Bus Duct: Electrical Power Distribution and a Busway | Alterum Technologies

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Last Updated on August 31, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Bus Duct: Electrical Power Distribution and a Busway

If you’re a facility manager or IT professional tasked with designing or scaling your organization’s data center, this can be challenging when you have to choose between power distribution options. We understand that you’re not an electrician. But you need to come up to speed very quickly on terms and technology that can influence the efficiency and capability of your data center.

We’ll explain what a bus duct is and when it makes sense to install it into your system. Plus, we’ll cover other related technologies like a busway so that you can make informed decisions about the design and implementation of your data center’s electrical power distribution.

What is a Bus Duct?

A bus duct, also referred to as a busbar or busway, is an alternative way to conduct electricity. Often utilized by commercial and industrial organizations, a bus duct sends electricity to a cable bus or power cables.

A bus duct is a sheet metal duct with copper or aluminum metallic bars or strips that can transmit a significant amount of electrical current. These metallic bars are also called busbars. Because it is scalable, bus duct can be implemented anywhere cable or conduit is typically used.

Related Link: Data Center Capacity Planning [Ultimate Guide]

Advantages of Bus Duct

When it comes to transmitting and distributing huge loads of electrical energy, a bus duct is an ideal solution for several reasons:

  • Can transmit and transform huge volumes of power
  • More efficient
  • Solves complex control problems
  • Higher safety
  • More reliable power transmission
  • Lower cost
  • Low maintenance
  • Flexible for changing load requirements
  • Strong overload capacity
  • Solid heat dissipation performance

For many facilities and organizations, a bus duct will be a superior option to cable.

When to Install Bus Duct

A common misconception about bus ducts is that it’s only for high amperage applications and facilities. While it can handle between 100 A to 6500 A, the bus duct can be smartly used by low amperage applications and technologies. A bus duct is ideal for a data center because it is vastly superior to cable because of its capability and scalability.

Bus duct can be a more flexible option that can accommodate directional changes utilizing elbows and offsets. This allows it to handle load changes, which can be helpful for certain applications.

When Not to Install Bus Duct

You’ll want to use cable or conduit when installation may be exposed to corrosive vapors. Bus ducts cannot work in this type of environment. If your data center has a high humidity level, then you won’t want to use a bus duct inside the data center.

You also don’t need a bus duct for significantly low levels of power. In this case, you can use it, but it would be overkill and more costly than your cable needs.

Need an efficient power distribution system for your data center? Contact us to customize an optimal solution for your data center.
Related Link: Data Center Power: Best Guide to Efficient Power Management

data center that requires significant power from a busway

Why is Bus Duct Used Instead of Cable?

Most building construction prefers to use bus duct to cable installation because it:

  • Requires Less Design Space: When you need to manage medium to high amperage, the bus duct requires less space and has a more compact design than a cable that often requires more space to accommodate its bend radii.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: Because of its modular design, the bus duct is easy to reconfigure, expand, and relocate for a relatively low cost. Making these changes can be done with minimal disruption to the power service.
  • Reduced Resistance: The bus duct design and lower density levels optimize the distribution of current density, which reduces resistance. Its design minimizes the distance between conductors, reducing resistance and voltage loss.
  • Lower Cost Over Time: While some perceive bus duct to be more expensive, it’s more cost-effective over time because it is more efficient and low maintenance. And because it enables you to plan the load rating for the power distribution system precisely, you can accurately budget and don’t have creeper costs later in the project.
  • Safe and Quick Installation: Bus duct is very easy to install because they assemble efficiently and are designed to fit the space requirements. The bus duct is designed for safety so that installation isn’t complicated. It doesn’t require extra tools or extensive expertise.

Related Link: Data Center Cabling Best Practices Guide

What is Busway Power Distribution?

A busway is a compact prefabricated power distribution system that utilizes bus ducts within an enclosure. The busway conducts electricity to electrical equipment like panelboards, transformers, switchgear, cable buses, and power cables. The Busway includes:

  • Bus ducts
  • Fittings
  • Housing
  • Insulating system
  • Devices
  • Accessories

Busways make it really easy to install and fit into specific space requirements. Busways are also lighter and smaller than wire and conduit configurations. Because a busway can handle low to high amperage, it is often used for industrial facilities, residential complexes, utilities, petrochemical, and data centers.

What is the Difference Between Busway and Bus Duct?

A busway is a prefabricated power distribution system that utilizes many components to manage and conduct electricity. A bus duct is an electricity duct component of the busway system. Because bus ducts make up a busway, these terms are used interchangeably because their function is the same.

woman monitoring her data center power from a busway

Bus Ducts are an Ideal Alternative to Cable in a Data Center

Bus ducts are ideal for powering your data center because they are more efficient, easier to install, and don’t hinder the airflow for your cooling system. A busway power distribution system allows for more flexibility, scalability, and lower cost over time. So if you’re currently designing or reconfiguring your data center, you may want to consider a busway system to replace your power cabling.

Alterum Technologies is a best-in-class resource for designing and building sustainable data centers. We have the education and expertise to guide you through building your data center power, cooling, and infrastructure.

Need help designing your power needs for your data center? Contact us to consult with one of your power management experts. 

Related Link: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE): A Complete Guide

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