related failure is costly because of both component replacement and lost productivity. One hour of system downtime can cost an organization as much as $50,000. Properly managing heat keeps your organization running coolly and smoothly with less expensive downtime.
3. Cooling Comes in Several Forms
Enclosure cooling strategies usually fall into one of two categories: passive or active. Passive cooling relies on conduction, convection and radiation. Passive strategies are very common because they are inexpensive and easy to implement. Active heat management requires an external device to aid in the heat transfer.
When selecting a cooling strategy, these are the three most common enclosure cooling options:
- Conductive: passively cools electronics by allowing heat to radiate through cabinet walls
- Fresh air: actively moves heat away from hot components by ventilating fresh air through an electronics cabinet
- Sealed: actively uses an air conditioner or heat exchanger to remove heat from inside the cabinet
4. Standards for the Industry
Companies are required to abide by several industry ratings. Ratings determine safety, design efficiency, and product performance levels for enclosure cooling. Essentially, ratings attempt to standardize performance across all electrical enclosures. They also provide an enhanced level of safety. Ratings protect personnel from hazardous materials inside the enclosure. Equipment is protected from foreign objects like dust and water. When choosing the right enclosure for your organization, double check that your enclosure is standardized to provide optimal performance.
5. Agencies to Watch
Industry ratings are provided by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and Underwriter Laboratories (UL). Each of these standards identifies the degree of protection an enclosure grants against specific elements.
IEC codes focus on protecting equipment from people, tools, fire and dust. NEMA Standard 250 further discusses ingress protection, as well as performance criteria and corrosion resistance. UL 50, 50E is based on NEMA 250, but UL makes sure that enclosures are compliant with third-party testing and inspection. UL 94 flammability ratings classify plastic materials on how they burn and self-extinguish. Familiarize yourself with these standards so your equipment and employees are safe from possible hazards.
Preserve Your Equipment
If you want your electrical equipment to run at peak efficiency, managing heat is your first hurdle. Heat can be damaging. But with these resources, you can create a cool, compliant environment that lets your equipment operate with ease.