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How To Choose The Right Outdoor Weatherproof Enclosure

Posted by on 6/3/2014 to NEMA Enclosures
How To Choose The Right Outdoor Weatherproof Enclosure

Twenty or so years ago, specifying an enclosure involved ordering the correct size gray box, installing the electronic equipment and crossing your fingers in hopes that the box you ordered did what it was supposed to. Today, there are multiple types of enclosures made of various materials and with multiple ratings so it’s hard to know which outdoor enclosure will be the most durable, least expensive and will stand the test of time.

Step 1: Consider Your Surroundings

Where will your sensitive electronics be located? Outdoors or indoors? Close to salt water or in a hot, dusty warehouse? In the shade or full sunlight? On a pole or mounted to a wall? From UV rays to temperature to airborne debris, environmental elements can wreak havoc on an improper enclosure. For example, salt spray is highly corrosive and can cause metallic enclosures made out of stainless steel to rust so it would be better to purchase an outdoor weatherproof enclosure made of marine grade (or 5052) aluminum.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, or NEMA, has a nationally accepted ranking system for both indoor and outdoor enclosures ranging from 1 to 13. The most common rankings for outdoor electrical, data and security purposes are NEMA 3, 3S, 3X, 3R, 4 and 4X.

NEMA 3, 3S, 3X

  • Weather-resistant. Protects against weather hazards such as rain & sleet.
  • Used outdoors on ship docks, in construction work, tunnels & subways.
  • 3X includes corrosion.

NEMA 4

  • Watertight. Must exclude at least 65 GPM of water from 1" nozzle delivered from a distance no less that 10 ft. for 5 minutes.
  • Used outdoors on ship docks, in dairies and in breweries.
  • The 4X model has corrosion resistance.

Step 2: Enclosure Construction

When installing our outdoor enclosure, how are you going to power what’s inside? How many holes will you have to put into the enclosure which can affect how weatherproof the box is? How hard is it to make those modifications to the material the enclosure is constructed of? Do the boxes come with predetermined punch out areas or will you have to use a special tool for on-site modification? How heavy are the weatherproof enclosure before all those electronic devices are going to be added? These are just a few questions the specifier must answer before being able to accurately bid a project.

Specifiers must also evaluate both the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment and determine how much heat the installed electronics will generate. When these two measurements are combined, the resulting temperatures can be deadly to even hardened electronics. Outdoor enclosures constructed of metals such as stainless steel and aluminum will absorb and conduct heat, while plastics are superior insulators - metal enclosures will also allow heat to dissipate better than plastic and will be cooler overall. Installing enclosure accessories such as thermostats, case fans and coolers will allow for an increase in air flow and aid in keeping equipment from frying.

Lightweight enclosures are typically preferred over heavy enclosures for ease of installation but keep in mind weight restrictions. Carefully calculate how much weight the items that will be stored in these boxes to ensure that the enclosure does not fail.

Step 3: What is your Budget?

There are enclosures available for almost every price point. Pricing depends on materials, customization and weight. While fiberglass or polyester can provide cost-effective solutions, outdoor enclosures made of aluminum will perform better in harsh surroundings such as in direct (and hot) sun light and areas near the coast where salt is prevalent.

Conclusion

While there is no "one size fits all" solution, outdoor weatherproof enclosures constructed using 5052 Aluminum meet the major requirements; Environmental hardiness, enclosure construction details and is in the middle of the range for cost.

Call us today at (904) 674-2976 for more information. ArmorLogix is a proud provider of NEMA enclosures for use in construction.