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Southernhighlander

Electrical standards for control panels 409 or 508A

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We have been building control panels for our Baine marie stills using the NEC 409 standards and all UL listed components for almost 6 years now.   I am in the process of paying UL for the panels built in our shop to be recognized as 508A panels.  Our panels will then have a single UL device listing, but this will cost several thousand up front and several thousand per year, so the price of our baine Marie stills will increase. I do think that it is worthwhile,  however i see that many of my competitors are still using non UL listed and CE only components to build their panels which are therefore not NEC 409 compliant.    In many situations where these non compliant panels are used, they are not inspected.   In other situations these panels fail inspection and we have had some customers purchase our NEC 409 compliant panels to replace the sub quality panels supplied by their equipment vendors.     One of the most dangerous things that I see, are panels that have cooling fans inside that pull air through the panels to cool the relays.  Our panels are In NEMA4 wash down enclosures.  They are not open to atmosphere and do not have or need cooling fans.  I know of at least 4 well known distillery equipment vendors that supply control panels for stills that have cooling fans in either NEMA1 enclosures or they are using NEMA 4 panels that they have cut openings into, thus rendering them non compliant for NEMA 4 and non compliant for hazardous locations.

 Does anyone have any feedback concerning this?

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My opinion on this is that as a buyer of equipment, first, I need an equipment manufacture that is up to speed on the current certification code compliance.  Then I want to be educated on the value proposition for decisions.  I need you to be the expert and help me the customer understand what you think I need and the trade offs for less or more features... what you are doing in this post.  Paying more is fine  if it makes sense and is a value to me.

I would also advise you to think about your market and what you want your brand to represent... and just be committed, convicted and passionate about what you decide.   Can you be a lower-cost equipment manufacture while also being tops in safety code compliance?  Maybe.  But it will certainly create some challenges.   Low cost buyers are sometimes willing to take risks on product quality.  Just check out those Walmart buyers acquiring inexpensive Chinese-made appliances... things that they could not afford otherwise... so the binary decision they have to make is to go without, or take a chance on the cheap Chinese brands.  Some roll the dice.  Maybe you don’t want those cheaper product risk-takers as customers?   As you point out there are plenty of still manufacturers creating inexpensive systems.  Maybe your market sweet spot is above them and below those willing to spend twice as much on Vendome and wait for 2 years for it to be delivered.  

I am not saying you are a cheap Chinese brand... far from it.  You have already established a brand of affordable AND reliable/quality equipment.  So maybe you add to that “safe” to that.   Affordable, Reliable and Safe!

Personally, I believe some distillery equipment manufacturers have jacked their prices due to the craft distillery fever.  I appreciate that you have taking an approach to keep your margins consistent and focus on value and customer service.  It is my opinion that this is the approach that wins the long-game.  Those built on hype and greed will crash when the fever ends.

Lastly, I think there is some great responsibility for still manufacturers to over-engineer safety features.  Especially with all the craft distillery fever... because so many dreamers without experience are going to be creating highly flammable vapors that can kill them and others around them. 

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Hello Paul.  I will be needing to get in touch with your team in the next week or two to start discussing ordering equipment; please let me know if it's best to do that by email or phone?

In the meantime, can you confirm whether your current or potentially new panels will have either CSA certification or more likely, formal cUL certification for us Canucks?  Our electrical inspector says "not good enough" that US-made panels meet UL specs and are UL certified if they're not plastered with cUL or CSA stickers.  Our Chinese contacts say "we can put whatever stickers you want on our electronics" but we're of course not interested in that.

Thanks, and will be in touch.

George

 

 

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George,

 

To date we have never had any of our panels fail an inspection in Canada and we have several distilleries in Canada using gour equipment.  All of those panels were built in the USA with all UL/cUL components and they met the requirements of the US NEC 409 standard for control panels, however they do not carry the 508A panel UL listing.  It will be a few more weeks before we become a UL/cUL listed shop.  NEC 409 panels will pass inspection anywhere in the US and so far mine have passed every inspection in Canada as well.  If you have any doubts I am glad to supply you with a cUL listed Chromalox panel as I am a Chromalox dealer and that panel is n the same price range and has a similar PID module, so it is no problem for us to supply you with a panel that will pass inspection in Canada.  

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Actually, our panel did fail inspection. We were forced to spend $1100 to get it 'Canadainized'. I suspect however, this was not the fault of the unit, rather the enthusiasm of the inspector who saw an opportunity, wherein it would be unlikely we would complain as we were eager to keep the process moving. He won, we paid - sigh. Such as it is.

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23 hours ago, Glenlyon said:

Actually, our panel did fail inspection. We were forced to spend $1100 to get it 'Canadainized'. I suspect however, this was not the fault of the unit, rather the enthusiasm of the inspector who saw an opportunity, wherein it would be unlikely we would complain as we were eager to keep the process moving. He won, we paid - sigh. Such as it is.

I'm really sorry to hear that.  If I had known I would have traded it out for a cUL listed Chromalox panel. 

 

I will let everyone know as soon as our shop becomes a UL/cUL shop, which should be very soon.  Once that occurs all of our panels will be UL and cUL listed.

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