What Are Electrical Utility Cabinets?

Utility cabinet” is a very broad term, covering all types of housing for electrical systems components. Utility cabinets as a species may be indoor or outdoor, large, fridge size housings, or small, portable junction boxes.

These cabinets form very useful parts of any power management system. Typically, they contain Transfer Switch Systems, emergency power control systems, and a range of other functions, depending on the layout of the power system design.

Utility cabinets provide:

  • Independent housing of power system components
  • Protection from the elements and fire
  • Insulated housing of power system connections and controls
  • Security against tampering
  • Easy access to critical parts of the power system

In practice, they’re a functional design element in the power system, created to separate specific, critical operations.

Types of cabinets include:

  • Emergency power systems
  • Switch systems
  • Control panels
  • Electricity substations
  • Junction boxes

Electrical utility cabinets are usually made of steel, with interior insulation depending on the requirements of the systems they contain. Large cabinets are designed to be accessed quickly, with a “pull-apart” system for fast work on electrical systems.

The system equipment in the utility cabinets includes its own safety switches, automatic cut-offs, and manual controls. In addition to its own functional components, the cabinet systems may include monitors, transfer switches, and mains shutoff switches.

Safety and utility cabinets

In every good electrical system design, utility cabinets are at the heart of safety precautions. When managing large amounts of power, a safe, reliable way of managing power is required. In the event of an accident, a fire, flooding, blackout, or other problems, the in-house utility cabinet also contains the instant fix for electrical safety issues.

This is almost basic OHS, in some ways:

  • The utility cabinet containing the power management systems contains alternate power connections, shutdown switches, and often quick fix fuses and switches to manage specific issues.
  • The cabinet housing protects these important control systems from damage and tampering.
  • Utility cabinets can also function as separate housings for “auxiliary controls” in cases when other controls aren’t accessible. (These systems are mandatory in high voltage power systems.)
  • Best practice electrical design always includes straightforward, easy-to-operate backup systems. Typically, the power controls for the backup systems will be routed through a standalone utility cabinet.
  • Cabinets may be hardwired and/or contain plug systems for power connection management.

Mobile utility cabinets

In construction and mobile emergency power systems, the equivalent of utility cabinets are mobile boxes, which perform the same roles. This type of utility cabinet is in fact a working control system, delivering many of the functions of a dedicated panel board.

The mobile cabinets can run power systems direct off the grid, through generators, and also run mobile power plants. They’re the simple, portable design fix to allow these big power systems to function anywhere.

If you’re at the point in commissioning a power system where you need to look at control systems, check out the latest utility cabinet designs. You’ll be more than interested in what these new cabinet designs can deliver.