Anderson Powerpoles: The Legos of DC Electronics, by Dan in Alaska

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To say that I’m a neophyte in the electrical world, or as we say here in Alaska a “Cheechako”, is making a big understatement.  So, a couple years back my co-worker and friend got me into Amateur Radio, also affectedly known as Ham Radio.  I studied my ARRL Technician book and passed my test, but it just barely rattled what I had in my head 20 years ago from my only electronics class I had back in High School where we studied Ohm’s law, identified a resistor, and made a strobe light.  So, I’m on a big learning curve. 

I searched around and studied lots of reviews and settled on a nice hand held radio, a Yaesu VX-6R.  It works great for VHF and the 2M repeaters that I have in my town.  As with anything, you always strive for bigger and better!  Must be the Tim “The Toolman” Taylor gene that all guys have (emphasis on the Toolman grunt)!  So, I’m studying to upgrade my license from a Technician to General and get into HF.  Not only am I doing this to get more into my hobby, but I feel this is part of prepping that is just as important as beans and bullets.  Besides studying to upgrade my license, I have been assembling gear for my “shack”.  Again going around the net (great review site for Ham related stuff is www.eHam.net) and talking with fellow Hams, I decided to get a radio that is not only good for a base station, but mobile.  I ended up getting another Yaesu, a FT-897D.  That turned out to be the easy part, the rest of the gear list is probably going to be never ending and always changing.  This brings me to what I wanted to write about, the Anderson Powerpole.

From what I read and have experienced so far is that the Anderson Powerpole is the gold standard for 12VDC power connection.  There are probably people reading this and saying “Whoopee, who cares about connecting wires”!  I was there too at one time, being upside down hooking up trailer lights by twisting 2 wires together and wrapping them with electrical tape.  The genius with Powerpoles is not only the ease of installation, but the mobility and adaptability of this product.  One of the best features of the Powerpoles is that they are genderless, no male or female fittings.  One reviewer called it a hermaphroditic plug.  Because of that several emergency groups like RACES and ARES make Powerpoles a standard for equipment so everyone has the same ability to hook up all their equipment into various power sources.

So, I went to Powerwerx and bought several sets of Powerpoles, a roll of 12 gauge red/black zip cord, extra clips, a RIGrunner (more about that later), and a few other sundry items.  A set of Powerpoles are 2 plastic housings, one red and one black (for positive and negative wires), 2 metal clips, and a roll pin.  Now came the important question, to crimp or solder?  Well, I tried both and found that solder worked the best foe me.  I didn’t buy the fancy crimping tool for the Powerpoles and ended up deforming a couple of clips, and deformed clips won’t fit into the plastic housing.  The lockup for the clip and housing is very precise.  Same with over soldering the clips, if you have a blob of solder on the outside of the clip, it won’t lockup, but at least one can correct that easily.  There are several great sites for assembling Powerpoles like from the Powerwerx web site and Youtube.  What worked for me was to put the zip cord, whoa what is zip cord? It’s basically just like the power cord on your lamp at home, two wires side by side, but in this case they are red and black and can be pulled apart if need be.  So, zip cord in my vise straight up and down, and a great tip.  RED on RIGHT!  It will help keep the poles in alignment.  Place a clip, straight on top, with the “tongue” away from you.  I stripped off about an 1/8 of an inch more than needed to wick the solder, bottom up, into the wire.  Let it cool and click into the plastic housing.  Now after getting both housings done, you will notice that there are tongues and grooves in the sides of the housing.  If you want, you can take the red and black housings and join them together to make a “plug”, and to make it lock up just push in the roll pin in the hole provided by the joining of the two housings.  Again there are awesome videos on Youtube showing how to assemble Powerpoles, both crimping and soldering.

Now I mentioned a RIGrunner.  This is another little gem I discovered in this adventure produced by West Mountain Radio that uses Powerpoles in a central power distribution box.  Basically it’s a little metal box with several Powerpole connector outlet stations (the number dependent on model) that uses standard ATC fuses like in your car.  All the stations are the same, both input and output.  All you need to do is attach a power source like a 12v battery and your equipment like a radio and antenna tuner and you are in business.  Make sure to use the proper fuse with what is coming in or out.  I have a 40amp fuse for the power in and 20 amp fuses for my radio and tuner.  The model I got also included two USB charging ports for phones and pads.  So, what does all of this do for me?  Well, I have a very clean and safe setup for my “shack”.  All my power cords are in plastic housings, ran through a box with fuses, and are very adaptable and mobile.  Adaptable?  Let me explain.  My current power source for my radio is a box that plugs into a standard wall plug, so it converts 120 VAC to 12 VDC for my various equipment.  If the power goes out, then what?  I made a few adapters with my Powerpoles. I got a set of battery clips from Radio Shack, just like the ones you see on battery chargers.  At the end of the wires I installed a Powerpole set, so now I can use a 12VDC battery from my truck or camper.  I also got both male and female cigarette lighter plugs with Powerpoles on each end to either attach to a battery or insert into an existing adapter.  I also made a six foot extension cord.  The amount of adapters is dependent on your imagination.  You can set up inline fuses, filters, splitters, and so on.  Mobility?  I picked my radio just for that.  So, let’s say its bug out time.  All you need to do is just pull plugs and go.  I have most of my adapters in a canvas bag and pelican case for my radio.  So, aside from my antenna and coax, I could be unplugged and ready to go in a couple of minutes and have the ability to hookup to just about any 12VDC source.

Well, there are probably people out there saying “what good is that for me”, or “I’m not into Ham Radio”!  Let me expand on that.  I just recently moved from one place in Alaska that measured snow in feet to another place in Alaska that measures rain in feet.  Now driving on snow isn’t that bad, driving on ice is just plain horrible.  There is no steering out of it, or braking.  It’s just hold on for a terror of a ride, which happened to me on my little hill of a driveway.  So, I grabbed a few bags of salt and did my best impersonation of Johnny Appleseed and hand tossed out all the salt.  That wasn’t very easy or efficient!  So, after rummaging around the garage and shed, I found a hand held/hand cranked grass seed broadcaster.  That worked a little better, but still wasn’t what I was looking for.  So, I remembered seeing an ATV mounted broadcaster once on a hunting show.  They were putting in food plots for deer, and why wouldn’t that work for salt?  I found a not too expensive one on Amazon and placed my order.  In about a week I got my seed broadcaster, and I put it together.  Now when they said universal mounting, they were being very liberal with that statement, but I got it together.  This is basically a tub with a 12VDC motor that spins a segmented disk around and you control the spread by the size of the adjustable hole by the hopper.  Now came a problem, the power hook up was with a 12VDC cigarette lighter, and I don’t have one on my ATV.  I pulled off the seat and looked at what was a standard motorcycle battery, so I came up with a solution.  I cut a length of zip cord and soldered on battery connectors and bolted them to the battery.  I installed a set of Powerpoles to the other end that terminated right near the edge of the cowling and ran it under the seat near the engine zip tying it to the frame.  I also used some heat shrink tube near the Powerpole plug and zip tied both ends to give it some tension relief.  So, it’s all protected somewhat from the elements.  I made another female cigarette adapter with a longer piece of zip cord and now my problem is fixed.  Yeah, I know, not the most efficient, and I could have gone direct to the battery!  Tell me, who doesn’t have at least a couple of items that run on a cigarette lighter?  With this set up I can use my salt spreader in the winter and then take it off during hunting season without a huge hassle.  I also gained another 12VDC power source for my equipment.  A couple of tips, I bought some end caps to seal up the plug when not in use, a great item!  Also, a clip that locks two plugs together, so that they don’t rattle apart.  Another great item!  I just want to mention that I have no affiliation to any items, businesses, web sites, and nor do I receive any compensation.  Just one man’s opinion about a great product.

I hope this Cheechako in the electrical world was able to show you a great little component that I consider to be the equivalent of duct tape.  When I first opened my box and saw the bag of Powerpoles my first thought was, “what is this, Legos?”  Well it’s just like Legos, they snap together and with a little imagination you can build just about anything.
73, – Dan from Alaska

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