Q&A About Electrical Control Panels
Electrical control panels are something that project managers sometimes take for granted at the outset of a project, treating them as a mere commodity or as something provided by the OEM or electrical contractor. Such a cavalier approach to control panels, however, can result in problematic integration of them into the system, requiring backtracking that takes time and adds cost.
As a manufacturer of custom electrical control panels, Toshont believes that many project managers— all of whom we know to be keen to complete their projects on time and on budget—would benefit from our insights into control panels. This Q & A is designed to present our perspectives on the topic to help ensure that project managers and others give control panels due and timely consideration.
Question #1: What are some key control panel considerations?
A: Panel specs are often difficult to determine conclusively until decisions about equipment have been nailed down. When ordering panels it’s vital to be aware that standards can vary from country to country, which is why you must make control panels a priority in project planning. Naturally, Toshont understands that price is important, but it shouldn’t be the dominant consideration. Control panels are a long-term investment—components that will be around long after key pieces of equipment have been replaced—so quality and design considerations need to be at the top of the list.
You’ve also got to really think about scheduling, the details of which are invariably related to the complexity of the project. Yet another consideration is whether any new technology is being used, or whether there are distinctive safety and environment issues to factor in?
Question #2: What are some common problems that occur with control panels that should inform their production?
Common problems with panels are as follows:
- Failure to adequately deal with thermal management can cause panels to overheat and, as a result, components to fail or processes to be shut down.
- Components are not properly labeled.
- Quality control is substandard.
- Wiring is loose.
- Communication wires are not properly separated from high-voltage conductors.
- There is insufficient space for incoming field wiring.
- Panels delivered do not match panel drawings.
- Wires are improperly terminated wires (through bad crimping, for example) and there’s pinching of insulation in terminals and nicks to the insulation.
Many of the above problems speak to insufficient attention to detail and cost cutting. From basic to complex, for over 20 years, Toshont’s in-house engineering and technical staff have been designing and building panels and satisfying customers—because we do care and we don’t cut corners.
Question #3: What are the industry standards for building panels?
A: There are standards such as CSA. UL, ETL,etc. Toshont’s panel shop is CSA, UL and ETL approved.
Though the existence of standards is universal, how they are interpreted varies widely, which can lead to serious problems, such as panels getting rejected onsite, injury or even death. How standards get interpreted significantly impacts price.
Question #4: What issues enter the cost versus value debate?
A: In evaluating panels it is essential to weigh the overall cost of ownership. Many factors enter this equation, including:
- Production uptime.
- How functional is it when taken out of the box?
- How easy is it to troubleshoot?
- Will delivery be on time?
- Does the panel come with the correct prints?
Remember, you generally get what you pay for . . . A panel shop that provides design consultation can increase cost up front, but given their understanding of the standards required to pass electrical inspections and keep the process safe, as well as to correct design errors and interpret standards, they add tremendous value.
Testing is another big issue, to which there is a cost. Some panel shops do little testing, which can explain low pricing. Every panel shipped from Toshont’s Panel Shop is subjected to rigorous testing.
In summary, not all control panels—and panel shops—are created equal. It behooves anyone commissioning electrical control panels to do their due diligence when deciding who to design and produce their panels. We are proud of Toshont Power Products’ long list of satisfied, repeat customers built up over two decades.
Click here to inquire about Toshont electrical control panels for your upcoming project.