8 tips on how to choose a switchboard: types of electrical panels

7 min

In order to guarantee the reliable and safe functioning of the power supply system, distribution boards are used in residential buildings and enterprises, which contain protective and distribution equipment. Such devices must meet the most stringent safety requirements and have high mechanical strength, so it is better to buy them in a trusted place. The specialized online store “Electrica Cheap” offers a large selection of quality switchboards from the best manufacturers in the world, which you can purchase at the best prices. The assortment is presented here: https://elektrikadeshevo.ru/catalog/shchity-raspredelitelnye/… Our material will help you navigate a wide variety of similar equipment and choose the right switchboard.

# 1. Why do you need a distribution box?

Electrical work in apartments, offices, garages and production facilities is not complete without installing a switchboard. Why is it needed, because earlier many were content with only junction boxes? It’s all about convenience and safety. If you still use only junction boxes, then, for example, when replacing the outlet, you will have to de-energize the entire apartment, and when connecting some powerful electrical appliances, you will have to equip them with their own protective devices, and they also need space.

The installation of switchboards prevents the risk of electrical appliances burning. Thanks to the shield, electricity is distributed evenly across all channels, eliminating excessive current flow through one of them. This device is especially important for large rooms where huge loads arise, and for residential buildings, switchboards are also necessary, given how many electrical appliances people use today at home.

The switchboard works not only when excessive voltage occurs, but also saves a person from electric shock.

# 2. The main types of switchboards

The switchboard can be responsible for the safe supply of electricity to an apartment, to a floor, or to a large building. Depending on the scale of the service area, electrical panels are divided into the following types:

  • the main switchboard (MSB) is at the head of the hierarchy, it is installed at transformer substations and at large production facilities. It, as a rule, is distinguished by its impressive size, is responsible for the power supply of the whole object, protects against overloads in the network and short circuits. The main switchboard, which evenly distributes electricity to all rooms, can automatically switch from the main power input to the backup one;

  • an introductory switchgear (ASU) is installed at the input of a power cable to multi-apartment residential buildings, office centers, industrial premises. ASU distributes power lines for apartment and floor panels, keeps records of consumed electricity, triggers in case of overloads and short circuits;

  • emergency reserve input (ATS) is not used everywhere and is designed to switch consumers from the main power supply to the reserve in the event of an emergency. ATS is necessary for hospitals and other institutions where continuous power supply is important. Sometimes such devices are used in cottages;

  • floor board (SHE) is installed mainly in residential buildings for power distribution to 2-6 apartments. In such a panel, space is allocated for modular automation and electricity metering devices. Can be used in office buildings;

  • the apartment shield (SCHK) is located at the entrance of the electric cable into the apartment, it is usually installed in the hallway, vestibule, less often near the front door. Apartment shields are familiar to almost everyone; they are used for protection against short circuits and overloads, distribution of group power lines and electricity metering. The choice of distribution boards of this type will be discussed.

Among other types, we note lighting boards (SCHO), which are necessary for rare switching off and on of automation, such devices protect against overloads, are used in public and commercial buildings. A control panel (SCH) is also installed in administrative buildings to control ventilation, heating equipment and alarm systems. The automatic control panel (SCHA) is required to control the program controllers of ventilation, heating systems, etc. There are also uninterruptible power supply boards (UPS), which are installed when connecting computing and medical equipment that requires a constant supply of electricity and is sensitive to voltage surges.

No. 3. Types of electrical panels by installation method

By the way of installation, distribution boards can be divided into the following types:

  • overhead, or external. This is the most common option, easy to install, but will bulge slightly forward in relation to the wall, which must be taken into account when choosing a place. Such shields are used when organizing hidden and external wiring, they can be made of metal or plastic. Electricians are advised to install overhead shields in wooden houses and baths;

  • the built-in shield looks more aesthetically pleasing, it is installed flush with the wall, but the work on its installation is more difficult. On the front panel, it necessarily has a flange that closes the technological joint. Experts recommend choosing a similar option in cases where the number of outgoing lines is much less than the number of dashboard modules. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for a pile of wires to pass through the side walls;

  • the floor guards are so large that they cannot be hung on the wall. They are not used in everyday life.

It is important to choose the right place for the electrical panel, because our safety is at stake. The following requirements are put forward to the installation site:

  • sufficient distance from fire and explosive substances;
  • good natural ventilation;
  • easy accessibility. The electrician, in which case, must make a minimum of effort to get to the dashboard;
  • a sufficient level of natural light is desirable.

No. 4. Manufacturing material

The switchboard can be made of metal or plastic. The metal shield is more resistant to mechanical damage, has high durability and reliability, and at the same time a decent weight. The appearance of such products is not the worst, but still not ideal, so metal shields are more suitable for installation in garages and industrial premises.

It is better to choose a neat plastic shield for an apartment. These are lightweight and aesthetic devices, and responsible manufacturers produce quite durable products that are not inferior to metal ones in terms of durability and do not require mandatory grounding. Cheap plastic shields from little-known Chinese companies tend to turn yellow over time.

On sale there are also shields made of a combination of plastic and metal.

No. 5. Protection against dust and moisture

The degree of moisture and dust protection is selected depending on the operating conditions of the equipment:

  • for indoor installation, shields with protection according to the IP21, IP31 and IP32 standards are suitable;

  • for outdoor installation, the shield must have at least IP54 protection, as well as sealed doors and sealed cable entries.

No. 6. Types of switchboards by design

By type of design and purpose, electrical panels are divided into the following types:

No. 7. Number of modules in the switchboard

The fundamental difference between all shields is the number of modules. Some people mistakenly believe that their number should be a multiple of 12, but this is not always the case: shields designed for 16 and 18 modules are used, there are even compact models in which the number of modules does not exceed 10.

To determine how many modules are needed in your case, for a start it is best to draw up a wiring diagram indicating all points of consumption, this includes sockets, lighting fixtures, separate electrical appliances that consume a lot of energy (air conditioner, washing machine, boiler). Next, groups are defined. For lighting wiring, automatic switches for a current of 10 A are used, for a socket outlet – 16 A. As switching-protective devices, you can use not only automatic switches, but also an RCD, or replace these two devices with a differential automatic. The number of RCDs, automatic machines and difavtomats must be known for the correct selection of the number of modules. It is also worth considering the presence of a counter and its size.

The width of one module is 18 mm, it is equal to the width of a single-pole switch. To connect a two-pole machine, you need 2 modules, a three-phase circuit breaker – 3, a single-phase RCD – 3, a three-phase RCD – 5, an electric meter – from 6 to 8, depending on its size (the width of the device can simply be divided by 18 mm).

For an apartment, in some cases, a shield for 12-16 modules is sufficient. If the counter is located in the dashboard, then you will have to take a device for 16-24 modules. A large detached house may require a panel with more than 24 modules. In large cottages, two shields are sometimes installed, since due to the long length of the wiring, one in the event of an accident may not always work quickly, or it may not work at all.

In addition, the dashboard may contain overvoltage protection devices, photo relays or starters for automatic light switching. If you are not sure that you will be able to make the right choice of the switchboard, then it is better to trust the specialists. Help will most likely be needed when assembling, installing the shield and connecting all groups of electrical appliances to it – it’s better not to joke with electricity.

No. 8. Distribution box manufacturers

Defective shields will not be able to perform their functions to the fullest, being incapable of even distribution of electric current throughout all rooms. Also, such shields, if necessary, will most likely not automatically disconnect the damaged group of circuits, so it is better to trust your safety to trusted manufacturers. The leader in terms of quality is ABB, but its products are expensive. The Makel and IEK shields are a little cheaper, but the quality is very good. In terms of design, Greek-made FOTKA boards stand out. It is better to bypass the nameless products of Chinese and Turkish production – this is not the case when you can save money.

Finally, we note that, all other things being equal, it is better to give preference to shields with a transparent door, which provide easier control over the state of the machines.

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Passionate about DIY for over 10 years and all the new tools, I give you through this blog all my advice, tips, tests in all areas: carpentry, electricity, masonry, gardening, home automation ...


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