System Power 101: Tips, Resources & More

Technical expert Bob Dolph takes a look at some of the ins and outs of system power and provides helpful tools and resources for integrators on the job.

System Power 101: Tips, Resources & More

Someone recently commented that if you lose all power to a camera system you can be assured of only one type of camera resolution. This month we are going to take a look at some of the ins and outs of system power and resources we have as trade professionals for your customers.

It used to be that we all got excited when you could use Power over Ethernet (PoE) to power up a few cameras and eliminate the hassles of running an extra pair for camera power. That was known as PoE (Level 1) and allowed 13 watts of power. Well as the kids say, “That was so yesterday.”

We are now at IEEE 802.3bt Level 4 (4PPoE) and can now provide up to 90 watts of power. With the usage of 4PPoE and as much as 1 Amp per cable pair comes additional responsibility and understanding. It can produce significant heat.

Considerations have to be taken for such things as bundle size and environmental conditions. Higher temperatures will increase the link attenuation (IL), which in the attenuation budget can result in reduced link lengths. Cable temperature rating and connections must be observed.

It is advised that planning and execution of 4PPoE capability be done through a planning tool.  One example would be the online PoE calculator from PoE-World. Another good PoE educational reference is the PoE Learning Center from PoE Texas. Also, make sure to check out the PoE Project Manager (PM) Work Book in the learning center.

One final note of caution on 4PPoE connectivity. Over time, insulation piercing contact (IPC) connector contact force disappears due to mechanical stress and thermal movement. It is recommended to use insulation displacement contact (IDC). IDC is vibration and moisture resistant, dust and gas tight, and corrosion protected; therefore it does not age.

A good example of equipment that takes advantage of 4PPoE is the Trove power supply line from Altronix. The product line is highly configurable for PoE-demanding technology such as access control systems.

The enclosures and removable backplanes allow you to configure, lay out and test prior to onsite installation. (Tip: Using 4PPoE configurations can help eliminate the extra cost of using licensed electricians.) Make sure to check out the free Altronix Trove system design tools.

One area of modern power technology that has impressed me and I am a big fan of is the use of Lithium batteries. In fact, one good example area is again the Altronix Tango PoE-driven power supply/chargers. The use of Lithium batteries provides compact backup power if the PoE drops out.

Sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries have been around for more than 100 years. They provide economical backup power when properly maintained. Unlike Lithium, SLA batteries do not have a specific discharge cutoff point and can be damaged.

Lithium batteries are up to 20% more compact in size and weight. The have extremely high energy density. They maintain a high level of charge longer than an SLA and don’t mind being pushed to low charge levels where internally they will protect themselves.

Everywhere you look you see “smart.” Smart homes, smart buildings, etc. Have you seen smart batteries? Power Sonic makes a Lithium Bluetooth Battery Series that is 40% the weight of comparable SLA batteries. It has 10 times more cycles than SLA and faster charging and lower self-discharge.

What makes these batteries really cool is they include Bluetooth communications with battery management system (BMS) controls. The BMS can communicate battery status via Bluetooth to your Power Sonic smartphone app.

Another concern of providing power to systems is the quality of the backup power. As I stated in the beginning, CCTV cameras without power have only one resolution: black screens. Dealers have new opportunities to provide reliable professional uninterruptible power supply (UPS) equipment to both commercial systems and residential systems with IoT options.

One such manufacturer that has been around for a long time is MinuteMan Power Technologies.  Selecting the right UPS and surge protection for your systems is critical. This supplier has some really good application resources such as the calculator webpage and the Power Learning Video Series.

Tool of the Month

This month in keeping with the theme of power and PoE I have selected the PoEz Power Over Ethernet Detector/PoE Tester from Hobbes-Group. It is a nice economical compact PoE detector and tester.

It can distinguish whether the PSE power supply is powered on by Active mode under the IEEE 802.3AF/AT/UPoE/BT standard or by nonstandard Passive mode. It can monitor the current PSE power supply status after connecting the other end to Hobbes PoEz PDS (powered device simulator) 256318/PDS.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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