Are Modular Testing Enclosures Best for Your Battery Testing?

July 21, 2022 - Author: Matt Jorgensen, Facility Engineering and Site Management

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Advantages and disadvantages of modular testing

Modular Electrical Enclosures May or May Not Be Right for You

Modular testing enclosures are all the rage in electrification testing. Modular electrical enclosures have a lot going for them – mobility, low disruption to working facilities, and cost efficiency, just for starters. Despite this impressive resume, in some situations, modular enclosure systems are not your company’s best bet.

Why is Everyone Talking About Modular Enclosure Systems?

You can trace much of the interest in modular test enclosures to the electrification race. Companies all over the U.S. are investing in battery research and development – an uncharted path for some.

“There are a lot of unknowns, so a lot of companies are very nervous when it comes to modular electrical enclosures existing and new battery technologies,” said Matt Jorgensen, Director, Facility Engineering and Site Management at ACS.

The internet abounds with videos of battery fires and explosions. Understandably, many companies want their battery test cells as far from their main facility as possible. For various reasons – from the footprint of existing structures to permitting obstacles – building a brick-and-mortar test facility on the site is not always possible.

That’s where modular test enclosures shine.

What is a Modular Testing Enclosure?

A modular test enclosure is a custom-fabricated steel shell for a test cell. Rather than dealing with construction onsite at a working facility, companies can have their modular enclosures fabricated offsite in a controlled shop environment.

After fabrication and quality testing in the shop, the enclosure is shipped to the site, set on a concrete slab, and connected to utilities. That’s all it needs to be ready to go.

Advantages of Modular Test Enclosures

Modular test enclosures are ideal for testing most battery and electrical components.

  • A modular enclosure can technically be considered equipment, not a structure. It typically requires fewer permits and has tax and depreciation benefits over a brick-and-mortar building.
  • Modular enclosures are mobile. Companies can relocate them around a site or even ship them off to a new facility as part of a renovation project.
  • Because a modular enclosure is built offsite, it causes minimal disruption to a working facility. Employees don’t have to work around construction equipment and contractors. This also benefits facilities in remote areas where a lack of contractors makes construction expensive.

Disadvantages of Modular Test Enclosures

Modular enclosures can be set up some distance from the main building – an attractive feature to companies who worry that battery fires could endanger their entire facility.

“The idea is, if a battery catches fire, you’re only burning up this steel box,” Jorgensen explained. “You let it burn, throw it away, and bring in a new one without risking your building.”

That said, if your company plans to routinely perform destructive testing that could result in fires and explosions, modular enclosures may not be the bargain they seem to be. Modular test enclosures are made from steel, but when it comes to fire or blast rating, steel can’t hold a candle to reinforced concrete at the same price point.

“You can build a concrete structure with a blast rating of 150 pounds per square foot or higher dramatically cheaper than buying a steel enclosure,” Jorgensen said.

If non-destructive battery testing is being performed, or testing other electrical components besides batteries, steel enclosures are a good idea. If destructive testing is occurring, concrete may be a better path.

Because modular enclosures are built offsite and shipped to their final location, their size is also limited. Anything larger than 12 feet wide by 40 feet long by 10 feet tall typically requires special vehicles and permits that quickly eat away at modular cost savings.

Should You Invest in Modular or Brick-And-Mortar?

Modular test enclosures have a lot to offer, but they’re not the perfect solution every time. For modular enclosure systems to deliver their full slate of benefits, it has to be applied for the right reasons in the right circumstances.

To decide if a modular enclosure can deliver the features you need, connect with us. Our expertise in modular testing, equipment, and facilities provides the foundation you need to make a confident decision.