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What is a Surge Protector and How to Use It?

Power over Ethernet (PoE) lights the way for data networking and eliminates the need for additional AC power wire runs to the end-point devices by delivering power and data on the same twisted-pair cabling system, which greatly simplifies network installation in hard-to-reach areas where there’s no network or electrical infrastructure available. PoE was originally developed for indoor use to power low-power-consumption devices such as IP cameras, wireless access points and VoIP phones, but as more and more outdoor network systems are utilizing PoE for its ease of installation, they also expose the PoE devices to immeasurable risks posed by the outdoor environments, including lightning storms, water or dust ingress and other disruptions. Among all, lighting spike is perceived as one of the most hazardous and deadly events that could happen in outdoor network deployments——It will damage the delicate equipment in the data center and even cause physical harm to personnel. Therefore, in this blog, we’ll focus on how to protect PoE devices from lightning surges.

Lighting spikes bring irreversible damages to the PoE devices, so extra protection is highly recommended while installing long-run network applications in severe weather conditions to prevent the surges from entering through the Ethernet cables.

The cost of lightning strikes is on the rise

Lightning spike is a serious concern when deploying network devices outdoors, especially for mission-critical applications, i.e. surveillance systems. Even though electrical surges are not common and are largely environmentally impacted, it’s possible that lightning strikes will induce on data lines and fry the circuits of the connected devices. Lightning surges will damage or destroy the electronic devices and wiring all at once or over time, increasing downtime and even causing you to lose important data. When In mild cases, a lightning storm will only cause the network devices to reboot, but in some severe cases, it’ll even give rise to safety hazards like fire and electrical shocks. Even the devices are installed indoors, unfortunately, they won’t be completely safe because electromagnetic waves induced from the lightning can still interfere with the connected devices.

Why is surge protection necessary in long-range deployments?

A power surge is a sudden increase in voltage that is above the designated level in the flow of electricity. Since a majority of PoE and network devices operate within a certain current and voltage ratings, excess current or voltage can damage internal components. Lighting can enter your network through power lines, coaxial cables and Ethernet cables. When a lighting strikes, the surges can enter the network cable at any point and travel in both directions to inflict some major damages on the devices connected to the same Ethernet LAN before they find a path to the ground. Long copper cable runs will increase the chances of lighting induction since electricity will travel along a path that is least resistant to the ground while the copper cable is exactly a nice candidate for lightning to use as a path to the ground. By the way, over the long cable runs, there’ll be more network devices connected on the same path, and the risks will increase accordingly. Moreover, maintenance will be extremely expensive, so it’s often more cost-effective to invest in protection against power surges in advance. The best way to protect your PoE devices from lightning strikes is to use a surge protector. An additional issue is also where an Ethernet system has been upgraded to be PoE-enabled by using a PoE injector or PoE splitter which may add vulnerability to surge damage to an existing network.

What is a surge protector?

A surge protector, also known as the surge suppressor, is an electrical device used to regulate abnormal electrical currents and mitigate over-voltages. It’s normally used to protect both the communication and power lines of the PoE device so as to guarantee a safe and reliable network connection in places where lightning is often present. As previously mentioned, long copper cabling provides more opportunities for lightning surges to infiltrate the network system, while by deploying a PoE surge protector, you can prevent damages to the insulation and dielectrics of PDs to the maximum. If the voltage happens to rise above the acceptable level/the safe threshold, the surge protector will divert the extra electricity into the grounding wire and discharge the surges to the ground at distance from the installation site. And in this way, uptime is preserved. For safe outdoor applications, a qualified surge protector not only needs to withstand potential electrical surges, but also holds up against the elements, including rain, dust, snow, ice, and humidity.

How does surge protection work?

Installing surge protectors is an important preventive measure to protect your PoE devices from over-voltages. Physically, a surge protector mainly has two functions: one is to keep the surge voltage within a safe threshold so that the dielectric strength of the PoE device will not be exceeded; another is to discharge the excessive currents and surges to the ground. And they’re often installed in parallel to the equipment. As previously mentioned, lightning will travel in either direction to search for the quickest pathway for grounding. Consequently, in a complete Ethernet cable run, at least 2 surge protectors need to be installed to protect the key network devices like PoE switches, routers, etc. The first surge protector should be installed near the PoE switch, while the second protector should be set up near the outdoor PoE device.

PoE Surge Protectors & DC12V Surge Protector

Fastcabling has launched various surge protectors, such as PoE surge protectors and that are exclusively designed for protecting PoE networking as well as the Outdoor Waterproof DC 12V Surge Protector that is designed for average electronic devices.

Din Rail Industrial RJ45 PoE Surge Protector

This Din-Rail industrial RJ45 PoE surge protector is a compact surge protection device that features 16kV surge protection to efficiently mitigate the negative effects of lighting spikes and surges in long-run copper cabling. It complies with standard PoE and works with no problem This surge protector supports Din-Rail mounting, so 5 or more such protectors can be installed side by side as integrity in a 19″ wide Din-Rail mounting rack for chain setups, which makes grounding more convenient and affordable, ideal for small-to-medium sized businesses. It is backed up with a wider working temperature range from -40℃ to 85℃.

Outdoor Waterproof DC12V Surge Protector

This surge protector is designed to protect electronic devices that run on DC12V currents by regulating the power surges to an acceptable level. Similarly, this surge protector features 16kV surge protection and a wide working temperature of -40℃ to 85℃. It also comes with an IP68-rated waterproof enclosure, a sealing gasket and a watertight connector, which makes it highly applicable in outdoor environments. Moreover, its compact size and wall or pole-mounting design enable the users to install it on board or any cabinet and pole flexibly.

How to install a surge protector?

The devastating effects of lightning surges have a greater impact on mission-critical applications in the factories, SMBs and households, so to safeguard your PoE system, you should install the surge protectors correctly. There are generally two steps: 1) install the surge protectors and 2) set up the grounding.

1. Installing the surge protectors

To set up a hazard-free communication and power line, you’re supposed to install the surge protectors on both ends. You’ll need a pair of indoor and outdoor surge protectors to protect the outdoor PoE devices from malfunction and breakdown caused by lightning strikes. Protected in an IP68-rated rugged metal housing, Fastcabling’s Waterproof Outdoor PoE Surge Protector is direct-burial, featuring 16kV high surge protection and a wide working temperature of -40℃to 85℃. Compliant with IEEE 802.3af/at standard, this surge protector can work collaboratively with standard PoE devices. It supports both wall and pole-mounting options, which offers greater flexibility for outdoor applications.

Install the indoor surge protector near a point where the cable from the outside PoE device (a PoE injector, PoE splitter or IP camera) connects to the PoE switch but away from any combustible elements to guard the indoor equipment and personnel against dangers. Simply run an Ethernet cable from the PoE switch to the ‘Data In’ of the indoor surge protector. Then a longer Ethernet cable will be needed to connect the two surge protectors (‘Data Out’ of the indoor surge protector to ‘Data In’ of the outdoor surge protector). Lastly, use another Ethernet cable to connect the outdoor device to ‘Data Out’ of the outdoor surge protector.

2. Setting up the grounding

Grounding the surge protector is extremely important, otherwise, the surge protector will not work. The grounding system aims to distribute and discharge the captured currents and surges to the ground. To ground your surge protector, a grounding wire is needed. Normally, the thick the wire, the better the performance will be (a 10 or 12-gauge copper wire will be enough). Attach the grounding wire to the ground connector of the surge protectors, use a set of pliers to crimp the wire on the connector firmly, and attach the other end of the wire to a grounding point. When installing the grounding wire, avoid creating any sharp bends.

If you wanna install multiple surge protectors, it’s recommended to use a rack-mounting shelf for better arrangement and management. It can accommodate up to 10*Din-Rail PoE surge protectors or indoor surge protectors in only 1U of rack space, and can also be used with any standard Din-rail mounted devices such as media converters and power strips. It can easily fit into any standard 19″ rack.

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