How Many Types of Low Voltage Switchboards Are There?

While the intricacy of a complex power distribution system may feel like magic, a well-orchestrated system can deliver very actual results.

Among the integral components of your electrical system, low voltage switchboards play an often overlooked but critically key role.

Different types of low voltage switchboards are designed to meet different needs. Some are optimized for motorized equipment, others are optimized for distributing power to smaller circuits, and each fulfills its vital role in a larger system.

The more you know about the different types of low voltage switchboards at your disposal, the better prepared you can be to make wise choices in designing or modernizing your system.

Contact our team to learn how we can help you meet your low voltage switchboard needs.

Table of Contents:

How Many Types of Low Voltage Switchboards Are There?

Understanding Low Voltage Switchboards

Before diving into the types of low voltage switchboards, it is crucial to understand what they are and what their role is within an electrical system. 

Low voltage switchboards typically manage less than 1,000 volts of current (as opposed to their medium and high-voltage counterparts). 

Their primary function is to distribute power to various electrical circuits within your facility, controlling the flow of power and protecting electrical circuits from major hazards like overheating or short-circuiting.

types of swbds

Types of Low Voltage Switchboards

The world of low voltage switchboards is diverse and complex, with each type designed to meet specific needs. For this article, we will explore the three most common types of low voltage switchboards:

Main Distribution Boards (MDBs)

Main switchboards, or MDBs, are the heart of any electrical system. They distribute power from a single source (usually a utility connection) to multiple smaller circuits. 

Main switchboards need robust design because they manage higher levels of currents compared to other types of low voltage switchboards.

Sub Distribution Boards (SDBs)

Distribution boards (also known as breaker panels) are critical for safety. These switchboards divide an electrical power feed into smaller subsidiary circuits while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit.

Remote Power Panels (RPPs)

Remote Power Panels (RPPs) contain sections dedicated to specific areas or equipment within a facility. Since each section can be dedicated to a specific application, RPPs streamline power distribution and maintenance across different zones or systems.

Beyond these three main types, there are other specialized forms of switchboards. For example, Power Factor Correction Panels are useful in situations where energy efficiency becomes crucial due to high reactive power loads.

Understanding the diverse types of switchboards sets you up for success in selecting the right one for your application. Whether you are running a hospital, fueling a data center, or powering a construction site, the right switchboard can make all the difference.

Features of Different Low Voltage Switchboards

MDBs, SDBs, and RPPs have unique features that make them suitable for different applications. Let us dive deeper into these key features:

Main Distribution Board Features

MDBs are the heart of any electrical system. They serve as a nexus where incoming power can be divided into separate circuits. MDBs stand out from other types of switchboards because of their high load capacity and their flexibility in terms of circuit arrangement.

Sub Distribution Board Features

SDBs are a simple way to distribute electrical power across multiple devices or zones within a single installation. Distribution boards shine because they allow for safe operation through protective devices like fuses and circuit breakers.

Remote Power Panel Features

RPPs come with unique characteristics that set them apart from other types of switchboards in electrical systems. RPPs tend to follow more adaptable and modular designs that facilitate convenient adjustments and maintenance while enhancing safety by minimizing exposure. 

However, their most notable attribute is their versatility—RPPs can be tailored to specific power distribution needs across different systems or pieces of equipment within a facility.

Applications for Low Voltage Switchboards

Low voltage switchboards play a vital role in the world of power distribution. Hospitals and data centers each have unique power needs that can only be met by the right combination of switchboards.

Hospitals

Hospitals, more than any other application, rely on a consistent and reliable flow of electricity. A sudden loss of power can disrupt life-saving procedures, interrupt care, and hamper the performance of essential medical equipment.

To perform their life-saving care, healthcare institutions like hospitals need top-notch switchboard systems to ensure they receive uninterrupted power.

Data Centers

Data centers are yet another sector where low voltage switchboards shine. Since data centers manage vast amounts of information every day, they have massive energy needs. Therefore, it is only natural that efficient power management is a crucial consideration for these data centers.

The effective use of low voltage switchboards helps data centers maintain optimal server functionality while also reducing their overall energy consumption—another crucial factor for data centers.

ev charging

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations

The world of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is yet another application for low voltage switchboards. As the number of electric vehicles increases in ubiquity, the demand for efficient and reliable charging stations has surged.

Low voltage switchboards serve as integral components of charging stations, managing power distribution for rapid chargers, level 2 chargers, and other charging equipment. These switchboards play a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless and safe operation of EV charging infrastructure.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting of Low Voltage Switchboards

Low voltage switchboards, just like every piece of electrical equipment, need regular upkeep to perform optimally. Without proper maintenance, these units can cause system inefficiencies and even major safety risks.

Preventative Maintenance: A Proactive Approach

The best way to maintain a low voltage switchboard is to take a proactive approach. This involves regularly inspecting the physical condition of components within your switchboard and cleaning dust and debris that can interfere with operations down the line. Thermal imaging checks also help detect potential issues before they lead to larger problems.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If you run into problems with your low voltage switchboard, having some troubleshooting knowledge under your belt can come in handy. One common issue is an overheating circuit—commonly caused by overloaded systems, poor ventilation, or an accumulation of dust over time.

Safety First

As you maintain your low voltage switchboard, safety should be your highest priority. Always use protective clothing (like insulated gloves) and follow standard safety procedures while performing maintenance tasks or troubleshooting.

A well-trained professional should always perform electrical maintenance.

Safety Considerations for Low Voltage Switchboards

When working with low voltage switchboards, safety is not important—it’s vital. Here are some safety considerations you should keep in mind as you explore the world of low voltage switchboards:

Proper Installation and Maintenance

The foundation of a safe electrical system lies in proper installation and maintenance. Paying close attention to these steps prevents malfunctions down the line that can lead to fires and other accidents. OSHA regulations, among others, highlight the importance of installing and maintaining equipment correctly and safely.

Adequate Protection Against Overcurrent

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Switchboards should be equipped with adequate overcurrent protection features like circuit breakers or fuses. These features are essential to protect the safety of users for years to come.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Electricity is a powerful thing. Finally, personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital for keeping users safe. Agencies like the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, for short) establish guidelines for suitable PPE that can greatly reduce the risk of electric shock and burns when dealing with electrical systems.

Selecting the Right Low Voltage Switchboard

Picking the right switchboard is no small task. To make the right decision, you must consider factors such as your specific power needs, application, and environment.

Understanding Your Power Needs

The first step in making a good decision involves understanding your power requirements. For instance, a manufacturing facility may require an RPP for its capacity to distribute power to specific pieces of equipment. At the same time, a large office building may need several distribution boards to distribute power to various areas of the facility.

Consider Your Environment

Your environment also plays a significant role in your selection process. Some environments demand robust systems that can withstand harsh conditions, while others do not. 

It is crucial to consider your environment because picking the wrong type of switchboard for your setting could lead you down a costly path of frequent maintenance or even outright replacements.

Here are some additional environmental factors you should consider:

  • If you are running an operation in an area with extreme temperature or moisture levels (like mining sites or chemical plants), then ingress protection (IP) rated boards can help you stay safe and functional even in extreme conditions.
  • Commercial buildings like hospitals and offices with more controlled environments may be able to use a standard switchboard instead of a specialized IP-rated board.
  • In situations where space is tight (like retail spaces or smaller office buildings), compact distribution boards can be an invaluable asset for saving space without compromising functionality.

Always consider the regulatory standards relevant to your industry and location when selecting a low voltage switchboard.

Low Voltage Switchboard FAQs

Conclusion

Stepping into the world of low voltage switchboards, we have discovered how they play pivotal roles in our electrical systems. Different types of low voltage switchboards exist, each with its unique characteristics and capabilities.

In this guide, we described how switchboards are not simply power distributors but also vital components that ensure the smooth, safe flow of power throughout a facility. 

MDBs distribute power from the main electrical source, SDBs further distribute power among smaller circuits or areas of a facility, and RPPs deliver power to various pieces of equipment or zones within a facility that have specific power needs.

Maintenance should not be an afterthought—it is a crucial step that can help prevent costly repairs and dangerous accidents.

In your journey to choose the right type of low voltage switchboard for your facility, remember it is all about matching needs with functionalities. Let this knowledge guide you towards smarter decisions as you set up and upgrade your power systems.

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