In a low voltage wiring installation, after the selection of low voltage cable type comes the selection of the best kind of low voltage wiring connector.
Low voltage cable connectors are terminal interfaces that can be plugged into different devices, thus linking them together in one network. They usually come in a male-to-female plug arrangement, although some are hermaphrotic and can plug into either. There are also different types of low voltage wiring connectors for different applications.
These connectors are what makes it possible to physically link a system together, so it’s important to understand the differences between types and how that impacts the network wiring they are incorporated into.
What are low voltage wiring connectors?
Also called input-output connectors, or I/O connectors, these are the connectors on the terminal ends of cables that allow them to interface with devices. Essentially, they are the parts that allow the cables to be plugged into different devices on the network and transmit data to and from the devices.
You’ve probably plugged your television screen into some kind of receiving box using cable connectors. They are such an intrinsic part of low voltage wiring that sometimes people forget about their importance, but without connectors there is no network. And the type of connector you use with your low voltage cabling can have an impact on how your network runs, which is important to keep in mind.
Male and female ends
Cable connectors have male and female ends. The male end has one or more pins that stick out, while the female end (also called a “socket”) has corresponding holes to receive those pins.
Female ends usually end up as an installed part of the devices or equipment. This is because their more recessed parts are less susceptible to damage, which increases the durability of the device as a whole.
Using male and female connections ensures the one-way flow of power and/or data, which is very important in some applications.
Also called genderless, combination, and two-way, hermaphrotidic connectors contain both male protrusions and and female recesses, designed to be able to mate with male, female, or other hermaphroditic connectors, regardless of gender. The size, however, must match.
Hermaphroditic connectors can help streamline several aspects of installation, such as design time, inventory volume, and installation time. They are also helpful in particularly complex installations involving long cable runs where male-female only connections would be time consuming and burdensome.
Now let’s talk about the five most common types of low voltage wiring connectors and their unique attributes and applications.
Five types of low voltage wiring connectors
Registered Jack 45 is the most common low voltage connector. It is used almost exclusively to loop computers onto an Ethernet or LAN network. The male end has eight pins, while the female end is connected directly to the motherboard of the computer device.
It is used with unshielded twisted pair cables (UTP) made of four pairs of wires twisted together. The maximum run for this type of cable is 90 meters.
A UTP coupler is another connector for use with unshielded twisted pair cable. Specifically, this coupler allows the installer to connect two shorter UTP cables to form a longer one. This means it can increase a cable’s reach without the need for splicing wires.
Registered Jack 11 is standard for telephone connectors. It is the same size as an RJ45, but it is smaller and has fewer connections. As a result, one RJ11 can support one analog phone line. It is also sometimes used for very low voltage PoE.
Bayonet Neill-Concelman connectors are for use with coaxial cables (a more complex type of cable that uses a copper core to conduct data) that transmit analog video and radio signals. Originally designed for military use, this connector is round and uses a rotating nut to achieve a tight, secure coupling seal.
Also used with coaxial cable, the F-type connector was developed in the early days of cable television. It is still used to connect the modems of terrestrial, cable, and satellite television.
Other considerations in low voltage wiring connectors
Waterproof or weatherproof connectors
Not all connectors are automatically waterproof. When it comes to outdoor or otherwise environmentally stressing situations (such as industrial settings), special waterproof and/or weatherproof enclosures are necessary.
For a wire that must be buried, special underground wire connectors are used. These cannot be reused, are built to be more durable, and are filled with a silicone sealant that excludes moisture and soil particles.
Low voltage wiring connectors are a physically small but functionally indispensable component of a low voltage network. Now you have a better idea of the different characteristics and applications of the common types of connectors, and how they play into low voltage installation.