Power over Ethernet (abbreviated PoE) is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Most Ethernet cables today are made PoE ready, but what exactly does that mean? What can PoE be used for and how is it different from other options used to accomplish those same tasks? This article will examine what PoE is, its uses, and how well it holds up compared to other modern-day technology.
What is Power over Ethernet (PoE)?
To understand PoE, start by thinking about how Ethernet cables work. At the core of every Ethernet cable, there is are lines of copper that run down the length of the entire cable. Ethernet cables transmit electrical signals that are interpreted by computers and other electronics as the 1’s and 0’s that make up binary code. The takeaway here is that Ethernet cables have always been capable of transmitting electricity since their invention. PoE just takes that function and moves it in a similar but slightly different direction.
PoE was first developed by the company Cisco. Up until this point, every electronic with Ethernet needed two cables: the Ethernet cable itself and another cable for power. A lot of IT workers were annoyed by this since not every electronic they worked with was near an outlet or another power source. Cisco’s solution to this issue was supplying power through the Ethernet cable, making PoE cables an all-in-one solution. In 2003, PoE was standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and started to see widespread use across the IT industry shortly thereafter.
What uses Power over
XLR and DMX cables have a bit of overlap and it can be difficult to keep the two separate. The short answer is that XLR is used for audio while DMX is used for lighting. Both cables use the same kind of connectors and look the same on the outside, there are differences on the inside. There is a little bit of cross-functionality, but XLR and DMX should not be interchanged unless users find themselves in a desperate situation.
Are DMX and XLR Connectors the Same?
Whereas DMX refers to something specific, “XLR” is more of a catch-all term. It can refer to an XLR cable, XLR connector, or even audio cables in general. Oftentimes, microphone cables are referred to as XLR even if they may feature another kind of audio connection as well. DMX cables do use XLR connectors, but their specialized use has given them their own name as well. Users unfamiliar with all the different XLR options may need to clarify exactly what “XLR” means when they hear the term used.
XLR cables are used with professional audio equipment, such as microphones, mixers, amplifiers, and soundboards. While there are a few different varieties of XLR connectors out there, the most common is the 3-pin version. Each pin is used for positive, negative, and a ground, respectively. If more pins are needed for additional signals, XLR connectors with more than 3 pins may be used instead.
Like any piece of hardware out there, cables can suffer from wear-and-tear as time marches on. Even if cables keep running perfectly as the years go by, they will get to the point of being outdated. Some cables are also more prone to needing replacement than others. Knowing when to replace a cable can make electronics run better, save on your electric bill, and even prevent potential safety issues. But what exactly you need to look for when thinking about replacing something is going to depend on which type of cable we are talking about.
Ethernet – Now or the near-future
Ethernet cables have been through a lot of changes over the years. At the moment, the standard version is Cat5e cable. If the writing on the outside of the cable says Cat5 (or a lower number), it is time to be replaced. Internet service providers today work on the assumption that you are using at least Cat5e cable, as do most websites and other online services.
If you need to upgrade, it is worth taking Cat6 cable into consideration. This is the next step up for Ethernet and will be the new standard once Cat5e is inevitably phased out. Cat6 can support data speeds up to ten times faster than Cat5e. While this is overkill for at-home use right now, upgrading to Cat6 will ensure you do not have to upgrade again for a very long time.
Cables to Keep Around the House
Spring is here and a lot of us are going to use that nicer weather to get a little cleaning done. If your house is anything like everyone else's, there is probably a junk drawer somewhere with a big mess of old cables. After untangling all the knots, you will want to look at each cable to see what you should keep and what can be tossed.
Keep: Micro USB 2.0
Micro USB is better known as a “phone charger” since they are mostly used for Android phones. Not to mention tablets, streaming devices, smart speakers, and more. Micro USB is not going anywhere anytime soon, so keeping a few extras around is a good idea right now.
Keep: Micro USB 3.0
This upgraded Micro USB is mostly used for external hard drives. Some cell phones use these for charging cables too. While not as widespread as the older 2.0 version, this is new enough that hanging onto one or two of them is worth it.
NEMA and IEC are the two most common standards for power cords used in North America. NEMA connectors are on the side of the power cord that plugs into an AC wall outlet. IEC connectors are the side that plugs into devices like computers or TVs. By and large, NEMA and IEC are compatible with each other. There are many similarities between NEMA and IEC standards, but they are not quite the same.
NEMA is an acronym for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Established in 1926, NEMA is an American organization focused on creating, establishing, and promoting safety standards for electrical equipment. Power cords are one of many items that fall under their jurisdiction. Despite being an American organization, NEMA standards are also primarily used in Canada and Mexico as well as parts of Central and South America, nearby small island nations such as Cuba, and some larger countries across the sea like Japan.
NEMA connectors are labeled as two numbers separated by a dash. The first number indicates the voltage rating of the cable; “5” stands for 125 volts and “6” stands for 250 volts. The second number indicates the amperage of the plug. There will also be a letter after the numbers, either a “P” for plug or an “R” for receptacle. For example, a 5-15P connector will be a plug rated for 125 volts and 15 amps.
In North America and Japan, special power cords are required for use with any equipment in a hospital or medical setting. Some other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark use similar recommendations, but they are not technically required by law. This article will focus on power cords required for medical equipment in North America, most notably the United States and Canada.
In Technical Terms
- UL 60601-1 and CAN/CSA C22.2 no. 21 (medical equipment standards)
- UL 817 and CAN/CSA 22.2 no. 21 (power supply cord standards)
- UL 498 and CAN/CSA 22.2 no. 42 (attachment plug and receptacle standards)
Additionally, they must conform to NEMA WD-6 and UL 817 by meeting the following requirements:
- The blade plugs must be made of solid brass, not folded brass.
- The blade plugs are nickel-plated.
- The plug includes a strain relief or similar device to reduce stress on internal components.
- The plug is marked with a “green dot” to signify it is hospital-grade.
These standards can apply to any cord that uses a NEMA 5-15, 5-20, 6-15, or 6-20 plug.
Ensuring an organized workspace and knowing the functions provided by a specific colored cable are critically important in any electrical setting. Putting the effort into planning out cable management ahead of time is always a good idea. A neat, organized structure makes it much easier to find the cable you are looking for whenever something needs to be unplugged or when trying to simplify knowing which cables perform what operations. Color coding your power cords can ease a complex situation and help you keep your peace of mind when trying to figure out a problem.
Color Coding Methodology
Keeping cords untangled is one thing, but color coding can ensure you always know which cables go where. Using different colors can be as simple as telling the new guy, “Do not unplug the grey one, that powers your computer.” A simple color coding system can ensure everyone knows which cable goes where with a simple glance. An ideal system will be simple, intuitive, and easy to manage.
It is important to consider the limitations of a color coding system before jumping in too deep. For instance, are the colors being used in familiar ways (for example, a red cord being something you should not touch or could be dangerous)? Is there a chart of the color code somewhere in case people forget it? An organized set-up is good, but an organized set-up with foolproof back-up plans is better.
Along with general usage, color coding could be used to tell you something about the cables themselves. You could establish that 125-volt cables are green while 250-volt cords are red. Or each color could be a different wire gauge (AWG) so people know when to grab thicker cables for higher voltage connections.
For spaces with many connections, the colors could even be generalized like
In the age of the Internet, it is easier than ever before to be a thrifty shopper and find a bargain. When shopping around for any product, after a while you start to get a sense of what kind of price that particular item usually goes for. But as you dig around the Internet a bit more, you may stumble across an even better price. One that blows those other prices away. Something that seems too good to be true. And as the old saying goes: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
A power cord may seem simple at a glance, but there is a lot that goes into making one. A proper power cable is made of various materials in a specific fashion according to industry and government standards. However, there are many websites online that sell cables cheaply because their products do not meet those regulations. Sub-par cables are likely to burn out (literally as well as figuratively) quickly and can damage any connected equipment. A worst-case scenario could result in an electrical fire, injuries, or even death.
Identifying Cheap Cables
If you are accustomed to handling power cables, a cheap cord can often be identified by touch. You may notice that the cord or metal prongs on the end bend too easily, feels brittle, or seems to weigh less due to the cable containing insufficient materials.
If you do not know power cords well enough to test them by touch, then test them by sight. The easiest thing to look for is a product certification mark. There are different types of product certifications, depending on where the cable is being sold. Different countries have different regulatory committees, but they all tend to follow similar safety standards. On cheap cables,
Power cords, simply put, can be dangerous. Now when you think of the word “dangerous”, a power cord is probably not the first image that jumps into your head. And granted, a regular power cord is not as dangerous as something like a high voltage line at a substation. But while you may not need to be a licensed electrician to plug something into a wall outlet, it is important to remember that accidents do happen.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 4,000 people treated in emergency rooms are injured each year by power cords. Half of these injuries alone include fractures, contusions, lacerations, and sprains from people tripping over power cords. It is also estimated that roughly 3,300 home fires start each year due to power cords, with an estimated 270 people injured and 50 killed from the fires. Be safe, not a statistic.
The number one cause of injury for power cords is tripping. A power cord should never be stretched across a room where people walk, even if it has enough slack to sit flat on the floor. Try to keep cords behind furniture or other fixtures to keep them out of the way. If a cord absolutely must go through an area with foot traffic, cover it with something like a speed bump to remove the danger of tripping.
On a similar note to tripping, make sure to keep cords out of the way if they are stretching upwards. You do not want a loose cord that a swinging elbow could accidentally catch, sending your electronics crashing to the ground. Making sure a cord is not within grabbing range of any curious children is also a good policy.
So, you need a new power cord. Maybe the old cord for your TV got lost when you were moving, or that new computer did not have a power cord in the box when you opened it. For whatever the reason, you need something to make that power button light up when you push it.
There are different types of power cords out there so step one will be determining which kind you will need. But even after you narrow that down, there are still other factors to take into consideration. The first cord you find may be able to do the job, but it is important to make sure the job is done right.
The length of a cord is the first and foremost factor to take into consideration. Naturally, you want to make sure you have a cord that is long enough. Grab your measuring tape and start by finding the power port on your computer, TV, or other device. Measure from that spot to the wall outlet you plan on using. For good measure, add an extra 3 to 6 inches to give the cable a little slack.
Ideally, you want a cable that is just long enough. There should be some slack to reduce strain on the cable and in case you need to move your device further away later. Now you may be asking, “Why not just get a cord that is more than long enough? That way I can move it wherever I want later.” Simply put, long cables are tri