Wi-Fi Access Point Enclosure under stadium seat being power washed

How to Protect Wi-Fi Access Points in Power Wash Environments

September 09, 2021

As more wireless networks extend into nontraditional, “edge” environments, there are a number of new and often overlooked considerations that traditional IT teams must face. This includes the need to properly plan for and protect equipment that may be placed in indoor or outdoor locations where power washing is a possibility or necessity.

In the past, there simply was no set standard or method to test for power wash protection, leaving the matter of equipment protection up to chance. Now, thanks to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), there is finally a specification dedicated solely to testing for this assurance.

But before we discuss this new Power Wash standard in more detail, it’s important to first discuss NEMA Type ratings as a helpful basis of understanding.

Understanding NEMA Type Enclosure Ratings for Edge Applications

NEMA has a widely accepted enclosure standard that covers various requirements to protect equipment against environmental conditions.

Whether placing equipment in outdoor or indoor environments that may be subject to harsh conditions, most installers will consider the NEMA requirements and will also be familiar with the NEMA Type designations, such as NEMA types 1,2,3, 3R, 4, 4X, 12, etc.

NEMA Type designations are described in NEMA 250-2018 Standard for Enclosures for Electrical Equipment. A higher number NEMA Type is not necessarily better than a lower number Type. The Type just indicates the environment for which the enclosure is designed.

NEMA Type enclosures can be made of aluminum, stainless steel, steel, fiberglass, polycarbonate or other constructions. Now more than ever, these enclosures are being used to protect and secure sensitive electronic edge compute and IoT (Internet of Things) equipment such as Wi-Fi Access Points (APs), 5G small cells, Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches, UPSs, industrial control gear and more.

The New Standard for Power Washable Enclosures

A new designation in the NEMA 250-2018 standard is the Power Wash or PW Ancillary Rating. The PW rating indicates that the enclosure has been designed for exterior cleaning with high pressure power washers, and satisfactorily tested to the standard.

The PW Ancillary Rating may be appended only to the following NEMA ratings:

Type 3, 3X, 3S, 4, 4X, 6, 6P, 12, 12X, 13

Enclosure Type Nomenclature

Look for the PW Ancillary rating, as in the following example for a compliant product’s specification:

NEMA Type 12, 4 PW

Where is a PW Rating Needed?

Equipment installed or mounted in any environment subject to high pressure power washing should be protected in a suitably rated product. Those environments include stadium seating areas, courtyards and patios, parking decks and garages, and indoors in certain industrial, food service and medical environments.

Enclosures protecting wireless gear and antennas are typically constructed of fiberglass, polycarbonate or other non-metallic materials. These non-metallic enclosures should also provide the PW rating in the environments listed above.

Oberon Products that Provide a PW Rating

Oberon, a division of Chatsworth Products, and longtime leader in Wi-Fi infrastructure solutions, offers a variety of PW rated products through its Skybar™ Collection, including NEMA non-metallic enclosures that are designed and have been tested to satisfy the NEMA 250-2018 standard for NEMA 4 and 4X (watertight and corrosion resistant respectively).

Oberon’s model 1020 and 1022 NEMA 4X non-metallic Wi-Fi AP enclosures are designed for areas that may be power washed such as beneath seats in stadiums, or on walls in courtyards and garages. These products feature an engineered gasket, captured hardware, and a molded-in gasket barrier that helps to protect the gasket in higher pressure, power wash environments.

Oberon’s Skybar NEMA enclosures are comprised of a low loss, corrosion resistant, paintable polycarbonate material. They are designed to have minimal impact on wireless signal and venue aesthetics. And now they have been designed and tested to provide an extra degree of protection for power wash environments.

Learn more about Oberon’s Skybar Collection.