When you’re planning for a new build, you will have to account for electrical systems. That includes joints and junctions in the wiring, and where those exist, you need electrical enclosures. In short, you need a good plan for providing enclosures that enable your build to work and possibly even optimize your overall design.
How can you optimize enclosure choices?
Focus on the materials first.
In general, there are four materials used to make electrical enclosures: aluminum, steel, polycarbonate, and fiberglass. You might find various different steels in contention, like galvanized and stainless options, but to keep things simple, we can lump all of the steel materials together.
You can compare these materials in order to make informed, optimized choices about your electrical enclosures. To make your comparisons more direct and impactful, you can reduce them down to three concepts: conductivity, corrosion resistance, and tensile strength. Let’s explore these options.
This is the simplest and most essential part of your optimization process. Some enclosures are made from conducting materials; others are not. Neither choice is universally correct.
It all depends on the system. If you’re enclosing communications hardware that is very sensitive to noise, a conductive enclosure can create a Faraday cage that reduces (or even eliminates) noise and improves performance.
On the other hand, some electrical systems want to avoid conductive boxes to prevent unintentional grounding and the serious dangers that it can pose.
If you need a conducting enclosure, various steels and aluminum make up the common options. For non-conducting, polycarbonate and fiberglass are more prevalent.
The environment around the enclosure also matters. Is your box going outdoors? Is it housing key joints in a carwash?
Environments come in all varieties, but if your enclosure is going to face highly corrosive elements, then you want to avoid metals. Polycarbonate is good in a lot of cases, but for industrial applications, fiberglass is often your best choice.
There are too many variations to list them all, but think carefully about the environment. Some chemicals are more corrosive to fiberglass while others threaten polycarbonate more. Even though metals can be protected, they often fail faster than non-metal options in corrosive ecosystems.
The last thing you need to think about is raw physical durability. Theoretically, any material can make a box the size that you need. Not every material can handle the weight or physical stress that your box is likely to endure.
Again, there are a lot of possibilities, but we can simplify the selection by thinking about a few key things.
Obviously, metals have more tensile strength than polycarbonate or fiberglass. So, if raw structural rigidness is important (such as in a number of outdoor applications), then metals are better for the job.
That said, there are times when lowering the weight of the box is enough to lower the weight of the entire junction in order to conform to building designs.
Beyond that, non-metal boxes are often less expensive. If a situation doesn’t need the utmost in physical durability, then non-metal is a no-brainer.