# Wall Wart Woes!

M

#### Martin Brown

Jan 1, 1970
0
I wonder how many of us have old modems/WiFis/Routers salted away in a
dark cupboard waiting for the day when they might be needed again for
something? (usually helping a charity with their IT needs)

The main annoyance is that the wall warts and even laptop PC supplies of
old span a crazy range of random voltages and both polarities. And the
PSU often dies or simply gets lost leaving the unit orphaned.

That isn't too much of a problem since modern switched mode supplies and
fit anything connectors are easy enough to come by. The really annoying
thing in recycling kit for a charity where the original PSU is lost is
that in most cases neither the manual nor the unit itself states whether
the power connector is positive or negative centre pin. The lost PSU of
course displays which voltage, current and polarity it outputs but the
unit requiring power very often does not.

Now you could take it apart, but more often just play Russian roulette
and see if the LEDs light. Why can't manufacturers label the connector
with (+)- or (-)+ nnV/mmA? I am fed up with just seeing "POWER".

That label tells me nothing I can't already guess from the type of
connector - what I really want to know is what voltage and polarity!

Does anyone else find this annoying?

P

#### PeterD

Jan 1, 1970
0
I wonder how many of us have old modems/WiFis/Routers salted away in a
dark cupboard waiting for the day when they might be needed again for
something? (usually helping a charity with their IT needs)

The main annoyance is that the wall warts and even laptop PC supplies of
old span a crazy range of random voltages and both polarities. And the
PSU often dies or simply gets lost leaving the unit orphaned.

That isn't too much of a problem since modern switched mode supplies and
fit anything connectors are easy enough to come by. The really annoying
thing in recycling kit for a charity where the original PSU is lost is
that in most cases neither the manual nor the unit itself states whether
the power connector is positive or negative centre pin. The lost PSU of
course displays which voltage, current and polarity it outputs but the
unit requiring power very often does not.

Now you could take it apart, but more often just play Russian roulette
and see if the LEDs light. Why can't manufacturers label the connector
with (+)- or (-)+ nnV/mmA? I am fed up with just seeing "POWER".

That label tells me nothing I can't already guess from the type of
connector - what I really want to know is what voltage and polarity!

Does anyone else find this annoying?

I know this is high level rocket science, but...

1. The label on the unit tells the voltage. Always.

2. The polarity can be determined with a visual inspection of the board
at the connector, they will have at least one filter capacitor, with a

W

#### WoolyBully

Jan 1, 1970
0
I know this is high level rocket science, but...

1. The label on the unit tells the voltage. Always.

2. The polarity can be determined with a visual inspection of the board
at the connector, they will have at least one filter capacitor, with a
The polarity of the connector is also almost always on the AC powered
product ID label as well. OR it can be ID'd from the cord feeding the
plug sometimes too. The 'icon' on the device being powered sometimes
shows the polarity 'desired' by it as well. Look closely at the logo at
the power pin, if there is one.

The standard is typically "center positive" because the connector
design is usually such that the barrel (outer) connects first. Or for
whatever reason, it has been pretty much the de-facto method.

There are, however "center negative" versions as well. So much for
adopting and maintaining standards. Maybe we should ring the necks of
all the dopes who stubbornly did it "their way" anyway.

I have also used in a design, types which have a threaded ferrule on
them and actually attach to the device the get plugged into. I would want
that exposed ferrule to be chassis, which is usually negative.

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi Martin,

I wonder how many of us have old modems/WiFis/Routers salted away in a
dark cupboard waiting for the day when they might be needed again for
something? (usually helping a charity with their IT needs)

The main annoyance is that the wall warts and even laptop PC supplies of
old span a crazy range of random voltages and both polarities. And the
PSU often dies or simply gets lost leaving the unit orphaned.

That isn't too much of a problem since modern switched mode supplies and
fit anything connectors are easy enough to come by. The really annoying
thing in recycling kit for a charity where the original PSU is lost is
that in most cases neither the manual nor the unit itself states whether
the power connector is positive or negative centre pin. The lost PSU of
course displays which voltage, current and polarity it outputs but the
unit requiring power very often does not.

I volunteer at a non-profit that actually *receives* such kit for
recycling. If you think its bad trying to chase down *your* wall wart
for *your* piece of kit, imagine the problem when donors drop off
random bits of kit with the wall warts in a knotted tangle -- which
often doesn't include *the* wall wart for the item of interest!

(We have, literally, garbage *cans* full of wall warts whose mates
are unknown)

Some vendors will mark the product with the voltage and polarity of
the expected power source. Then, it's "just" a matter of finding
the appropriate barrel diameter and center post diameter to "fit".
Now you could take it apart, but more often just play Russian roulette
and see if the LEDs light. Why can't manufacturers label the connector
with (+)- or (-)+ nnV/mmA? I am fed up with just seeing "POWER".

One gripe *I* have is that the standard scheme for indicating polarity
doesn't fare well as it is scaled. Something like:

+ ----* )---- -

where the ")" signifying the barrel contact actually wraps around the
"*" signifying the center post. Ink bleed at small scales often turns
this into a guessing game: "is that a '-' or a '+'? Is the line
from that +/- symbol going to the center *pin*? Or, the enclosing
curve??"

Why not a simple circle with a sign inside? Takes LESS space on the
label (so it could be printed at a larger scale) and removes some of the
ambiguity!

Or, design devices that are tolerant of polarity reversals! (ideally,
*functioning* with either polarity or at least not giving up the
ghost with "reversed" polarity!)

For my own, personal items, I label each wall wart with the name of
its mate and write the power requirements on the mate with a "Sharpie"
using the "circled sign" graphic I described accompanied by
voltage and amperage. I have a *white* pen for those items
that have black cases.
That label tells me nothing I can't already guess from the type of
connector - what I really want to know is what voltage and polarity!

A vendor once made the observation that center positive is common
for US market while many other markets have center negative. I
suspect that is *not* universally true (as I have encountered
lots of kit with center negative).
Does anyone else find this annoying?

Let's see... how many souls currently on the planet?

P

#### Pimpom

Jan 1, 1970
0
WoolyBully said:
The polarity of the connector is also almost always on the AC
powered
product ID label as well. OR it can be ID'd from the cord
feeding the
plug sometimes too. The 'icon' on the device being powered
sometimes
shows the polarity 'desired' by it as well. Look closely at
the logo
at the power pin, if there is one.

The standard is typically "center positive" because the
connector
design is usually such that the barrel (outer) connects first.
Or for
whatever reason, it has been pretty much the de-facto method.

There are, however "center negative" versions as well. So much
for
adopting and maintaining standards. Maybe we should ring the
necks of
all the dopes who stubbornly did it "their way" anyway.

I have also used in a design, types which have a threaded
ferrule on
them and actually attach to the device the get plugged into. I
would
want that exposed ferrule to be chassis, which is usually
negative.

I've just had a look at the two wallwart-powered ADSL modems on
my desk, and though they both specify the required DC supply
voltages, neither one shows the polarity. They are neither
moulded nor printed anywhere.

A high majority of the devices I've worked with and on over the
years use the outer ring as the positive contact, with the
opposite polarization being occasional exceptions. I've always
considered the more common practice illogical.

K

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0
If you but a model K901 Ethernet switch, why doesn't the wart have a
label "For model K901" ?

Mostly because the wall wart is used for everything the company makes and is
usually an off-the-shelf item.

D

#### David Lesher

Jan 1, 1970
0
The main annoyance is that the wall warts and even laptop PC supplies of
old span a crazy range of random voltages and both polarities. And the
PSU often dies or simply gets lost leaving the unit orphaned.

<http://2.ly/qaw3>

D

#### David Lesher

Jan 1, 1970
0
If you but a model K901 Ethernet switch, why doesn't the wart have a
label "For model K901" ?

Because K's builder bought the wallwarts from Delta or another wallwart
supplier....and they charge real money for custom labels. Further,
they also fit K950's, L111's and etc. What label should they pay Delta
to use?

D

#### David Lesher

Jan 1, 1970
0
Because they are usually generic, for multiple models in a company's
product line. Big companies like to reduce stock numbers. In some
cases there are several revisions of 'K901', each requiring different
wall warts. Linksys was good at that. Not only do they change them,
but they delete the old information from their support documents.

Because Linksys bought each version from a different supplier, I bet.

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi David,

Because K's builder bought the wallwarts from Delta or another wallwart
supplier....and they charge real money for custom labels. Further,
they also fit K950's, L111's and etc. What label should they pay Delta
to use?

And what happens when the wall wart gets misplaced?

Wall wart (applies to bricks as well) *and* device
need to clearly indicate their power requirements.
ON THE DEVICES (since you can't expect a user to
hold onto any printed documentation that came with
the original product -- nor can you rely on vendors
to maintain this information on web sites, help desks,
etc.).

Ink is cheap (or, raised lettering on a mold).

(though this still ignores the issue of protecting
that device from "inappropriate" power adapter choices
on the part of the user!)

B

#### Baron

Jan 1, 1970
0
WoolyBully Inscribed thus:
The polarity of the connector is also almost always on the AC
powered
product ID label as well. OR it can be ID'd from the cord feeding the
plug sometimes too. The 'icon' on the device being powered sometimes
shows the polarity 'desired' by it as well. Look closely at the logo
at the power pin, if there is one.

The standard is typically "center positive" because the connector
design is usually such that the barrel (outer) connects first. Or for
whatever reason, it has been pretty much the de-facto method.

There are, however "center negative" versions as well. So much for
adopting and maintaining standards. Maybe we should ring the necks of
all the dopes who stubbornly did it "their way" anyway.

I have also used in a design, types which have a threaded ferrule on
them and actually attach to the device the get plugged into. I would
want that exposed ferrule to be chassis, which is usually negative.

What about the ones that actually require an AC supply. Granted you are
unlikely to cause any damage irrespective of the polarity of a DC
supply.

D

#### David Lesher

Jan 1, 1970
0
I think there is a trend towards a universal power scheme, namely the
USB thing.

The EU, tired of tens of millions of junked smartphone chargers
per year, mandated 5VDC/microUSB. The phone builders balked at
first, then grokked then no longer need to ship one with each
phone.

Apple, of course, is upset. They make big money selling
replacement chargers.

W

#### WoolyBully

Jan 1, 1970
0
WoolyBully Inscribed thus:
What about the ones that actually require an AC supply. Granted you are
unlikely to cause any damage irrespective of the polarity of a DC
supply.

I find it funny that a huge number of AC fed power supplies (only the
switchers) will work, no problem at all, if fed with DC.

Since there is no transformer, no cycling is needed.

One cannot do that with a linear, transformer front ended power supply.

H

#### HectorZeroni

Jan 1, 1970
0
i have several routers in the same case, but with different power
connectors. The early versions used a three pin plug & dual voltage. It
also had a fan. The later boards used two different coaxial connectors.

Maybe because they are owned by, and their designs are engineered by
Cisco now.

K

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0

No, because the droid in shipping reaches in the bin and pulls one to stick in
the kit. There are likely four vendors' wall warts in the bin, which is used
for 999 different kits.
It's a Phihong switcher, and we sticker it as a "Highland model J12".
The main box has the female power connector labeled "+12V" and the
manual and web site say that it works with a J12.

We'd mark the case with the "universal symbol" (concentric circles, with a
line going to a "+" for CPP) and the voltage. It costs a little. I don't
understand why there would ever be CPN, but that's just me.
I wonder how many returns people get from their customers using the
wrong wart. You'd think they'd come out ahead by using some stickers.

You think people are going to read a silly sticker before plugging something
in? If it fits, it's going to be tried. I tried to code the voltage and
current into the connectors (center pin diameter and length) but it cost quite
a bit, in both  and aggravation, to do it and it didn't always work.

K

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi David,

And what happens when the wall wart gets misplaced?

Wall wart (applies to bricks as well) *and* device
need to clearly indicate their power requirements.
ON THE DEVICES (since you can't expect a user to
hold onto any printed documentation that came with
the original product -- nor can you rely on vendors
to maintain this information on web sites, help desks,
etc.).

I think that's a UL requirement, but maybe not for really low power devices.
Ink is cheap (or, raised lettering on a mold).

(though this still ignores the issue of protecting
that device from "inappropriate" power adapter choices
on the part of the user!)

I tried to do that with a TVS and polyfuse. Low voltages were still a
problem, though.

M

#### Martin Brown

Jan 1, 1970
0
Sometimes you can recognise the maker even when it *is* badged. I don't
mind so much that the wart doesn't say which product it belongs with so
long as both PSU and product both state their ratings and polarity.

I find a dab of coloured paint on the plug and socket helps avoid
embarrassing smoke emissions where different scanners/routers have
identical connectors but significantly different voltage requirements.
How long would it take to slap a sticker on a wart before they ship
it? I'd be happy if they'd spend their time doing that, and eliminate
some of the zillion twist-ties on everything, and the plastic junk
taped all over the line plug.

Problem is that the same unit likely powers a dozen different products.

What I want is the product having a case moulding that includes the
power polarity, voltage and current requirements of the product. This
labelling is mandatory for mains powered equipment, but apparently once
you stick a wall wart in the way you can just put a 3.5mm socket
labelled "POWER" on the outside and be done with it.

Mass production techniques don't cost more for a few extra characters on
the injection moulded back panel, nor would it hurt to include these
details in the manual tech ref pages! Virtual ink costs nothing.

It seems most engineers agree with me so how do we get the halfwitted
MBAs to make the change? I guess they see customers blowing things up
due to badly designed power connectors as a way to increase sales.
I think there is a trend towards a universal power scheme, namely the
USB thing.

EU inspired thing to prevent the insane proliferation of utterly
incompatible mobile phone charges using ever more exotic shaped
connectors but almost all about the same voltage and power.

M

#### mike

Jan 1, 1970
0
I know this is high level rocket science, but...

1. The label on the unit tells the voltage. Always.

You should get out more.
Always is an often misused word.
2. The polarity can be determined with a visual inspection of the board
at the connector, they will have at least one filter capacitor, with a
If there's a connector accessible, that often connects to ground.
Then you can measure from that connector to the power socket to determine
the ground connection. The other one is often positive.

D

#### Don Y

Jan 1, 1970
0
Hi Peter,

2. The polarity can be determined with a visual inspection of the board
at the connector, they will have at least one filter capacitor, with a

So, we're supposed to disassemble each such device (think: flimsy
snap-together construction... if not *gasp* solvent welded!) and
go on a reverse-engineering mission?

You can sort out polarity. And, you can put an upper limit on the
*voltage* (not to exceed the lowest WVDC of the caps on that line).
But, no idea as to current requirements.

All this work just so a vendor can AVOID marking his product clearly?
Hint to manufacturers: make your corporate logo smaller if you don't
have room for this information (<gasp>)

W

#### WoolyBully

Jan 1, 1970
0
You should get out more.
Always is an often misused word.

Especially in this fucked up group.

Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
561
Replies
6
Views
724
Replies
6
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
1K