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Five Typical Mistakes in Specifying an Outdoor Enclosure

When dealing with connectivity, the enclosure is an often overlooked component. Yet when looking at the "bigger" picture, connectivity issues often involve the connection between the controller and the equipment to be controlled. As more and more electronic equipment is being used outdoors to control everything from sprinklers to lighting, power to insect control, and energy to traffic flow, the use of outdoor enclosures is becoming ever more important. When an engineer is designing a unit to control outdoor equipment, there are many issues that need to be considered. Too often the issues are overlooked because of the rush to get the product to testing, or just because enclosures can be "taken for granted" since they are a low tech item. Therefore, the following is a list of the 5 typical mistakes made by an engineer in specifying an outdoor enclosure.

  1. Not picking the proper NEMA rated product. Often, engineers think that NEMA 12 enclosures can be used outdoors. In reality, they are only rated for indoor use and for dripping liquids and oils. For outdoor use, NEMA 4 or 4X rated products should be used as they can withstand outdoor conditions
  2. Not Insuring that any plastic enclosures are UV stabilized. While a NEMA 4 or 4X rated product should be UV stabilized, it is important to be sure that the plastic will not degrade physically or visually
  3. Not considering how internal heat will be dissipated. When a unit is outdoors, you cannot just put louvers or exhaust fans in them. You have to maintain the NEMA seal, so does your supplier have NEMA Vents available? Can they readily be installed in your box?
  4. Not verifying the ability to mount equipment inside without drilling extra holes (that would need to be gasketed)? Are there mounting bosses or slots that your boards or other equipment can be mounted to? Are there panels on which you can mount your equipment?
  5. Not knowing how to mount your enclosure to a wall or other equipment. Does it have mounting ears? Can you avoid drilling through the box and incur extra costs of gasketing?

While enclosures are low tech, when looking for the best connectivity you need to keep in mind that a fully equipped enclosure can be a big money and time saver in the long run.

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