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Switchgear vs Switchboard: What is the Key Difference?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

switchgear vs switchboard

Switchgear vs switchboard, both are essential systems for managing power delivery to connected circuits. However, what is the difference between them?

A switchgear can refer to different assemblies and parts used to help control and supply power to connected electronics. A switchboard is like a switchgear, but it is usually smaller and less complex with lower electrical ratings.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two electrical terms. By the end of this post, you’ll gain additional insights into switchgears and switchboards.

Compare Switchboard vs Switchgear

What Is A Switchgear?

switchboard-vs-panelboard

To define switch gear, it is a range of devices or systems that function to regulate electricity delivery. The assemblies and components included in switchgears can also help in securing and isolating other systems.

Take note that switchgears also have differences among their types. For example, a medium-voltage model often works to distribute and manage power between 1KV to 75KV. On the other hand, a low-voltage variant may only control systems up to 1KV.

What Is A Switchboard?

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Like an electrical switch gear, a switchboard works to distribute electricity through connected power systems safely. It can also aid in controlling electrical flow to prevent issues.

For instance, general switchboards can be ideal enclosures to house circuit breakers and fused switches.

Fusible switchboards also exist, and these models can be good options for commercial and industrial applications. A switchboard may supply power to a connected device, such as another panel and transformer.

Differences

One of the dissimilarities between switchboards and switchgears is the components they have. First, the components normally used in a switchgear include:

  • Insulators
  • Lightning arrestors
  • Control panels
  • Potential transformers

As for the switchboard, its typical components usually comprise:

  • Enclosure
  • Bus
  • Instruments
  • Frame
  • Exterior cover
  • Overcurrent protective devices

Moreover, switchgears will come with more parts and a higher level of complexity.

Apart from the components, switchgears and switchboards generally have dissimilar applications. For example, a switchgear is often ideal for establishments like schools, laboratories, and commercial facilities due to its serviceable and removable breakers.

As for a switchboard, it does not allow for the same degree of adjustment. That said, a switchboard setup can be a practical option for residences and other small-to-medium infrastructures, since it is less bulky.

Switchboards are also less expensive (for the most part), and though they don’t have as many arc-quenching components as switchgears, average homes likely don’t require such things.

Pros And Cons Of Switchgear

Bear in mind that switchgear types are generally under two categories based on locations: indoor and outdoor models. Each classification will have its unique benefits and shortcomings.

For instance, an indoor switchgear typically uses a metal construction for its enclosure. This material helps provide durability to the assemblies and parts it houses. Due to this feature, indoor switchgears are more expensive than outdoor ones.

They are also more compact and less susceptible to external elements, making them more reliable.

Pros And Cons Of Switchboard

One advantage of using a switchboard is its upgradable trait. Upgrading a switchboard allows you to improve its features and specifications to accommodate changing electrical environments.

Doing so may also produce other advantages like reducing electrical hazards, compliance with standards, and improving electrical efficiency.

That said, switchboards are generally smaller than switchgears, and this translates to lower current ratings as well, whether they’re made by Eaton or other brands.

Typically, a switchboard lasts about 25 to 40 years. But that lifespan might be lower than expected depending on certain factors, such as the location of the panel.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is A Switchboard A Type Of Switchgear?

Despite their similarities in name and function, switchboard vs switchgear are different. Switchboards are not a type of switchgears. It’s because you can typically find three main switchgear types, which are:

  • Low-voltage
  • Medium-voltage
  • High-voltage

On the other hand, the general types of switchboard are:

  • General-purpose
  • Fusible
  • T-SAFE
  • Commercial metering
  • Draw-out molded case

All switchboards are usually low-voltage, unlike switchgears, which have higher ratings (up to 600V to up to 38kV).

What Is Considered Switchgear?

A switchgear is an apparatus that aims to manage the electrical supply for a property or structure. This object might include:

Switchboard And A Panelboard: What Is The Difference?

Perhaps one of the main differences between switchboard vs panelboard is the rating.

In particular, a panelboard often only has a rating of 1,200A at most, which is lower than a switchboard panel with an amperage rating of up to 5,000A. However, both types can handle voltages up to 600V.

What’s The Difference Between Switchboard Vs Distribution Board?

A switchboard may be used to supply electricity to smaller distribution boards. This setup is common in data centers. Hence, a switchboard is often bigger with a higher amperage capacity.

Switchboard vs Switchgear vs MCC: What Are The Differences?

You can find the differences between switchgear and switchboard from the discussion above. In particular, the switchgear meaning typically stands for a set device that can help in managing and supplying electricity to connected electronic objects.

As for the switchboard, it generally functions like a switchgear, but with less of a focus on circuit protection and more of a focus on metering.

In addition, switchgear power features undergo testing for different standards than switchboards (NEMA standard SG-5 rather than NEMA standard PB-2, for example).

On the other hand, a motor control center (MCC) is a structure that you shouldn’t confuse with a switchgear or switchboard.

One of the main differences between a switchboard vs motor control center vs switchgear is that only the MCC has motor control features.

Conclusion

By now, you should have some awareness of the similarities and differences between switchgear vs switchboard.

Remember, the two terms might be interchangeable in some applications. However, a switchgear and a switchboard are generally different entities within an electrical setup.

Plus, the term switchgear often stands for a more complex structure of different electrical components.

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