How to refine wire-to-wire connections

If you’re still using solder, quick-disconnects, or electrical tape, here’s a run-down of what you need to know to get started with the ultimate wire-to-wire pro solution.

anderson lead image
Credit: Left: Anderson Power Products; Right: By Cqdx (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

We’re in hobbyist mode this week at the Disruptor blog.

Winter is rapidly approaching, the clocks will be going back pretty soon, and a networking specialist’s thoughts turn to matters of what to do to expand the mind during those long, dark, cold evenings.

Earlier this week I proposed an electricity generation project as the perfect indoor winter build, in part because good solar panels have become exceedingly affordable. You can read about it in How to get started on a solar power project.

Back in the summer, my dog-days weekender project suggestion was fiddling with wasp-like drones. Catch up in How to get into drones for cheap.

Today, I’m pulling it all together, by turning you onto a remarkable little electrical connector. Something that, if you haven’t discovered it yet, will change the way you approach wire-to-wire in DC projects. Conveniently, it also has work-related applications.

Powerpoles

The Anderson Powerpole wire-to-wire connector sets I’m talking about consist of 15, 30, and 45-amp metal contacts featuring a receiving barrel for the wire, and housings.

The wire-attached contact inserts into the plastic housing on assembly.

The only difference between the 15, 30 and 45-amp contacts is the size of the receiving barrel for the wire. The contacts all use the same size housing and have the same size tongue, making them interchangeable

The tongue on the contact makes the connection and locks with an assembled, mating connector.

A Powerpole set makes up all of the parts needed to create a connector. It usually consists of a red housing, black housing, two contacts, with their barrel and tongue, and a roll pin.

The red and black housings are dovetailed for joining. The pin locks the two housings.

Features

Housings are genderless—the red and black ones are the same—there’s no male or female.

That means all Powerpoles mate with themselves.

As the tongues lock, they scrape and self-clean the contact by rubbing away oxidation. Plus, the layout—red on right—forces correct polarity.

Brilliant, right? Well, it is if you compare them to a roll of electrical tape, automotive quick connects, solder, or hugely expensive Molex proprietary sets.

The only slight problem is that Powerpoles are somewhat expensive themselves—and addictive.

Uses

There’s no end to the 12-volt uses. I’ve just converted a formerly automotive quick-disconnect LED light and a formerly ring-connected 12-volt heater.

I’m about to Powerpole-up a formerly battery-clip-adorned automotive tire pump.

Costs

This is a slippery slope, partly because the addictive nature of converting 12-volt stuff to Powerpole rather than letting sleeping dogs lie with electrical tape or quick disconnects.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to stop ordering the stuff and I’m currently Powerwerx's (my supplier) new best friend.

Getting started

Yorba Linda, Calif.-based Powerwerx will sell you a 10-pack of 45-amp unassembled red and black Powerpole sets for $14.99. The 45-amp sets are good for 10-gauge wire.

You’ll also need a crimper, which is a one-time investment of $39.99. Don’t try to get away with pliers.

To cut costs to begin with, I recommend getting some loose 15- and 30-amp contacts a la carte, rather than more full sets.

Those contacts are for 16-20 gauge wire and 12-14 gauge wire, respectively.

That way, you’ll have 10 housing sets with pins, 20 45-amp contacts, and whatever you order of the 15’s and 30’s—25 of each maybe, the minimum order.

How to assemble them

Because of significant interest in the use of this product for amateur radio, radio-controlled models, like drones, and so on, there’s a fan-base of disciples who have made and compiled YouTube videos on how to assemble the sets, how to pick them apart, and examples of use.

I found Usnerdoc’s video helpful.

And work?

Conveniently, the 1877-founded Anderson Power Products company also makes elegant hot-plug interconnects, up to 700-amps, for back-up power, telecom and data, so you may want to explore some of those products for work too.

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