Choosing Electrical Boxes for Extreme Environments

According to OSHA, most electrical hazards in the workplace exist due to faulty equipment, unsafe work practices, or hazardous environments. While faulty equipment can be repaired and employees can be trained in safe workplace practices, some facilities and worksite are inherently hazardous to people, processes, and equipment.

An extreme work environment is typically associated with hot processes (i.e. metals refining), corrosive environments, dangerous tasks, wet processes, and just about all outdoor electrical installations and workplace operations that are exposed to extreme climates. This includes extremely high or low temperatures, high humidity, and heavy rain, sleet, or hail.

Electrical boxes for extreme conditions

Fiberglass Electrical Boxes

Electrical contractors are choosing fiberglass electrical boxes over metal because they are highly resistant to chemical attack and degradation and fiberglass is a non-corrosive material. Fiberglass is a silicate fiber that has glass as its main component. The material is already used for high-end residential architectural components and insulation because it reduces the spread of cold, heat, and sound in aircraft, cars, and structures.

Fiberglass electrical enclosures have a temperature range of -40C to 121C, are ideal for wet or corrosive environments, and they maintain excellent electrical properties. Fiberglass electrical boxes are used to reduce the failure of sensitive electronics because the boxes are non-conductive and are not affected by radio frequencies.

Choose fiberglass for outdoor environments. The material is an excellent choice for solar installations because it does not absorb or hold water, and it stands up extremely well to UV radiation

Polycarbonate Electrical Boxes

Electrical engineers view polycarbonate electrical boxes as a light weight, cost-effective, and durable choice over metal for food processing installation and other wet or outdoor environments. Metal electrical boxes dent, rust, corrode, and lose their finish in these environments. Polycarbonate is a type of thermoplastic that is easy to field modify.

When exposed to UV light, polycarbonate does not weaken, holds its shape, and will not discolor. For environments like agricultural and marine that are continuously exposed to sunlight and moisture, polycarbonate is the material of choice. Expect an electrical enclosure that stands up well to impact up to 900psi.

Fiberglass versus Polycarbonate

While both materials are excellent choices for electrical boxes and both are comparably priced, there are design considerations that may preclude one over the other.

Fiberglass enclosures have a thicker wall, are typically stronger than polycarbonate, and will feature a nicer finish. The glass fibers added to this material create a box that is crack-resistant, making it appropriate for busy factory environments. Fiberglass is the perfect composite material for electrical boxes that must maintain dimensional stability and high strength in extreme environments.

Polycarbonate enclosures are 40% lighter in weight when compared to fiberglass (which can save on shipping costs and installations). UV inhibitors are often a part of the polycarbonate formulation, making them a great choice for outdoor mounting. Polycarbonate is also less brittle and highly resistant to impact.

Visit Allied Moulded Products Inc. for a wide range of fiberglass and polycarbonate electrical boxes and accessories for industrial and residential applications.

 

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