An Interview with Paul Sedlet
Building a Better Junction Box
The following is an interview conducted by Dairyland Business Development Leader, Tim Bechtel, with Paul Sedlet, the President of Accurate Corrosion Control, Inc.
Paul has been working in the corrosion industry for over 35 years. He is a Cathodic Protection 4 Specialist (CP-4) and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from University of Arizona. Like others who have been in this industry for as many years, Paul has installed his fair share of junction boxes for a wide variety of purposes. With his history, we thought he would offer some good feedback and insight on the Dairyland UltraBox when comparing it to the traditional-style junction box.
Dairyland’s UltraBox is a customizable modular junction box that uses a moveable din rail mounting system to connect modules with industry-standard components, such as shunts and resistors. The UltraBox can be configured and assembled on the spot.
Unlike Dairyland’s UltraBox, a traditional junction box has these components on a fixed backplane. As a result, they must be pre-ordered from the manufacturer and configured in the factory, making modifications in the field quite challenging.
Thank you to Paul for taking the time to sit down with Tim to talk about one of Dairyland’s newest products: the UltraBox.
Tim: Any guess as to how many junction boxes you have installed over the years?
Paul: As a company, it’s in the many hundreds. Personally, I would say I’ve installed about 100.
Tim: What do you use junction boxes for mostly? (Anode junction box, interference bond, rectifier output box, positive/negative splitter, test station box).
Paul: We use them for all of the purposes you state. It varies by industry regarding what types and purposes the boxes are utilized for. They’re used, of course, wherever CP wires need to be terminated and monitored.
Tim: Historically, what is the most challenging aspect of installing a junction box?
Paul: I would say one of the most challenging aspects of installing a junction box is getting all the wires to fit and terminated to the locations you need them. Many CP cables are large—#2 HMWPE insulated or bigger—so they’re stiff and hard to bend. And sometimes the wires are too short (if it’s a replacement box), so they don’t reach where they’re needed.
Tim: Comparing a traditional junction box to an UltraBox, what type of planning do you need to do when it comes to ordering?
Paul: With a traditional J-box you need to know exactly how many wires you are terminating. These could be bond wires, test wires, reference cell, coupon, or anode wires. One big advantage of the UltraBox is that you can have a plan, but if something was missed, different than expected, or changes, it’s usually not a problem. That’s because the system is made to be adaptable/changeable — it’s plug and play. For example, if you need another shunt circuit, just add one to the rail. In a traditional J-box, if you need another shunt circuit, you would need to take everything apart, drill holes in the board, find the hardware, and reinstall it. This all takes a lot of time, and increases the chance of something being wired wrong as well.
Tim: Have you had issues in the past where the planned installation needs to be modified once in the field? What kinds of costs or delays are associated with that?
Paul: Oh sure, that happens all the time. Or we do an installation as planned, but shortly after something changes. It just happened this week, actually. Fortunately we’d installed an UltraBox, so now it’s an easy modification. In this case, the UltraBox was installed for a pipeline crossing with interference. It was designed for sacrificial anodes to drain the stray current, and it worked great. But conditions changed, and now an interference bond is required. The company [I was working with] specifies a reverse current switch for their interference bonds, so it’s an easy fix now to just add that to the rail. With a traditional box, it likely would have required replacing the entire box, or best case scenario spending half a day rebuilding the box to accommodate the additional component.
Tim: Most customers are concerned with costs. Because the UltraBox is a premium product, it costs more than a traditional junction box. Could you tell me why someone would choose to spend more money for the UltraBox over a traditional junction box?
Paul: It’s a bit more for the box up-front, but what’s really expensive is labor. The UltraBox saves you time on the installation, future maintenance, and especially if any modifications are ever needed.
Tim: Once installed, I’m sure most junction boxes rarely need to be modified. Could you tell me why someone might need to modify a junction box after it has been installed and has been in service for a while?
Paul: It’s surprising how many times J-boxes do need to be modified. For example, a new pipeline is installed in a common corridor. Or sacrificial anodes are added at a crossing. Things like that.
Tim: It sounds like there are some advantages to go with one over the other. Could you tell me what you think is the greatest advantage of the UltraBox over a traditional junction box?
Paul: Ease of installation and the ability to modify it, for sure. The extra room in the boxes is a huge advantage as well, as is the fact that the din rails can be moved up and down. It really makes installation faster. Another thing I really like about the UltraBox is that all the connections are visible. With traditional boxes, there’s often connections behind the board that you can’t see without taking it all apart. And traditional boxes require maintenance when the hardware becomes loose, which requires hours to take it all apart and tighten things. It’s surprising how often that’s necessary, but anyone who’s worked in these boxes has had to deal with it. That problem is solved with the UltraBox.
Tim: It sounds like the UltraBox is a great option to have in your toolbox to tackle any project you have, but especially handy to tackle the unknowns that occasionally pop up.
Paul: Exactly. It’s a huge improvement over traditional J-boxes. And I really like that we can have all the parts in stock to build whatever we need, on the tailgate and at a moments notice. It’s a better product and a real time and money saver!
Tim: Wow, thank you Paul for all of that great insight and information on your experience with junction boxes and Dairyland’s UltraBox. I truly appreciate the time you have given to talk with me today, and all of the great feedback you provided.
Paul: Thank you, Tim. I appreciate all Dairyland does for the industry and the great support you all provide!