Today we are talking about Anderson powerpoles, interoperability for DC power, and whether or not standards are useful when they begin to hold us back.
Before we get started, it’s important to point out that interoperability is a good thing. The Anderson powepole standard most of us use in amateur radio and emergency communications, is it good thing. With that said, the standard didn’t take into account, how many of us deploy, in todays world. Let me explain.
Anderson powerpoles were designed to be oriented any way we like. The possibility for multiple orientations comes at the expense of reverse polarity protection, of which there is none. The ARES standard for Anderson powerpole connectors we talk about in emergency communications, is how reverse polarity is achieved. Evrn do, one mistake when initially wiring up our connectors, or fumbling around in the dark, accidentally plugging the wrong connector into the wrong port, and that standard begins to look like a headache. Still the standard is a good thing, even if it doesn’t protect us from our own stupidity.
My problem with Anderson powerpoles and the “standard”, can be summed up pretty easily. The standard makes no difference between where DC is coming from. So the standard works very well when we’re talking about DC from the battery, DC from a power supply, DC out of our power distribution boxes.
Where the standard fails is with its lack of differentiation between outgoing DC from those devices, and incoming DC, for example from a solar panel. One of the many tricks we often do is using a different powerpole connector color to differentiate the different types of incoming or outgoing ports. Firstly, a different color won’t help us in the dark. Having a different color won’t help those who are visually impaired. And having a different color, won’t stop us from accidentally plugging our solar panel, directly into the expensive HF or VHF radio which was designed for no more than 16 volts DC input.
So my only point with this “standard” is the need for an update. An update witch says it’s okay to change the orientation of powerpole connectors, connected to devices which shouldn’t be connected directly to one another.
So let’s give you a couple of different examples of how we can destroy our equipment with the “standard”. Firstly as I mentioned a second ago, we can plug that solar panel inadvertently into our radios. Annoying repair or potentially inexpensive replacement. We can also inadvertently plug that solar panel into a power supply. If we have some protections on the solar panel, nothing will happen. If we don’t, your solar panel will light up like an LED, for a couple of seconds anyway. How much was your solar panel again? Another way we can run directly into disaster, is the very reason this interoperability standard was realized in the first place. Its goal was to allow us all to connect our comms gear, to a variety of power sources. A brilliant idea until someone makes a mistake with their cables. Now their problem has just become your problem, although all of your cables and connections were squared away.
When a standard stops us from common sense regarding connection methodologies designed to protect us from mishaps, we need to rethink the “standard”. I don’t think we need to change the parts which work. For example from the power supply to power distribution box, or power distribution to rigs or some other DC load. But we need a recommendation for connections, which should never meet one another. To be honest, I would be happy simply having an updated standard which defines the connection between the solar panels output and the charge controllers input. My recommendation is in the following image.
If we use a vertical orientation for ports between are solar panels and the solar inputs on our charge controllers or other smart power devices, we alleviate the possibility of plugging devices which should never be connected to one another, into one another. This is common sense. It doesn’t mean the standard is bad, it means they didn’t think of it when the standard was initially proposed. As more of us are getting off grid with solar power, DC wind turbines, or other off-grid DC power sources, we need to protect our devices from our short-sighted ideas. Updating the standard to reflect the way we deploy our stations today, won’t diminish the standard in any way. Neither will this new idea make obsolete products which have been sold based on these standards, since a modification of our ports orientation, is a simple modification which can be done at home.
Think about it.
73, Julian oh8stn