Acceptance of IEC Motor Starters

What's the Real State of Acceptance of IEC Motor Starters Right Now?

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We want to save cabinet space and money by using IEC motor starters instead of NEMA. Yes, they're global standards, but we're concerned about resistance to IEC outside of Europe. What's the real state of acceptance of IEC motor starters right now?

—From October '11 Control Design


IEC Starters Have Gained Acceptance

I interchange to and quote IEC contactors and starters almost daily as replacements for NEMA-sized units. There are heavy-duty applications for which customers only want NEMA-sized starters. Some IEC manufacturers can re-nameplate theirs to show NEMA size.

Overall, cost is the leading factor. If the product works, handles the ampacity, and has reasonable longevity, the customer is happy. IEC-style starters provide cost reduction in both open and enclosed versions, but more so with the enclosed units—for both the starter and the enclosure.

Many IEC providers also offer enclosed versions in plastic construction, whereas some NEMA suppliers offer only metal versions. This can provide an additional cost advantage where non-metallic is acceptable. Also, the plastic enclosures can make it easier to install because it is easier to drill out the plastic to install wiring/conduit connections. Where metal is required, these are usually available as well.

In the past three years, IEC contactors and starters have gained wide acceptance, and standard NEMA manufacturers and suppliers now offer their own IEC products, lest they lose market share. When NEMA starters are requested, I take the extra step to provide an IEC solution as well. Even those that requested NEMA often opt for the IEC once they do a cost comparison.

This does not mean that NEMA is going away. The NEMA ratings are robust and well-suited for longevity, especially in hard-to-access locations. But in many standard installations, the applications are equally served with an IEC solution. IEC controls are definitely taking market share away from the old NEMA-rated controls.

Rob Horton, Electrical Product Specialist,
Kaman Industrial Technologies,

IEC Winning

When it comes to NEMA vs. IEC controls, there are more IEC proponents than NEMA proponents. IEC is a significant factor as it relates to motor control in general, and motor starters specifically.

IEC industrial electronic components are gaining more and more acceptance in the manufacturing realm for several reasons.
First, they are significantly smaller in size. This greatly reduces the panel space that the components occupy, and, with real estate being at a premium, this is of major concern.

Second, the technology is newer, faster and rock-solid. As a general rule IEC starters react quicker than NEMA starters, which is particularly significant in a motor overload condition or phase loss because the time to open the circuit can be the difference between having to replace the motor or not.

Moreover, IEC technology incorporates arc-quenching devices to dissipate heat. NEMA devices rely on a larger overall component to dispel the heat, which, again, requires a larger footprint and occupies additional panel space.

As technology continues to evolve, the electronics get smaller, faster and smarter. Customers are requiring more and more technology packed in smaller, compact units. IEC components are gaining global acceptance and are showing higher recognition in the North American industrial marketplace.

Doug Yates, Product Manager, Micro Drive and Soft Starter,
Danfoss VLT Drives,

Competitive Edge

IEC contactors have come to be accepted as the standard in countless machine applications. Most IEC contactors carry both UL and CE marks, which makes them appropriate for applications in North America, Europe and globally. This flexibility, combined with cost and space savings, modern features and global availability have led most machine builders to use IEC contactors.

Today, IEC contactors are used across many applications and industries, including North American and global applications, in simple and complex installations, and in industries that span oil and gas, pharmaceutical, pumping panels, packaging and renewable energy, to name only a few. With extensive features, accessories and ratings, they can be scaled easily across a wider variety of applications.

Even so, there are still industries that use NEMA contactors. This often is driven by a specification or specific product that is not offered as an IEC contactor. Machine and panel builders that do not have a specific mandate from their customers to use NEMA-type contactors have moved to a global IEC design.

Additionally, as modern features and standards are introduced to the industry, they are commonly available first on IEC contactors. Machine and panel builders looking for a competitive edge or cost savings often rely on these features.

Jacob Feutz, Product Manager,

A Global Must

IEC contactors, starters and overload relays are well accepted outside of Europe. In the U.S., the actual market size for IEC (in dollars) is almost 60% larger than that for NEMA. When you look at units sold, it is probably more than double. As more and more manufacturers go global, the use of IEC components is a must, since most of them meet global standards, including those in North America.

Anthony Hart, Global Product Manager,
IEC Contactors, Relays and Starters,
Rockwell Automation,

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