What are Panelboards for Data Centers?

Power is an essential, as well as an incredibly complex and potentially dangerous, part of every data center. One item housed within every data center is a panelboard. It is important for anyone involved in maintaining and servicing a data center understands what panelboards for data centers are and how they interact with all the other equipment within the data center.

Panelboards for Data Centers

At its simplest definition, panelboards are a component within an electricity supply system. This component splits a power feed into secondary circuits, while simultaneously providing a protective circuit breaker (also known as a protective fuse) for each circuit housed within an enclosure. Most people are familiar with panelboards as something that is housed within an attic or basement in a house and it often referred to a simply “the circuit breaker” and their interaction with that breaker is nothing more than flipping one or two switches if the power goes out.

Depending on the power needs of a particular location, a panelboard‘s capacity and construction will vary. For example, panelboards in a residential location will have a very different level of capability and power capacity as opposed to panelboards for data centers. The selection of panelboards for data centers should be made in tandem with qualified power professionals who can provide the experienced insight necessary to make sure that the right panelboard is selected. This will help make sure that a panelboard can safely accommodate the power equipment that will be housed inside and used on a daily basis. Architects and electrical engineers can also provide guidance on the best location for the panelboards that will be installed.

The type of business itself will also directly affect the requirements related to panelboards for data centers. For example, a hospital that would like to upgrade their current power system will need to consider how to envelop that new system into backup generators to ensure a continuous power supply, regardless of emergency. A hospital provides critical and life-saving care for hundreds of individuals on a daily basis. A small business will likely not require that level of power security; however, it is still important the correct type of panelboard is selected. More than likely, a small businesses’ data center will be smaller than a hospital, which will mean the panelboards for data centers will match the power capacity requirements for that business or building.

When planning a power audit for research purposes, or an equipment upgrade, it may be worthwhile for the business owner to consult with the building management to see what, if any, potential limitations or requirements may be in place. For example, if the building has a “master” power room, it is very likely there will need to be coordination between the building management and the business when upgrading or installing panelboards for data centers. This will help make sure all electricity is properly and safely installed and grounded.

Ultimately, making any type of power or electricity change is a major decision that should not be done quickly. It requires thoughtful consideration, consultation with power professionals, electrical engineers, building architects and others to make sure the best panelboard solutions are selected and installed correctly so they function safely.