Electricians urged to become PoE proficient

Thursday, 16 January, 2020

Electricians urged to become PoE proficient

Electricians who install or service intelligent lighting should familiarise themselves with Power over Ethernet (PoE), according to IDEAL Networks.

In particular, the company said that PoE testers can help electricians to conduct quick, accurate PoE validation, eliminating guesswork and getting the job done faster.

“In just a few short years the use of PoE has migrated from IT devices into building systems like lighting, HVAC and access control,” said Tim Widdershoven, Marketing Director for IDEAL Networks.

“However, the growth of PoE presents issues for electricians, who may have never had cause to work on anything other than traditional electrical cable infrastructure.

“PoE offers clear benefits in many applications, not least that installing just one set of cabling infrastructure is less disruptive and generally more cost-effective. So, to stay ahead of clients’ demands, it’s crucial for electricians to learn the necessary PoE testing and troubleshooting skills now.”

In 2018 a new standard, IEEE 802.3bt, was ratified and provides the specifications for PoE equipment to provide up 90 W of power to devices over twisted-pair Ethernet cabling. This amount of power combined with high-efficiency LED light fixtures makes PoE lighting practical. With 60–90 W of power available, multiple luminaires or troffers can be daisy chained from a single port on a PoE Ethernet switch, greatly reducing the total system cost and simplifying the installation.

“Electricians installing or servicing PoE lighting systems need to be familiar with the components of PoE lighting systems to ensure proper operation and easily troubleshoot any problems that arise,” Widdershoven said.

“Even when live a PoE system is not always energised, so this means that familiar, standard electrical testing tools cannot be used to test PoE systems.”

Instead, there is a range of PoE testers on the market, from simple LED voltage detectors (like a neon electrical outlet checker) to testers which measure voltage and power available to the powered devices (PD) on a circuit. PoE test equipment can also be used to highlight issues with cable quality. For instance, electricians may encounter copper-clad aluminium (CCA) cable which is constructed primarily of aluminium conductors coated with a thin skin of copper. CCA has a much higher resistance than solid copper cable and should not be used in PoE applications, but due to its very low comparative cost, can often be found in intelligent lighting installations.

“The rise of PoE presents electrical contractors with a fantastic opportunity to confidently expand their service offering,” Widdershoven said.

“Electricians who are equipped with the right testing tools and a functional knowledge of PoE systems will be able to both ensure that new installations deliver the expected performance and quickly identify faults when troubleshooting.”

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