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How Do You Choose and Purchase Fuse Panels for 19-inch Racks?

By Andrew Erickson

March 27, 2023

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When it comes to fuse panels for 19" racks, there are a few factors to consider.

With the right fuse panel, you'll be able to ensure reliable protection for your telecom system against overloads and surges.

What can a fuse panel do for me?

At the most basic level, a fuse panel is just a distribution panel for power in your facility. Fuses are included to protect each attached device against a surge. The fuse sacrifices itself to prevent equipment damage.

You should know, however, about something else as you start work on your project. A fuse panel can also be a "smart" device that can remotely toggle power on or off (including power cycling or remote reboot).

I've seen many of my clients be very happy with this sort of thing, as it's a relatively inexpensive equipment investment that can cut down on quite a few slow and expensive (and sometimes even dangerous) truck rolls. For sites accessible by snowmobile or (shudder!) helicopter only, the cost math of a smart PDU fuse panel is even more attractive.

What fuse types and capacities do you need?

In the world of remote telecom huts, I deal primarily in GMT fuse panels. This is a popular format. Despite the fact that GMT fuses are physically delicate (they're called "grasshopper fuses"), they have a good handle for changing fuses in and out.

We also see a fair number of 5mm x 20mm cylindrical fuses on various projects. These are notable because they are available in "slow blow" variants at higher amp capacities than GMTs. We recently developed a new "smart fuse panel" that supports 20A on two channels with the ability to survive high momentary in-rush current. Changing to 5mm x 20mm fuses helped us do that effectively.

As you work to choose and buy a fuse panel for your organization, remember that you're not trying to reinvent the wheel. There is huge value in standardization. You don't want to doom your technicians to carrying multiple different fuses on every site visit.

Look to what you already have in use. Unless someone before you made a very poor choice, your best choice today is probably to stick with that same fuse type.

How many devices will you be attaching to your fuse panel?

Once you've identified the fuse type and capacity, you'll need to think about how many devices will be connected. Many fuse panels are capable of powering entire secondary power distribution systems for telecom sites. They can easily handle dual feeds and perhaps even multiple (three or four) DC outputs.

There are fuse panels available that feature extensive lines of fuse slots and/or spares for 48 VDC systems. Depending on how many devices will be connected to your fuse panel, you may need to look into fuse panels that can accommodate higher amp draw and/or fuse types (see previous section).

Ultimately, making sure your fuse panel fits the needs of your telecom system should be the top priority when choosing and buying fuse panels for 19" racks. If a panel doesn't have enough fuse holders and connectors for the equipment at your site, you either need more panels or bigger panels.

Do you need NEBS-certified equipment?

Some applications require fuse panels that meet NEBS Level 3 certification in order maintain reliable primary power distribution. Talk to the subject-matter experts on your project to determine if this a requirement for you.

Based on my work at DPS, I can tell you that compliance with NEBS (or similar) requirements is often sufficient for projects. In those cases, engineers have simply wanted to know that they're purchasing reliable equipment. We use our in-house lab to perform testing for EMI and temperature and provide the test logs. That has frequently been plenty.

We have also had projects where NEBS Level 3 certification is an absolute requirement. In those cases, I have to use an off-the-shelf design that is already NEBS-certified by an independent testing lab, charge a fee to send a device out for testing, or write off our lab fee against a significant order (usually Qty 11 or higher, but that varies).

What else should you look for to indicate reliable fuse panels?

Look for fuse panels with durable construction and fuse holders that are rated to meet UL standards and (for Canada) CSA certified.

Also, use the old-fashioned tactic of researching the fuse panel manufacturer. Have they done this a lot, or are you going to be a "guinea pig" for a new device?

What have you seen at other similar locations in your industry? What do the big industry players know and trust?

How much power must be delivered? Will it be single-feed or dual-feed?

For some projects, 19" fuse panels must also be able to support 20A GMT and 48VDC secondary power distribution fuse panels for both single-and dual-feed applications.

When it comes to fuse panels, it's important to choose a fuse panel that will provide the necessary protection and power levels for your telecom system. If you need an extensive line of fuse panels for secondary power distribution, 19" fuse panels with high current ratings are ideal solutions.

You can choose the right fuse panel

When shopping for fuse panels, make sure you find one that meets your specific requirements, such as fuse type, current rating and power levels. This isn't rocket science, but there are some clearly different options that you must understand.

That's why I wrote this guide for you. I'm leveraging my industry experience (and, admittedly, some I borrowed from the DPS Engineering department) to give you a quick tutorial of the basics.

You don't have to buy without help

Of course, my offer to help you doesn't stop with this text. You're welcome to get in touch with me to have a discussion prior to any fuse panel purchase.

DPS does have a few different fuse panel models, all of them "smart" because they incorporate remote monitoring and control functions by also acting as "power distribution units" (PDUs).

Even if you just need a basic commodity "dumb" fuse panel, I'm happy to help you make the best choice for your company or agency. If I can't help you with a tough question, I have engineers down the hall from me who can.

Just call me at 1-800-693-0351 or email me at sales@dpstele.com

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Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...