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Power over Ethernet: Codes, Contractors, and Connections

Power over Ethernet: Codes, Contractors, and Connections

While it’s been around for about two decades, the technology that can best leverage Power over Ethernet (PoE) systems is only now viable for commercial and multi-unit residential facilities on a large scale. The opportunity is there, but there are still a few major issues: building codes, concerns from contractors, and the newness of not PoE, but the connected devices that need the system.

Why Demand is Skyrocketing

lightED has already covered the IoT angle of solid-state lighting and the connected building, so without reinventing the wheel, the focus of this article is on generating data and linking devices in order to minimize operating costs. Some examples, obviously, include LEDs, but also wireless access points and temperature, glass-break, and other sensors where there are long distances between units.

Brian Rooney, branch manager at Crescent Electric Supply Company, says “It allows for more efficient and smarter buildings which can focus on the human element by leveraging data analytics to create a better tenant experience.”

They remain most effective as part of a larger solution for commercial applications but Rooney believes “we’ve just scratched the surface and we are a long way away from the true power of these technologies.”

Codes: Chicago, NYC and Everywhere Else

Chicago is the only city in the U.S. that still has its own construction code incorporated into municipal law. Even New York City has adopted a variant of the International Building Code, with some tweaks.

Rooney works in Chicago. “We haven’t seen a large decrease in material needs yet due to our local codes specifically. Plus, just as distributors have come to see themselves as solution providers, so, too, do electrical contractors.”

“Additionally many contractors have adapted to expand their skillsets and take advantage of all electrical opportunities on a job,” he adds. “Instead of subbing low-voltage work, many contractors have brought that in-house since 2008 or 2009.”

The differences in codes mean that the value of PoE definitely depends on jurisdiction. One issue for distributors will be trying to keep track of code changes. While many jurisdictions allow Class 2 cabling, like Cat 5 cables, to be installed without conduit or metal cladding, it really does depend on the local code.

Concerns from Low-Voltage Contractors

Being a distributor is all about creating relationships that span from contractors to the client to manufacturers. One issue that individual contractors have is that there are online marketplaces for contracting services under independent contractor agreements.

Mark Krellcom is a C7 low voltage journeyman working in California and says that in that state, there is a $500 limit for 1099 contractors in his field. However, “This illegal contractors market is huge from my standpoint. And growing bigger because of several reasons,” he says. “The primary [reason] is that the Contractors State License Board states they do not have jurisdiction over companies out of state. Then the contractors claim they are getting work under the $500 mark.”

So while he and Rooney are on the same page in terms of the relative smoothness of the transition for both contractors and distributors towards more PoE applications, licensed contractors do worry that their services may be less competitive because of additional costs for insurance and other requirements.

Still, Krellcom notes, “We see a huge market for C7 & C7 Electrical Contractors if we can get control of the huge contractor companies [that may not follow certain labor policies] from taking these opportunities.”

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John Curran

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