Indoor switchgear represents a critical element of the modern electrical system. But while installing switchgear inside buildings has its benefits, it also presents a fair share of locational drawbacks. That’s what this article will discuss: indoor switchgear advantages and disadvantages.
What is Switchgear?
Switchgear is a collective term for all the electrical components that are used to control and distribute power within an electrical system. This includes everything from circuit breakers and contactors to relays mounted together.
One of the most important decisions that must be made when designing an electrical system is where to locate the switchgear. For many applications, it makes sense to install the equipment outdoors. But in some cases, putting the switchgear inside a building is the best option.
Indoor Type Switchgear
Indoor type switchgear is defined as any switchgear that’s solely meant to be installed inside buildings whether residential, commercial or industrial, and other types of enclosed spaces. In these settings, the equipment is normally placed in a dedicated space called switchgear room.
The main difference between indoor and outdoor switchgear is that, whereas one is protected from the elements, the other is not and is exposed to wind, dust, rain, snow, etc.
Because of its location, indoor switchgear offers several benefits when compared to outdoor switchgear. But before we can discuss these advantages, it is important to understand the main types of indoor switchgear and what they mean.
Major Types of Indoor Switchgear
Indoor switchgear is manufactured in different types. These range from switchgear that varies in design range to different voltage ratings and insulation mediums. In terms of design, indoor switchgear is usually available as either metal enclosed or metal clad. These have different construction features.
Metal Enclosed Switchgear
The metal enclosed indoor switchgear is covered in metal sheet all around, and the devices are arranged inside the enclosure. This provides protection to the switchgear devices as well as people. The enclosure is then normally provided with openings for ventilation and doors or removable covers to enable component monitoring and inspection.
Metal Clad Switchgear
In indoor metal clad switchgear, the different components are housed in individual compartments and the compartments isolated from each other by metal partitions. These compartments are then earthed to provide safety. The breaker compartment in metal clad switchgear is usually withdrawable. This is also called a draw out design.
Indoor Switchgear Advantages
The indoor type switchgear is generally used for voltage below 11kv. However, recent applications are seeing switchgear above 11kv installed. In higher voltages, gas insulated components are usually used. In addition to the wide application, several indoor switchgear advantages make it ideal in many situations. Here are some of them.
1. Increased Safety
Indoor electric switchgear is normally housed in metal enclosures. This makes it much safer than outdoor switchgear. The enclosure shields users from live electrical components by providing an extra layer of protection against shock or electrocution.
The higher level of safety makes indoor switchgear suitable for use in residential, industrial and institutional settings. This is critical when it comes to ensuring the safety of electrical equipment and workers or other persons who may come near the installation.
2. More Protection
One of the key advantages of indoor substation or switchgear is that it offers superior protection against dust, moisture and other forms of contaminants that may be present in the surrounding environment.
The increased protection is especially important for applications in industrial settings, where there may be high levels of particulate matter or conductive dust from nearby machining operations.
3. Increased Reliability
Another key advantage that indoor type switchgear has over outdoor switchgear is increased reliability. Because it’s installed indoors, there are fewer risks of being exposed to extreme weather events that could damage the switchgear.
In other words, it means the switchgear is less likely to suffer from power surges and fluctuations in electrical current. This can help improve system reliability over the long term, resulting in fewer outages over time, among other benefits.
4. Cheaper to Maintain
Indoor switchgear is also cheaper to maintain compared to outdoor switchgear. Inside building or switchgear room, the equipment is less likely to get damaged by harsh environment. This lowers maintenance costs.
In addition to the fewer maintenance costs, the fewer risks mean the switchgear can last much longer without requiring intense repairs or frequent replacements. This makes it cost-effective for many businesses and institutions.
5. Requires Less Space
Indoor switchgear requires less installation space than outdoor switchgear. Since it is installed indoors, there is no need to provide an external shelter for protection from the elements. This eliminates additional site preparation costs.
The smaller footprint of indoor electric switchgear makes indoor makes it ideal for small-sized facilities or in crowded urban environments. Also, for places where the cost of land is too high and outdoor switchgear would increase cost unnecessarily.
As you can see, indoor switchgear is an advantage in many situations. Just to add, indoor switchgear is often more aesthetically pleasing than outdoor switchgear. This can be important in some settings, such as office buildings or retail establishments where appearance is a key consideration.
Indoor Switchgear Downsides
Indoor switchgear provides a viable option for many electrical systems. But despite its many benefits, it does have a few disadvantages. Electrical engineers or electricians should consider these downsides when designing their power distribution systems. The disadvantages include those explained below.
Higher Upfront Costs
Indoor type switchgear is initially more expensive than outdoor types of switchgear. However, the costs to maintain the switchgear are generally lower, seeing that it’s less prone to environmental causes of damage such as rain and dust.
Not Easy to Expand
Indoor switchgear may be difficult to expand or modify after installation since the equipment is generally contained within a building. This may necessitate an additional investment in replacement parts or reconfiguration of the entire system, which can become costly over time.
The idea of installing switchgear inside buildings has its benefits, but it also comes with some drawbacks. While it may not be a good fit for every application, indoor switchgear can offer many benefits when used in certain settings. Whether you want to improve safety, protect your equipment from the elements or reduce maintenance costs, installing indoor switchgear is a smart choice for many applications.