Low Voltage Switchboard: What is it and what is its purpose?


The low voltage switchboard plays a crucial role in electrical supply, but do you know what it does and why it’s so important?

It’s widely acknowledged that the electrical grid is complex. As we’ve detailed in prior discussions, the grid represents a complex interweaving of elements, each serving specific functions to ensure the consistent supply of energy. Among these elements, one of the closest to our points of consumption is the low voltage switchboard, a term that you might not have encountered before, prompting questions about its nature and function. Let’s delve into understanding the role of this element and explore why your ability to read these lines right now hinges on its proper functioning.

To grasp the function of the low voltage switchboard and its roles, we must first comprehend that the conduit through which electrical energy traverses towards our homes, workplaces, stores, medical centers, supermarkets, and other frequented places in our daily routine is not a single-lane road but rather a multi-lane and multi-directional highway. Each of these lanes leads, in a coordinated manner, to various nodes of energy consumption – the points where transformation and distribution centers execute their crucial operations. Comparable to a highway, the speed – or voltage in this context – varies according to the segment being traversed. Initially, energy approaches us at high voltage and gradually decreases its voltage as it draws closer, ensuring safety during energy consumption. Consequently, it shifts from high to medium voltage in the transformation and distribution centers, eventually reaching low voltage. This is precisely where our focal point resides: the low voltage switchboard.

LV switchboard inside an underground Ormazabal transformer substation
LV switchboard inside an underground Ormazabal transformer substation

We might define the low voltage switchboard as the ultimate distribution element of electrical energy before it reaches the consumption point. Yet, it’s pertinent to note that our homes also feature other components like the domestic electrical panel. Among the functions of this main component is ensuring that all electrical devices are properly connected and receive an appropriate amount of energy, while simultaneously shielding them from any issues arising due to network overloads and their dire consequences. Therefore, low voltage switchboards distribute electricity from the primary supply through the low-voltage network to the entrances of homes and businesses, ensuring a stable and entirely secure access point for consumers. This elucidates why they hold such immense significance in our day-to-day lives.

What kinds of low voltage switchboards exist?

While we now understand the primary functions of these switchboards, understanding their operational mechanisms remains. To do so, we must initially differentiate between the types of low voltage switchboards and their primary characteristics. Let’s delve into this:

  • Fuse switchboards: Equipped with replaceable fuses, these are protective components that fuse when network irregularities occur, guaranteeing the life of the connected equipment.
  • Circuit breaker switchboards: Distinguished from the former, these possess circuit breakers that trip (akin to how a switch operates) in the event of an overload, thereby protecting both the life of other elements and maintenance workers from potential electrical discharges.

How has the evolution of the low voltage switchboard impacted consumers and what advantages has it brought?

evolution of low-voltage network and switchboards in public distribution

Similar to other electrical equipment, low voltage switchboards have evolved in tandem with the needs of the electrical grid and its consumers. Consequently, these have transitioned from being merely mechanical components, with evident technical complexities, to becoming fully integrated products within the intelligent electrical grid – ensuring their remote monitoring and control – all facilitated by the integration of electronic and IT components.

Moreover, low voltage switchboards have augmented their safety and functionality through technological innovation stemming from development trials and tests conducted by the electrical equipment industry.

Ormazabal, manufacturers of LV switchboards with over 55 years of experience in the electrical grid

Ormazabal’s comprehensive knowledge in the electrical grid and their efforts to transform it into a future infrastructure – more reliable, resilient, and sustainable – have culminated in the development of the intelligent low-voltage switchboard with insulated busbar, named addibo. This low-voltage switchboard – a native digital product – is fully equipped with a range of cutting-edge technological elements that enable its customization according to the smartization needs required in the LV network. Thus, we find the following variants:

  • addibo.compact: Fuse holders with a header switch
  • addibo.urban: Fuse holders with a header switch and advanced supervision (optional)
  • Bases with automated circuit breakers and feeder with a load break switch (optional)
The addibo low voltage switchboard within a Digital Transformation Station

The addibo is fully certified according to the IEC 61439 standard and boasts the following technical specifications:

  • Rated voltage: 440 V
  • Rated current: up to 1600 A
  • Frequency: 50/60 Hz
  • Industrial frequency withstand voltage: 2.5 kV for active parts and 10 kV to ground
  • Lightning impulse withstand voltage: 20 kV
  • Short-circuit current: up to 25 kA for 1 second
  • Internal arc classification: IAC 25 kA for 1 second

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