Switchgear vs. Main Distribution Panel

@coachadamcoers Adam! The MEP expert!

What is the difference between switchgear and a main distribution panel? Are they the same thing with multiple names?

@coachmarissayee the biggest difference between switchgear and a main distribution panel are the voltages that they can handle and their rated ampacities. For most smaller projects, power is going to come from the utility through the meter into the main distribution panel - this panel will look very similar to a regular circuit breaker panel but is often times larger and rated for up to 1600Amps. Once you get to the 1600amp and greater panels this is when you will need to transition over to a switchgear. Within the switchgear you fill find many switches or circuit breakers which will then feed into various panelboards or transformers to change the voltage from 480V 3phase or 600V 3phase (typical) to the various voltages and phases (208V,120V,240V, 3phase or single phase) that is used throughout the building.

In some instances, there’s a need to go beyond switchgear into unit substations which pull medium to high voltages from the utility and transform that power from KV to V on site vs through a utility transformer - these would be your larger scale operations such as large manufacturing facilities with a high utility demand load.

For most light commerical and residential applications a main distribution panel would be sufficient.

hope this helps!

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