PowerPoles can really suck – why not CliffCon Power Connectors instead?

Who has not had a Powerpole disconnect inadvertently?

If you notice high end gear eschews Powerpoles for high performance positive-interface connectors.

The military ones are pretty pricey and hard to source.

Following the leadership of high end radios like the Hilberling PT-8000A, I’ve instead brought in a supply of Cliff CliffCon Power Connectors, and will be slowly implementing them in my shack.

Here is what they look like:

CliffCon Connectors – “Blue” Four-Pole Series

 

UK Website

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

USA Website

http://www.cliffinc.com/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

A PDF datasheet

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/cliffcon.pdf

Additional information from my order:

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0887 FCR2068 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: SOCKET, 4POLE, 4PC/S/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Receptacle; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Panel Mount; Contact Termination Type:Through Hole; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015);

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0883 FCR2066 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, 4PC/P/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0884 FCR20663 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, R/A, 4PC/P90/LV, LV; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

Okay in comparison they are a bit spendy compared to Powerpoles, but they are positive-interface and will not pull out shutting your station down.  They are also vibration resistant making the selection for field use even more appropriate.  They have redundancy (four wire) which in the interest of standardization within my equipment I will keep to a set pattern.

Yet they allow disconnection quickly.

More on this over the next few months as they are put to use.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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7 thoughts on “PowerPoles can really suck – why not CliffCon Power Connectors instead?

  1. Alan Larson WA6AZP says:

    I, for one, have not had powerpoles disconnect inadvertently. If that is a problem, you should be getting the high detent contacts instead of the standard ones sold by ham suppllers. Those (at least in the higher current versions) increase the disconnect force.
    As for me, I would rather they disconnect than pull a rig off of a table when the cable gets yanked accidentally. (Think of it as a mechanical fuse.)
    The Cliff connectors you show are rated at 20 amps, 30 amps at 5% dudy cycle. Powerpoles come at 15, 30, and 45 amp ratings.
    The blue Cliff connectors you show are color coded for 120 volt AC, not 12-14 volt DC. One may come to grief someday if you connect to one that is actually being used for AC.
    I’ll stick to the powerpoles.

    • k9zw says:

      Hi Alan WA6AZP

      I was not aware of the High Detent contacts, will look into them. Hopefully they are not just an OEM level offering. If you know of a source, I’d be pleased to share it here.

      On the CliffCon Connectors the UK style English is easy to interpret what is the maximum ratings for the connector as being the expected load they will be carrying.

      You will see them used where we might also see Molex Plugs or Cinch-Jones Plugs.

      Your point that in every case the pattern and use should be consistent within an operating shack is a good reminder.

      To be fair, I do have plenty of PowerPoles in use in my shack. As I build a remote shack where a roundtrip is 250 miles roundtrip and an overnight with two boat rides because of the Death’s Door passage separating the Island from the mainland, I am looking to the CliffCons.

      They also add the strain-relief that plain PowerPoles lack.

      73 and thank you for the great comments!

      Steve
      K9ZW

  2. First, there are a number of solutions for keeping PowerPoles connected together, most are really cheap, either professional or homemade.
    But you miss many of the other advantages of PowerPole connectors over Cliffcon.
    At this point, there’s the standardization by ARES and many other individuals and groups. This allows a lot of interoperability either in the shack or in the field.
    A huge advantage of the PowerPole is gender neutrality. Put a set of PowerPoles on a battery and you can connect it to a charger to charge and then plug it into a radio to use. For the Cliffcon, it looks as if a battery may need both genders on it.
    PowerPoles also have the dubious designation of a red and black connector, making it obvious that its power and the polarity. Blue and black just doesn’t suggest power. (The red ones are a little better)
    The Cliffcon are designed for higher voltages, that means some optimizations that may not be optimal for low voltage.

    And probably one of the biggest reason why I see not to use Cliffcons, there seems to be no inline female connector.

    They also seem to be solder on only, no crimp connects.

    But honestly, one of the features that I love about PowerPoles is that when the power cord is pulled, they disconnect. I’d rather have the connector unplug than damage to other parts of the cable or radio.

    • k9zw says:

      Hi Ed WA4YIH

      If only the rear panel configuration of the Flex-6000 series allowed room for the PowerPole Clip or PowerPole Clip w/Latches. Even getting enough access to Safety-Wire isn’t possible without splitting the case.

      Understand on the Standardization issue, and as you point out if interoperability with others is part of your mission, then common connectors – or adapters/pigtails to interface – are important.

      CliffCon Connector are typically configured with cables having plus both ends. The German gear had them with a cable that was only just long enough, presumably on purpose.

      And yes without a junction box it isn’t easy to make an extension cable.

      You are correct on the soldering.

      It seems that the question whether a yanked cable should separate at the PowerPole or hold firm even if the radio is dangling off the end of the cable is a question where both possibilities make sense in certain situations.

      Might not be a one-size-fits-all answer, as the optimal choice for a remote locked equipment rack in a tower-base shed on a remote island is not the same choice that is optimal in a highly flexible active environment.

      Many thanks for your kind considered comments!

      73

      Steve
      K9ZW

  3. Phil Kane says:

    I must have made up many hundreds of APP connectors over the years.
    It’s the de-facto standard for interchangeable 12-volt equipment in
    the world of ARES/ACS as well as for fixed station use.

    After I learned to do it properly with the correct tools and genuine
    parts (not knock-offs) I haven’t had pull-apart or fall-apart problems
    at all.

    73 de K2ASP – Phil Kane

    Member, Washington County, OR
    Emergency Communications Team
    ARES/RACES AEC for Training

    • k9zw says:

      Hi Phil K2ASP

      Thank you for your comments, and would agree that if using one’s gear in the ARES/RACES world is primary, that you have to get to interfacing with whatever the standards ARES/RACES Emcomm gear is using.

      When you were working for Uncle Sam, what did the gear you used & saw there use for power connectors?

      One thing initiating my discussion has reminded me is that much of what is passed off as PowerPoles is knock-offs and their may even be grades of connector interlock in the originals.

      Thanks and 73

      Steve
      K9ZW

      • Phil Kane K2ASP says:

        My career with the Feds was before APPs hit the market. The majority of the gear in use was 120V AC devices which if mobile ran off inverters wired with various connectors to match the inverters’ requirements. For 12V devices, the 2-pin Molex 093-series connectors were generally used (at least in my installations). Vehicle installations were run from a secondary battery and fuse block. Fixed installations were run from AC-powered 12V supplies.

        As for “knock-offs”, when Anderson was taken over by Ideal Industries, the present owner, Ideal sent notices to all advertised retailers that “knock-offs” were not permitted to be identified or sold as “Power Poles” for trademark reasons. I have no idea how effective that campaign was. Fortunately I deal with a retailer who is scrupulous about things like that.

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