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The Buyer’s Guide to NEMA Industrial Enclosures

by Stuart Berry August 02, 2018

As our climate becomes more extreme, there is an ever greater need to ensure that your wired and wireless communications equipment can stand up to the elements. If you are thinking about getting stronger protection for your equipment, you may find the following step by step guide useful.

Let’s start with some basic questions and information:

Why do you want an enclosure and what are they used for?

NEMA Enclosure

When deploying a wired or wireless network, it’s common to use expensive components like switches, routers, access points, and PLC's. These devices are critical to the operation of the network and can cost thousands of dollars.

When these devices are located outside or in an industrial setting such as a factory or processing plant, they become susceptible to damage from the elements, chemicals and physical contact.

The best way to protect your valuable communications equipment from this contact is with an enclosure. With so much relying on your network being fully functional, enclosures are ideal for wired and wireless networks to protect critical equipment from the elements, chemicals, physical contact, theft and damage. They are designed to endure all types of abuse and keep enclosed, sensitive electronics safe.

There is a reason why they are called "industrial". This is because most enclosures are built to be weatherproof, rugged, and often have features such as heaters, cooling fans and other devices. They are designed for indoor and outdoor use, hot and cold temperature environments, as well as where equipment and critical systems need power, environmental protection, and security for the network to function.

And why "NEMA"?

NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) are two standard groups, and each has their own ratings based on resistance to dust, moisture, water immersion, and ice. Equipment enclosures typically use one of these rating systems to define how much abuse a particular enclosure can take. The better the rating, the more the enclosure can withstand.

In what environments would you use a NEMA enclosure?

A list of some of the more common locations would include:

  • Industrial data and control systems in factories and manufacturing plants
  • National/Local Government wired and remote sensor applications
  • Secure WLAN network installations
  • Wireless network equipment installations
  • Extreme hot and cold environments
  • Solar powered applications
  • Corrosive environments
  • Sub-zero installations

Some enclosures can even be used in extremely harsh environments such as mines, hydraulic or pneumatic control installations, and petrochemical refineries. They are made to endure all manner of conditions and keep the sensitive electronics inside safe.

What types of NEMA enclosure are there?

As you will see, there are many varieties of enclosures with endless features. We are going to walk through three categories: Non-powered, Powered, and Heated & Cooled.

Non-Powered

These enclosures are perfect for housing both wired and wireless communications equipment that do not require power. L-com’s non-powered weatherproof enclosures feature either a fully-removable gasketed lid with a stainless steel continuous hinge or a continuous gasketed lid secured by four non-metallic molded screws that ensure optimal integrity.

Our non-powered enclosures are also available in a variety of materials including Molded Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) and VALOX 357U thermoplastic material.

Powered

Depending on the type of devices you are protecting in an enclosure, you may require a power source. Some of our enclosures have built in power outlets for a variety of interfaces, including 12V DC, 120V AC, 240V AC, and POE.

In addition to sharing some of the many features the non powered enclosures have, some of our powered interfaces include built in lightning protection. This helps add an extra level of security for the equipment installed in the enclosure.

Heating & Cooling

Weather your application requires power or not, there’s another piece of the puzzle to keep in mind. Will your equipment be exposed to cold temperatures, extreme heat, or moisture?

If your equipment will be experiencing any of these conditions, there are options for cooled, vented, and heated enclosures. The image below shows a vented enclosure.

Vented Enclosure

For example, L-com carries a sub-zero 48 VDC PoE-powered weatherproof enclosure, which is perfect for heating critical equipment in sub-zero temperatures. This sub-zero model has a thermostat-controlled heating system that is powered by a single Cat5 cable plugged into the remote-mounted power supply. This thermostat is designed for use in sub-zero environments up to -30°F (-34°C), maintaining a nominal internal ambient temperature of +40°F (4°C). The insulation properties of fiberglass, as well as foam insulation, aid in heat retention.

Here's a helpful diagram that describes where all of these features would be located:

Enclosure Features Diagram

NEMA-rated weatherproof enclosures can be made of steel, ABS plastic or reinforced fiberglass and they feature other options including AC or DC power, DIN rail mounting and Power over Ethernet (PoE) interfaces.

NEMA enclosures provide plenty of options that can be mixed and matched to make sure your network equipment is protected. For more information on which options will be the best fit, or to arrange a custom enclosure for you, contact us today.




Stuart Berry
Stuart Berry

Author



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