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Monday, November 26, 2018

Power Pole Connectors: Why they are good to have

Electronic hobbyists know all too well that there are different types of connectors for specific intended (or unintended) applications.

Special HVDN Cyber Monday discount offer below this article

The Power Pole connector type is very helpful to have on hand. Here we will explore the correct way to install them and a few different uses for these genderless connectors across the "amateur radio", "maker" and "electronics hobbyist" communities.

What Is A Powerpole Connector?

The "Powerpole" is a family of electrical connectors originally brought to market by Anderson Power Products (APP),although plug compatible connectors are now available from alternate sources.

Specific variants of this series of connectors have become de facto standards for conveying "higher power" direct current (DC) electrical power, although these standards are inconsistent and sometimes ignored.

There are two parts to every power pole connector, the housing and terminal. There are also spacers and pins for even more potential covered later.

The Basics:  Powerpole Terminology

Powerpole housings come in many colors. This is great to help identify different applications such as positive voltage could be red, negative power could be black, a ground connection could be green, etc

The most common housing size also can accommodate different size terminals that can carry 15, 30 or 45 amps of power.

Great Feature: Housings can be used over and over by removing the inner terminal if you need to change to a larger size or different color.

Many other connectors that are crimp based can not be easily reused and this is a major benefit of powerpole connector housings.

It is a best practice to purchase extra terminals to have on hand if you crimp one poorly or eventually need to replace the terminal.

Powerpole terminals rated for 15, 30 and 45 amp also accept different diameter wires. Never try to use thicker wire in smaller gauge terminals, but it is ok to use smaller gauge wire in larger terminals.

Good advice for many amateur radio or robotic applications is to use the 30 amp #12 AWG as your standard size terminal.  Only very high current applications will require the 45 amp terminal versions and those are more expensive, thus better saved for those applications only.

Mating Powerpoles Together

The outside of the powerpole housing has special grooves that allow them to slide together and create a power pole block. There are four different ways each powerpole housing can mate together and every application may have different needs, so there is no uniform standard by design to promote different use cases.

Many applications in amateur radio involve power pole connections for DC power, the recommended way to assemble them would be RED on the LEFT, BLACK on the RIGHT with tongue down and hood up as pictured below.

The housings friction fit together are often very tight and not likely to pull apart, but there is also a small pin that can be inserted between housing to ensure the housings do not pull apart.

Since the power pole connector is genderless, meaning there is total uniformity and no male or female version it is sometimes necessary to flip the colors from one side to the other so a pair of connections can fit together.  Always assume that a RED powerpole connected to the end of a RED wire is positive DC voltage, never connect RED to BLACK and BLACK to RED.

Powerpole connectors have been gaining in popularity over the last 10  or more years. Something new is a polarized spacer to even further prevent accidental connections. These work in different ways, so sliding them on to sensitive equipment power cables may be a good thing to consider.

One of many new powerpole products offered at Quick Silver Radio 

Premade Powerpole Cables and Accessories

A specialized crimping tool is the best way to assemble your own power pole connections rather than generic pliers. It is also possible to crimp and solder terminals for even better reliability, but not mandatory.

There are many preassembled accessories like jumper cables,  12V accessory panels, and mounting kits to make using power pole your go to DC connector of choice.

Non-Power Use for Powerpole connectors

There are many other uses for these almost "Lego-like" power connectors that only you can think of. One example is using them as quick connectors for antenna projects such as portable linked wire dipoles for those interested in SOTA or Field Day HF operation or even to help make ladderline easier to splice used in other antenna projects.

KK5JY has a good article on using powerpoles
with antenna projects at

How to properly assemble Powerpole connectors

First, start by getting the best crimp tool you can afford. Do not cheap out or try to use the wrong tool for the job.  The result will be an improper connection and false blame on this great connector by not following best practices.

GB Electrical GS-388
A basic powerpole crimp tool

The above pictured power pole crimp tool is pretty basic and sells for less than $15 USD at most retailers. This tool is not the fanciest, but gets the job done and has not worn out since I first purchased in at a hamfest back in 2008 or 2009 and has performed flawlessly.

A basic crimp tool compared to the fancier ratchet function ones take a little more time but I think provides a better crimp, but that is just personal opinion as I have both types of crimp tool.

basic powerpole crimp tool
A basic crimping tool gives a little more control over
the finished result, but does require a little more hand strength

Here is a great video on how to use the ratchet based tool. There are many more just like it, but this seems to be the best one showing proper process thanks to the Riviera Robotics Team of Santa Barbara, California no where close to the Hudson Valley of New York.

Special Discount Offer:  Thanks to Quicksilver Radio

John Bee, N1GNV and his team usually make it to most every decently sized "hamfest" in the North Eastern United States where they sell not only power pole related products, but many other tools, small parts and radio related accessories. Now you can take advantage of some savings with your next online purchase at Quicksilver Radio on Cyber Monday (Expires 11/27/2018)

Please use the following coupon code on your next purchase to appreciate some savings on your next purchase of power pole related equipment.

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