Everything carrying the ‘industrial’ moniker is built to a higher standard. When it comes to electrical supplies, these will have higher current ratings, better safety features, more adaptability and significantly better build than anything used at home. This means switches, plugs, sockets, circuit breakers, and a range of other equipment that only find use in an industrial or commercial setting. The reason for this is that power needs, as well as the working environments differ greatly between homes and larger businesses.
Large scale commercial and industrial enterprises are power hungry entities that consume a significant proportion of the country’s energy output. They are fed higher voltage electricity from substations and have numerous machines and electrical equipment used in production, processing, packaging, and sorting a range of goods we consume on a daily basis.
And all this is done in a potentially dangerous environment. The industrial electrical supplies need to offer heightened reliability, continual power supply, and increased safety. This is to ensure that businesses meet productivity and efficiency goals without risk to employees or equipment. Let’s compare what most of us are familiar with – plugs and sockets used at home, and those used in typical industrial applications.
Compared to what you’d find in home appliances or devices, industrial plugs are meant to direct mains power to equipment and machinery with higher power needs. And to do so, they’ll be designed differently, with round pins arranged in a three, four or five pin configuration able to feed off three-phase high voltage electricity.
Three phase supply in effect allows for constant power supply even if the plug is partially damaged. Loads here are higher, so plugs need to be built tough. They’ll consist of better materials, like hardened nylon outer housings, and inner seals that shield pins made of highly conductive metals. Designs are also slightly different than what you’d typically see at home.
You’ll find metal cladding and rotating collar sleeves (for compatible sockets) in most industrial plugs. To offer better protection from high temperatures, exposure to various chemicals and liquids, consistent impact, vibrations and abrasion, the plugs are also rated against international and Australian standards. You’ll often see industrial electrical supplies like the plugs carrying some sort of IP rating and electrical certification. This means they’ve been tested for harsh industrial conditions.
Plugs and sockets, hands in a glove. They’re inseparable. Industrial sockets provide a connection point to the mains supply. As mentioned, this is higher than what you’d find at home, so the risks are also higher. Sockets used here need to provide safe power supply to any corresponding equipment with the matching plug.
They too have the build quality of industrial plugs. To ensure that a 3-pin plug can only be used with a 3-pin socket, the ground pin is in a different location than plugs and sockets with four or five pins. This means all equipment, motors, machines, or devices get the right electrical supply. Compared to plugs and sockets in Aussie homes, a two-pin plug works fine in a three-pin socket.
You’ll find industrial supplies such as electrical plugs and sockets come in handy in more demanding situations around the house. Think of gardening gear or corded tools, and their power needs. Also connecting things like water pumps for the pool or appliances in the tool shed or garage, where liquids, humidity and heat can pose risks to the power supply.
Both plugs and sockets used in industry come in higher current ratings, as well as higher voltages. Typically, this is at least double to what you’d find at home. For instance, a 100amp 5-pin socket feeding off a 500V power supply, can run equipment rated at 50000 Watts, or roughly 25 times more power than your typical inverter aircon or kitchen oven.
Industrial Circuit Protection Devices
You’re familiar with what a switch does (open-disconnect, and close-connect a circuit). But this often needs to be done manually. Automatic safety devices feature in your home’s mains box, and houses circuit breakers, main switches, and RCDs to control the flow of current in the house. Fuses and circuit breakers are tasked to cut off electricity in the event of an electrical fault. This can be a short circuit, a ground fault or current overload. Any case is dangerous, and potentially fatal.
Now consider that an industrial or commercial premises uses much more power, and has hundreds of electrical devices running at the same time. The safety risks are significantly greater if there is a fault. To ensure that there are no injuries or fatalities, as well as no damage to equipment and buildings (think electrical fires) circuit breakers, power supplies, residual current devices (RCDs), and their bigger brother RCBOs or residual current breakers with overcurrent protection are rated to industrial standards.
For instance, circuit breakers you’d find at home are of the B type, while those in settings with higher power needs are of the C and D type circuit breakers. D type miniature circuit breakers are used where power surges are normal, like in welding equipment or large motors, and won’t cut off power until a surge reaches ten times the recommended value. This makes sure that there is no cut to the power supply, and no interruption in productivity. Similarly, RCBOs are exclusively found in industrial applications to trip circuits at extremely high speeds as to prevent the risk of higher voltage causing electrocution.
Where to Source Industrial Electrical Supplies
Plugs, sockets, circuit breakers, RCD and RCBOs are just some of the basic gear used to safely supply power in an industrial or commercial environment. Source these items from reputed electrical retailers or wholesalers when buying in bulk. Here you’ll also find electrical testing equipment, cabling and wires, conduit and safety gear all used in more demanding settings.