The Basics Of Panelboards

Panelboards are used in commercial power systems as control systems. Usually, there’s a panelboard for power, and a separate panelboard for lighting. Occasionally, you may see a panelboard that does both, in smaller systems.

First and most importantly- a panelboard isn’t just a fuse box or a collection of on/off switches. It’s a much more highly evolved, better organized, control and safety system used to manage major power supply systems.

This is the order and system structure in which panelboards operate:

  1. Utility power, externally connected leads to the
  2. Primary safety disconnect switch, internal, leads to the
  3. Transformer, leads to the
  4. Panelboards, power and lighting, leads to the
  5. Power distribution

The panelboards, in effect, manage the power in the system. Every connection, switch, business system, and machine traces its power through the panelboards.

If you think of the entire power system as one big circuit board, the panelboards are the operating systems.

Panelboards provide:

  • Operational controls
  • Safety controls
  • Easy to manage access to all parts of the power system
  • Simple management, repair and maintenance functionality

Panelboards also have their own safety systems built in, a very good idea, when you consider the amount of power and the sheer number of operational functions they control.

Typically, a panelboard supplied by a transformer must have “overcurrent” (excess current) protection. This is a safeguard against the risks of extra power traveling through the panelboard, protecting both it and the systems to which it distributes power.

If the panelboard principles seem simple enough, they don’t look it. Panelboards come in a very wide range of configurations, from the demure, nicely colored connections to a truly baffling array of connections and switches that make Star Trek look positively minimalist.

The logic, however soon becomes clear, when you notice the common features of the panelboards. Electrical designers are problem solvers, and they use standardized features to manage the connections.

You can appreciate how efficient this approach is, when you see an electrician remove, check and replace connections at seemingly impossible speeds. This isn’t really “LEGO for power systems”, but it’s as quick and straightforward as that. These systems are designed to be easy to work with, and they are, for experts.

Panelboards are also used for basic power distribution. This is where most of the routine work happens, tracking backward and forward between the panelboard and faulty connections. If this sounds very simple, consider this- Any point in the power system can be traced instantly, and a fix applied, in minutes.

The safety factor

Another critical function of panelboards is safety. A problem connection can be taken offline with a simple switch, preventing the risk of spreading issues throughout the power system.

For large systems, that’s extremely cost-efficient, as well as functionally efficient. The ability to manage specific issues anywhere in the system reduces downtime, and drastically speeds up repairs and maintenance.

If you’re looking at your power system, looking at upgrades, or simply want to improve power system management, start by checking out the new panelboards. You’ll appreciate what you see.