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Distribution panel supply to France #139025 10/10/03 01:26 PM
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 7
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Elect Offline OP
Junior Member
I am looking into the feasiblity of supplying a power distribution panel (1200a) to an end user in France. My first thought was to have the panel supplied by a well know supplier who has representation both in North America and France. This went no where in a hurry and I had similar results with other such vendors.

Currently I am considering having the panel built in North America ensuring that the breakers it contains are CE compliant and that I have the appropriate declarations of conformity. The switchboard itself has all the North American approvals however is not manufactured to meet European standards.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone with experience in this area.

Regards

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Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139026 10/10/03 04:34 PM
Joined: Dec 2002
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djk Offline
Member
There is a very simple explanation to this:

If it is not CE approved and you export it for use in France or any other European country you are putting yourself at major risk of prosecution. If there's a fire, shock, problem of any type you could as the supplier be found to be fully liable. The penalties for something like that can be really severe : anything from banning you from ever selling anything in an EU country right up to jail time.

European regulatory bodies can be extremely tight on approvals.

If you're supplying anything that could be used in hazardous area it may be necessary to provide proof that all of the component parts are fully certified both electrically and mechanically.

The panel itself would have to have CE approval at the very least and you would have to check out other requirements. It would also be quite likely that it would need to be tested in France or an other EU country by an approved testing lab!

To be quite honest it's almost more trouble than it's worth to supply non-approved electrical gear for one off installations.

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139027 10/11/03 05:26 PM
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pauluk Offline
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Yes, the CE approval fiasco certainly makes things difficult, and we've heard all sorts of horror stories here about small companies being put out of business due to the cost and idiotic red-tape of complying with all this nonsense.

As far as I'm concerned, if it's good enough for UL, it's good enough for me. Unfortunately, most of the standards bodies in this part of the world are so anti-American that they'd never accept that.

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139028 10/12/03 12:26 AM
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Bjarney Offline
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I'm sure IEC and UL are both guilty of severe 'NIH' [Not Invented Here] syndrome, and that’s likely to continue for centuries, except for token but much-publicized efforts at standards “harmonization.”

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139029 10/12/03 08:17 AM
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djk Offline
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Well it's not really fair to say that either. Cenelec / CEE regulations are anti-american. Likewise it's unfair to say that UL are particularly anti-european.

They're just based around different principles and work from different origins.

Also for quite legitimate technical reasons such as higher voltage there are tougher regs in force in Europe. E.g. sorrounding 380V distribution panels and wiring in homes.

Generally the EU approach to regulation when it comes to safety is excellent and I prefer some of how it does things to the US approach in many ways particularly in relation to environmental issues. I'm not being anti-American but I do feel that US regulations take business concerns a little more seriously than EU equivilants which tend to be much more independent. That being said, it's all a matter of balance and how people prefer to do things in different places.

CE marking is not really a fiasco. It's a very broad ranging system and doesn't simply cover electrical or mechanical safety. It insures total product safety by setting down a framework of basic requirements which must be complied with regardless of wheather it's a high pressure reactor or a teddy bear it must be safe.

For most companies what it has meant is that all of their products, even those destined for US / Asian markets end up being tested and approved and certified for CE complience as well as complying with specific UL regs which isn't necessarily a bad thing as it covers aspects of mechanical performance, construction, materials etc not simply that someone won't get a shock.

To give you an example of the differences take the CEE approach to explosive environments / hazardous areas is extremely comprehensive compared to US and other pre-exsisting European equivilants.

If you are installing a peice of equipment in a European industrial environment which presents potential explosion hazards this is how it works (basically)

Every component in the equipment has to be certified to comply with the "ATEX" directive.
This means that it cannot electrically or mechanically produce anything which could ignite an explosion e.g. mechanical processes and flowing liquids and solids producing potential problems with static electricity. This means that everything from complex electrical and electronic gear right through to simple things like pipes have to be fully ATEX approved.

You end up with a whole system that is completely explosion proof. However, it has meant that all of a sudden importing US approved equipment is unacceptable as while the overall peice of equipment might be deemed to be expolosion proof the individual components are not certified.

The European approach can go a little over the top with red tape in some instances but then again UL and other regulatory agencies seem equally bureaucratic.

I also like the idea that there are a few different approaches to safety in the world. If we did everything the same way there would be no innovation. E.g. European regs have borrowed ideas from US/Japanese regs and US and Japanese regs have borrowed good ideas from European regs.

It's always better to have a few "think tanks" around the world approaching problems from multiple angles.

However, I wouldn't suggest supplying a non CE / EN approved anything to a european customer in exactly the same way as I wouldn't suggest supplying a European approved but non UL approved system in the US.

Why can't you have the panel built in France or somewhere in the EU? I can't think of very many things that would be so specialised, in terms of distribution systems, that they couldn't be built in an EU country. Don't forget that the same basic regs apply across the 15 countries. Check UK, Germany, Netherlands etc. You might find suppliers more dealable with.

Also remember that if EDF (PoCo) or whoever is supplying you with power cannot obtain appropriate certification for a panel they will more than likely refuse to provide a supply.

You may also need to check out local NF (French standards).

Also be very much aware that French athorities tend to be some of the toughest in the world re: industrial standards.

[This message has been edited by djk (edited 10-12-2003).]

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139030 10/13/03 06:06 AM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 1,497
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C-H Offline
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Quote

The panel itself would have to have CE approval at the very least and you would have to check out other requirements. It would also be quite likely that it would need to be tested in France or an other EU country by an approved testing lab!

That should not be necessary. CE is self certification, although a few products require testing (medical products, I think. I'm very unsure, though).

The individual components should not need to be marked, as long as the manufacturer guarantee that the whole system meets the requirements.

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139031 10/14/03 07:09 AM
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 7
E
Elect Offline OP
Junior Member
Thanks for the input. This is basically what I thought I would hear.

The problem I am faced with is that some of the larger international suppliers don't seem to be well enough connected to their European counterparts to handle this. You'd think that this type of request comes up frequently enough that they could easily accomodate you.

Perhaps having the panel supplied from the UK is an option I need to look into. At least there isn't a language barrier to deal with.

Thanks

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139032 10/14/03 05:19 PM
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Posts: 7,520
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pauluk Offline
Member
I still remain to be convinced about the CE system being effective. Just look at the mess of contradictory information when it was introduced. It's not for nothing that CE was jokingly referred to as "Confusion Everywhere."

Spain was too chaotic to enforce it at all, and just ignored the whole thing, allowing importers to slap CE labels on their equipment whether it had been tested or not.

Germany refused to accept the directive and still insisted that machinery received their own VDE approvals.

In Britain we had government officials contradicting each other as to the true nature of the scheme, while small manufacturers were being fordced to close due to the exorbitant costs involved with sending devices off for approval.

Elect,
You might like to take a look at the Crabtree range to give you some idea of what's available from the U.K.

Click on the "Download literature" link and you'll find some catalogs in PDF form.

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139033 10/14/03 09:48 PM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,250
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djk Offline
Member
NSAI (National Standards Athority of Ireland) occasionally does random swoops on shipments to check CE marking amongst other things.

For some reason the ESB still recomends that you check for a VDE logo on new appliences though in all of their home safety litrature!

Re: Distribution panel supply to France #139034 10/14/03 09:52 PM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,250
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djk Offline
Member
With telephone equipment I remember BT operating a really over the top enforcement of what could/couldnt be connected to the UK network.

Telecom eireann / eircom never really had anything like that here. Basically they seemed to take the approach that you can't really damage the network by connecting anything that is actually a phone, fax, modem etc to it. If it works it works if it doesn't it doesnt. The worst you could do was engage your line.

What was it called in the UK again B*** approval?

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