Essential Differences between NEMA and IEC Contactors Every Entrepreneur Must Know

Anyone working with NEMA or IEC contactors knows they aren’t the same. But you might not totally understand exactly what sets them apart. There are a few key distinctions that need to be made when talking about these two classifications of electrical equipment. Here’s what you need to know to understand the differences between NEMA and IEC contactors.

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How are NEMA and IEC Contactors Different?

There has been a history of confusion for people trying to understand the differences between these different types of contactors. While neither NEMA nor IEC contactors are inherently better, there are some differences between them.

Here are some of the most important things you need to know when distinguishing between the two:

  • At their most basic level, NEMA and IEC contactors are different because they serve different regions. NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association; IEC is International Electrotechnical Commission. Essentially, NEMA is for applications used in North America, or by North American companies operating overseas. IEC is primarily used by European and other international companies. In this way, comparing NEMA and IEC contactors is a little like feet versus meters. They both work fine. Each is just vastly preferred in different parts of the world.
  • Size is one of the most apparent differences between NEMA and IEC contactors. NEMA contactors are noticeably larger than their IEC counterparts for equivalent functions. There’s a reason behind this that illuminates one of the fundamental deviations between NEMA and IEC design protocol.
  • The size discrepancy between NEMA and IEC contactors has to do with their intended purpose. NEMA contactors are generally meant to fill a variety of roles and last a long time. IEC contactors are much more specialized. You’ll often need to choose one that aligns with a certain type of machinery. This comes down to a difference in school of thought. NEMA contactors focus more on operational efficiency, while IEC contactors are more about using less material.

When it comes to choosing whether you want to use NEMA or IEC contactors, it really comes down to organizational preference. You won’t have to do as much work if you go with a NEMA contactor; but IEC contactors can save space and money. Companies like Schneider Electric sell both NEMA and IEC contactors, so you can get exactly what you need for your enterprise.

Can You Choose to Use Either NEMA or IEC Contactors?

As stated above, NEMA contactors are mainly used in North America, while IEC is the standard in Europe and most other parts of the world. However, this doesn’t mean your organization can only use one kind or the other based on geography.

Multinational corporations might want to standardize their protocol across the board. Having consistency in all operations can make things run smoother. Ford Motor Company is one example of an enterprise that does this. They decided it made sense to use IEC contactors in all their plants that built Focus models, since they were located all over the world.

What Do NEMA and IEC Motor Controls Have in Common?

While there are certainly differences between NEMA and IEC contactors, there’s one important thing that they have in common. Both varieties utilize solid-state overload relays. What does this mean? The solid-state overload relay helps protect the motor and also lowers the incidence of nuisance tripping.

Motors often need a surge of power in order to get going. It’s important that the motor is kept safe from damage during that surge. While protecting the motor is the main priority, it can be really frustrating to deal with a breaker that regularly trips during that surge. Both NEMA and IEC motor controls utilize solid-state overload relays because they address these important elements.

Hopefully you now understand how NEMA and IEC contactors differ. Even though they’re not the same in how they function, they’re both well-equipped to accomplish their intended purposes.

Your Business Must Appreciate the Differences Between NEMA and IEC Contractors

Smart businesses can take advantage of the benefits of NEMA and IEC contractors. They serve some very similar purposes, but they are going to be different in some subtle ways. You can understand the differences and choose a contractor that best suits your needs.