Electricity is an important part of our life. However, when it comes to electricity distribution, it needs to be done in a safe and secure manner. It entails several handling hazards, which, when not done safely, can easily turn into a deadly trap. There are times when accidents and mishaps happen due to the lack of safety at different power distribution units.

Therefore, to maintain the security levels at all distribution units and substations, it is critical to install safety devices and mechanisms. While there are many mechanisms that help in safeguarding electrical connections at residential and industrial areas, switchgear is one of the most popular ones due to its various functions and features.

Analyzing switchgears from the perspective of commercial, industrial, and institutional MV (medium voltage) distribution system, its functions are as follows:

  • Switchgears provide sufficient segmentation of the MV system to reduce the extent of circuit outages during electrical work on cables and power stations.
  • This device helps in the distribution and carriage of load and overloads during maintenance and service of different electrical connectors.
  • It helps in clearing and identifying different types of faults and connection failures, helping minimize the damage.

Types of Switchgears

There are two main types of switchgear which are necessary for various commercial, residential, and industrial electrical connections. They are

  • Metal-Enclosed Switchgear: This is an earthed metallic enclosure, made of supreme quality sheet steel that houses different types of circuit breakers. This equipment is usually placed indoors and is used for medium and low voltage applications. As these switchgears are used indoors, they need to be grounded in a proper manner.
  • Metal Clad Switchgear: This type of switchgear is generally placed outside the house in residential and industrial electrical connections. Being weatherproof in nature, they help protect different types of protective relays, circuit breakers, current and potential transformers, meters, and bus conductors.

Features of Metal Clad and Metal Enclosed Switchgear

There are various features of these switchgears that make them different from each other. Some of them are:

Metal Enclosed Switchgear
Metal Clad Switchgear
This switchgear allows different interrupting devices as well as fixed mounted switching.
All types of interrupting and switching devices need to be mounted.
Rear and front access are optional
This equipment requires a front and rear access.
No compartmentalization required.
This switchgear requires all live parts to be in different and designated compartments.
Generally, shutters are not required in this switchgear.
Without shutters, this switchgear will not function at all.
Compartments are adjacent to each other, which can be opened easily.
Compartments are adjacent to each other, which can be opened easily.

Applications of Switchgears

Apart from knowing the different features of these two switchgears, it is important to know where these switchgears are generally used.

Some of the application areas of these switchgears are as follows:

  • Industrial power distribution: Both these devices are used in different plants and factories where special attention needs to be given to surge and overload protection. These switchgears help in a better and organized distribution of power to the machines in an industrial unit.
  • Solar power generation: These devices also find application in various types of PV installations. As voltage and surge regulation is mandatory in every solar power installation, these switchgears regulate the passage of electric current from the main unit to the subunit.
  • Residential power distribution: These switchgears are also installed in different residential societies and complexes. Generally, at these places there is a combination of several metal clad and metal enclosed switchgears. This combination helps in controlling the load and voltage in the area, along with facilitating fault regulation.
  • Power stations: Main and sub power distribution units require these switchgears to protect various types of electrical connections. Power generation and distribution involves the use of various types of circuit breakers and surge protectors, which are generally enclosed in these switchgears.

Although both these switchgears are completely different in terms of their features and nature, their common objective is to control and regulate different medium voltage applications.