A distribution switchgear device, comprised of fuses, circuit breakers and electrical relays, is a safeguard mechanism that controls the flow of electricity in residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems. Switchgears reduce electrical outages during periods of cable and power station maintenance, and they minimize system damage by identifying and clearing various faults and connection failures. Switchgears are single panels, frames, or an assembly of panels or frames mounted with electrical control devices, according to U.S. National Electrical Code.
A metal-enclosed switchgear, sheathed in steel and housing different types of circuit breakers, is typically placed indoors and is able to handle medium and low voltage applications. A metal-clad switchgear, usually placed outdoors, is waterproof and protects an array of relays, circuit breakers, transformers, meters and bus conductors. Industrial plants use both types of switchgear to ensure an organized distribution of power to manufacturing equipment. Power stations use both types of switchgears, which enclose various types of circuit breakers and surge protectors, to protect different electrical connections.
Switchgears also play a role in solar power, for which voltage and surge regulation is mandatory. Switchgears used in solar power installations regulate the flow of electric current from the primary unit to sub-units.
Switchboard devices are similar in function to switchgear devices, but switchgears handle up to 35,000 volts of electricity, and switchboards handle 600 or fewer volts.