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Electrical safety assured with enclosures

Electrical safety assured with enclosures

Safety and security are two high priorities for installers and users of electrical switchgear. To prevent personal injury or property damage as a result of issues such as fault currents (short circuits), a number of industry standards and regulations have to be followed. These also cover the potential equalisation between all the metallic parts of an enclosure.

The TS 8 baying system from Rittal is a great example of how safety can be built-in through automatic potential equalisation without necessarily having to separately earth each individual panel. The earthing of metallic parts on electrical systems for safety reasons is prescribed virtually everywhere. This applies to all electrical equipment and units – from simple lamps to low voltage distribution systems. The reason is quite clear: if a problem occurs (for example, an enclosure becomes live) it has the potential to cause serious harm. 

In low voltage switchgear, all the metal frame and enclosure parts endangered by stray voltage have to be earthed. To this end, earthing straps of copper wire are usually provided. These are flexible and therefore can safely contact moving parts (such as doors) to the enclosure. In enclosures, earthing straps typically also have to be connected to the frames, the side panels, the enclosure roof and any other panels. 

Once all the earthing straps have been correctly fitted, there is an equalisation of potential, and all the enclosure component can be earthed via the protective conductor of the voltage supply. 

The earthing straps have to be attached to enclosures by hand during their assembly, creating the potential for human error. Should a strap be forgotten, the finished switchgear will still be able to function despite the danger it might pose to people in the event of a fault.

To help limit this risk, Rittal has developed an effective solution with the TS 8 bayed enclosure system. During the assembly phase, the side panels, enclosure roof, rear panel and gland plates are automatically connected to the frame conductively. This means potential equalisation can be achieved without necessarily having to connect these parts with earthing straps (although the final decision as to whether to leave earthing strips out completely is up to the user). 

The solution is implemented using special claws or washers which press through the electrically non-conductive surface coating of the panels during assembly, to achieve a reliable contact. It means that all the flat panels are electrically connected to the frame, so that – in many applications – earthing straps are no longer needed. Instead, the earthing strap only needs to be attached to the enclosure door. 

The contact resistance between the panels and the enclosure frame is less than 0.1Ω, the value demanded by the DIN EN 62208 empty enclosures standard.

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