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Switchgears VS Switchboards: The Differences

Feb. 08, 2022


Distribution panels and switchgear are both important systems that control the way electricity is delivered to a circuit. These terms are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to understand that switchboards and switchgear each perform a different function. They are often designed to work in tandem to provide maximum protection and coordination.


Because the two units have different capabilities and functions, they are each suitable for different types of installations and can be used in different phases of the grid. The decision to use switchboards, switchgear or both will depend on the requirements and design of the power system in question. To understand where each unit works best, we will look at their basic differences and functions.



Understanding Switchgear

Switchgear is a collection of switchgear required to provide service to low, medium, or high voltage circuits. These devices are used to turn on and off power to transformers, generators, motors, transmission lines, and power networks in domestic, commercial, and industrial distribution systems.

Low Voltage Fixed-mounted Switchgear

Low Voltage Fixed-mounted Switchgear     

Switchgear consists of two main components.

Power switching/conducting components, such as circuit breakers, surge arresters, or fuses, disconnect the power flow in the event of a fault.

Power control components, such as control panels, protective relays, and current transformers, protect, monitor, and control power conduction.


Understanding the Switchboard

Switchboards can be in the form of single panels, assembled panels, or structural frames. They allow the incoming power to be divided into smaller circuits as required. Circuit breakers and overcurrent protection devices should be selected according to the load current.


After the switchboard has shunted the currents, these currents are distributed by load (for example, lighting loads or plug sockets). Some switchboards, such as those used in residential environments, have the option of measuring the amount of electricity used by each individual circuit.


The main components of a switchboard are.

Panels/frames that accommodate devices such as circuit indicators and switches to allow the delivery of power or control of each circuit.

Control/monitoring devices to connect/control multiple power sources to/from the switchboard. These can include frequency meters and synchronizers.

Bus bars convey/distribute input power from their power sources to different parts of the installation.

High Voltage Switchgear

High Voltage Switchgear


Switchgear vs switchboards: the differences

The main difference between switchgear and switchboards is the voltage each is designed to handle. Switchgear is designed for high voltages (up to 350 kV), while switchboards are designed for voltages below 600 V.


Because switchgear is designed for high power handling capabilities, they use devices such as circuit breakers. These breakers can be removed or replaced while the system is still in operation. Switching devices operate on mechanisms that can connect and subsequently disconnect power to other circuits or loads. In addition to circuit breakers, this includes devices such as fuses and relays.


While switchboards consist of similar mechanisms to those used in switchgear systems, switchboards typically consist of panels, frames, or assemblies on which buses, mechanisms, and instruments, such as protective devices and switches, are mounted.


Understandably, HVAC projects can be complex. If this seems like a problem best left to the professionals, you're better off asking yourself, "Is there a local engineer or plumber near me who can help me with my problem?"


If you would like to learn more about the differences between switchgear and switchboards, or need help and advice on other issues related to HVAC electrical work, air conditioning repair, or heating and cooling, please contact us today.

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