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Designing a control panel rated for a classified area can be a daunting task for individuals with limited or no prior experience. These four basic steps should get you started in the right direction:
1. Determine applicable codes for your geographic region—Before embarking on the design and laying out components, determine which governing agencies and applicable codes will come into play. That includes being cognizant of where the system will be built in addition to where it will be installed. If installed in another country you may have additional regulations to consider.
2. Obtain official documentation that declares the area classification—Note the emphasis on official, getting verification of the declared rating with tangible documentation. This is not an area in which “back of napkin,” or “word of mouth,” will suffice. A misstated classification requirement jotted down during a conference call could result in very serious if not deadly consequences.
3. Identify design constraints that may limit viable options—Knowing what capabilities can’t be supported can avoid going down dead ends. For example, don’t suggest a pressurized cabinet if instrument air isn’t available.
4. Don’t sacrifice functionality and safety as you weigh the pros and cons of viable solutions—Don’t forget that control panels in classified areas are typically very costly to produce and must be de-energized for maintenance, which results in downtime.
The best solution is to move the system to a non-classified area and utilize intrinsic safety barriers. If relocation is not an option, then you must sift through the pros and cons of a pressurized (aka purged) enclosure versus an XP (explosion proof) enclosure to determine a path forward.
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