Top 2 Things to Consider When Running Ethernet and Power Cable
Written by Don Schultz, Networking Consultant & trueCABLE Customer
Have you ever wondered the effects of running Ethernet cable next to power cable? How do you make your install safe? And how do you avoid data loss? The answer is more complex than simple measurement of distance. There are two easy things to consider in order to ensure the safety and integrity of your network. First up is…
- Ethernet data cabling is classified as low voltage. Any type of AC wiring is classified as high voltage.
- When running unshielded data cable parallel to typical residential voltage power cables (110V for example), the NEC (National Electric Code) specifies it must be separated by at least 200mm or 8 inches.
- The NEC further specifies that shielded data cabling may be run in parallel with lower voltage residential power cable if a distance of 50mm or 2 inches is observed
It should be noted that this is to meet national U.S. building code. Most municipalities adopted this code without change. However, there are municipalities that have their own rules. It’s the installers responsibility to research this.
In addition to meeting code, the separation distances are geared towards electrical safety and not data integrity. As Ethernet data cable has increasing demands placed on it, especially as 10 Gigabit Ethernet is being adopted at a higher rate, the separation distances specified by the NEC are not adequate.
The NEC is concerned with voltage induction. Voltage induction means voltage can actually transfer from one cable to another due to the magnetic field generated by the higher voltage cable. In the case of Ethernet data cabling, this would not be good. The effect would be a piece of sensitive electronic equipment receiving voltage when it should not, potentially cause a fire hazard or voltage strong enough to cause personal injury or even death.
Voltage induction takes on a whole new meaning when extremely high voltage cabling like 240V or 480V is involved. DO NOT under any circumstances run Ethernet data cabling in parallel to high voltage cable unless the…
- power cabling is properly grounded
- Ethernet data cable is shielded and properly grounded at one end only
- power cable or Ethernet data cable (or both) is run through separate metal conduit
- conduit(s) are properly electrically grounded
- cables are separated by a distance of at least 24 inches
For all practical purposes, if the Ethernet cable is not expected to exceed 100 Mbit/s speeds then the above guidelines can be considered the minimum for safe data integrity. This means the electromagnetic and radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) will not be an issue for achieving data signaling free from packet loss.
For Cat6 or Cat6A Ethernet cable that is expected to carry 1000 Mbit/s (1 Gigabit) speed or above, running Cat6 cable next to electrical, the following minimums and tips will give the best results for data integrity:
For common AC wiring, such as 110V:
- Keep unshielded Ethernet data cable at least 16 inches away from the power cabling and only cross at right angles.
- If using shielded and grounded Ethernet cable, the minimum distance is reduced to 8 inches, but still only cross at right angles.
- When using metallic conduit for the Ethernet cable, or if the AC wiring is already inside power conduit, observe a minimum distance of 2 inches. This applies to shielded or unshielded Ethernet cable.
For extremely high voltage AC wiring, such as 240V and above:
- Keep the Ethernet data cable as far away as possible is the general rule of thumb!
- If proximity cannot be avoided, always use shielded Ethernet data cable and keep it 48 inches or more away from this kind of voltage. Run the Ethernet cable inside metallic conduit if feasible or have a steel barrier between the low and high voltage cables.
- All Ethernet data cable must be electrically grounded at one end.
Following the safety and data integrity guidelines will allow for a cable installation that is not only safe, but less susceptible to data loss. Know your environment, take the correct precautions and consult a registered electrician.
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