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Use of NEMA vs. IEC-Rated Contactors

An overview of the key differences between NEMA and IEC-rated contactors.

Ken Bobick

HVAC Product

Manager,

Emerson Control

Techniques –

Americas, LLC

Historically, Control Techniques has manufactured our

HVAC packaged product using IEC-rated contactors because they provide us with a lower cost solution

in the smallest possible package without sacrificing

performance. As a result, we have standardized on their use in our bypass solutions but do quote the use of NEMA- rated contactors on request.

While it is an asset that we can provide both styles of contactors within our HVAC packaged product it is important to understand the differences (advantages) of using either a NEMA-rated device as compared to an IEC- rated device.

NEMA-rated components are conservative in their design,

covering a broader range of application making them easier to select and apply. The broader range is also a

benefit when the actual load is not known providing additional flexibility during commissioning. IEC-rated components are more application specific which allows

them to perform at a higher level within a narrower application range.

For example, a NEMA Size 1 contactor has a 10hp rating at 460V – which only requires a switching capability of 14A, however, the continuous current rating of a NEMA Size 1 contactor is 27A – a 100% safety factor. This safety factor

results in an electrical life of up to 10 million operations of

some NEMA contactors.

An IEC contactor with a 10hp rating at 460V (14A FLC)

typically has a current rating of 16 to 18A, a 10 to 20%

safety factor. The electrical life of an IEC contactor in this application is typically 1.2 to 1.5 million operations.

In fact, most IEC devices rated up to 100A provide an

electrical life of 1.0 to 1.8 million electrical operations.

Keep in mind that the number of NEMA contactors (8)

available from 1 to 200hp as compared to the number of

IEC contactors (15) in some cases require an oversized NEMA device for the application adding unnecessary additional cost and size.

continues on page 2 ...

Use of NEMA vs. IEC-Rated Contactors An overview of the key differences between NEMA and IEC-rated
Use of NEMA vs. IEC-Rated Contactors An overview of the key differences between NEMA and IEC-rated

Similarly, NEMA contactors are physically more robust than IEC contactors – housings are larger, contactors often include

a metal base plate, and current carrying parts are larger which can result in a longer mechanical life compared to IEC

contactors. The mechanical life of NEMA Size 0 to 3 contactors

may be up to 30 million operations. Equivalently rated IEC contactors (9A to 100A) typically provide a mechanical life of 10 million to 15 million operations. In some cases, the

footprint is as much as 25% larger for a NEMA contactor as

compared to its IEC counterpart (see photo, right).

Contactor Specifications

 

NEMA Contactor

 

IEC Contactor

HP @ 460V

Size

Current Rating (A)

Dimensions (W x H x D) (in)

Size

Current Rating (A)

Dimensions (W x H x D) (in)

5

Double 0

9

1.75

X 3.88 X 3.49

B

9

1.77

X 2.95 X 2.68

7.5

0

18

1.75

X 3.88 X 3.49

B

12

1.77

X 2.95 X 2.68

10

0

18

1.75

X 3.88 X 3.49

B

12

1.77

X 2.95 X 2.68

15

1

27

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

C

25

1.77

X 3.83 X 3.46

20

2

45

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

C

32

1.77

X 3.83 X 3.46

25

2

45

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

D

40

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

30

2

45

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

D

40

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

40

3

90

4.08

X 7.17 X 5.94

D

50

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

50

3

90

4.08

X 7.17 X 5.94

D

65

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

60

3

90

4.08

X 7.17 X 5.94

F

80

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

75

4

135

7.05

X 9.11 X 7.25

F

95

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

100

4

135

7.05

X 9.11 X 7.25

G

115

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

125

5

270

7.05

X 13.12 X 7.78

G

150

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

150

5

270

7.05

X 13.12 X 7.78

L

225

5.51

X 8.19 X 7.09

200

6

540

8.63

X 13.54 X 8.88

M

300

7.87

X 8.50 X 7.87

 

HP @ 208V

Size

Current Rating (A)

Dimensions (W x H x D) (in)

Size

Current Rating (A)

Dimensions (W x H x D) (in)

5

0

18

1.75

X 3.88 X 3.49

B

15

1.77

X 2.95 X 2.68

7.5

1

27

1.75

X 3.88 X 3.49

C

25

1.77

X 3.83 X 3.46

10

2

45

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

C

32

1.77

X 3.83 X 3.46

15

3

90

2.56

X 5.05 X 4.44

D

50

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

20

3

90

4.08

X 7.17 X 5.94

D

65

2.17

X 4.48 X 4.09

25

3

90

4.08

X 7.17 X 5.94

F

80

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

30

4

135

7.05

X 9.11 X 7.25

F

95

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

40

4

135

7.05

X 9.11 X 7.25

G

115

3.54

X 6.69 X 5.59

50

5

270

7.05

X 13.12 X 7.78

L

185

5.51

X 8.19 X 7.09

60

5

270

7.05

X 13.12 X 7.78

L

225

5.51

X 8.19 X 7.09

75

5

270

7.05

X 13.12 X 7.78

L

250

5.51

X 8.19 X 7.09

100

6

540

8.63

X 13.54 X 8.88

M

300

7.87

X 8.50 X 7.87

125

6

540

8.63

X 13.54 X 8.88

M

400

7.87

X 8.50 X 7.87

150

6

540

8.63

X 13.54 X 8.88

M

500

7.87

X 8.50 X 7.87

200

7

810

11.02 X 19.03 X 11.46

N

580

9.13 X 10.63 X 9.13

TABLE 1

One of the main characteristics of NEMA contactors is their maintainability. Nearly all NEMA contactors (with

One of the main characteristics of NEMA contactors is their maintainability. Nearly all NEMA contactors (with the

exception of some Size 00 contactors) offer replaceable

operating coils and replacement contact kits (see Diagram 1). Contacts can be replaced when the contactor has reached the end of its electrical life. Disassembling these devices is not a simple task.

IEC contactors also have replaceable coils, but many devices

rated 30A or less are considered disposable and do not

have replaceable contact kits. Typically, IEC devices rated

above 30A (and 9A through 30A contactor from some manufacturers) have replacement contact kits to extend the

electrical life of the contactor. When considering replacing contacts, the cost of replacement

of the entire contactor in comparison to the cost of

replacement contacts and even more significantly the cost

of labor associated with changing the contacts. It is also important to note that an IEC contactor used on the input and output of the drive will see no inrush and/or limited arcing and that the bypass contactor is only used in the rare event of a drive failure so the instance of replacing these contacts would be minimal. Duty cycle should be considered in selection weighing the added cost of the NEMA rated component against the duty cycle of a typical bypass application.

Finally, for a given rating, an IEC contactor is generally less

expensive than a NEMA contactor – up to 40% of the price

of a NEMA contactor. The potential material cost savings of utilizing IEC contactors must be considered with the total installed cost (material, labor, maintenance, and replacement) over the life of the application.

One of the main characteristics of NEMA contactors is their maintainability. Nearly all NEMA contactors (with
Contacts Coil DIAGRAM 1 - Typical NEMA contactor configuration
Contacts
Coil
DIAGRAM 1 - Typical NEMA contactor configuration

IEC devices are more modular in nature using various DIN rail mounting styles where NEMA devices are panel mounted. The size difference with the NEMA devices also impacts enclosure

size, in some case requiring an oversized enclosure for a given horsepower rating to accommodate their use. This could

impact the enclosure costs an additional 25% (see Table 1).

Although there are differences in NEMA-rated contactors versus their IEC-rated counterparts, those differences are

not justified when used in the manufacture of bypasses for

variable frequency drives from a practical life, serviceability and, most importantly, cost viewpoint. The applications in

which the contactors are used in a drive bypass make the difference in these two types of contactors meaningless. We discourage the use of NEMA-rated contactors in bypass packages because they provide no real increase in reliability and only needlessly increase the cost and size of the bypass package. It is important to note that despite the perceptions

about size and assumptions about motor control complexity,

neither the NEMA nor the IEC is intrinsically better or safer than the other.

Driving Technology ...

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Driving Technology ... ............ ............ ............ ............ www.controltechniques.com AMERICAS Toll-free: 1-800-893-2321 info.cta@emerson.com Minneapolis Drive Center Headquarters

............

www.controltechniques.com

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© Control Techniques 2011. The information contained in this brochure is for guidance only and does not form part of any contract. The accuracy cannot be guaranteed
as Control Techniques has an ongoing process of development and reserves the right to change the specification of its products without notice. Printed in the USA.
P/N WHP-111123-Contactor
11/11