Enclosures for USB WiFi adapters
Weatherproof Enclosures for USB WiFi Adapters
Weatherproof enclosures or outdoor wireless enclosures are a type of electronic enclosure that can be used to house WiFi networking equipment outside. It is essentially a small, hardwearing cabinet or box in which wireless equipment like access points, signal boosters, or routers are mounted, covered, and sealed to protect them from environmental exposure. They come with a variety of opening mechanisms but usually carry a latch or screwed-on cover. The enclosure forms part of the external mounting arrangements for wireless networking equipment and usually needs to provide easy access to the electronic devices within it as well as providing grommets at the outlets for cabling to antennas and downstream radio equipment or devices. Critical cable deployments and power connections can also be effectively sheltered from harsh outdoor conditions. Electronics enclosures should be readily wall-mounted or pole-mounted according to the requirements of your network and are either pre-drilled or externally applied.
These enclosures may also be termed NEMA enclosures, being named after the safety and protection rating system of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The term NEMA may be used whether the enclosures are rated by them or not.
Wireless enclosures are made from a range of materials, which take into account the need for the enclosure to:
- Have structural integrity
- Protect from the external environment
- Not impair the connectivity of the wireless networking equipment
- Provide convenient, repeated access to operators for modification or repair
Understandably, these multi-purpose enclosures are typically non-metallic and made from plastics such as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), polycarbonate, polystyrene, polyvinylchloride (PVC), or polypropylene.The materials used are also made flame retardant and UV-resistant. As weatherproofed products, these enclosures have been designed to withstand extremes of temperature and prevent the ingress of moisture, humidity, particulates, and dust. Such enclosures may carry an Ingress Protection rating (IP code) as discussed below.
A weatherproof enclosure for USB WiFi adapters is designed to be able to house wireless equipment that will connect to an outdoor USB WiFi adapter. These WiFi adapters are a common plug-and-play solution for improving the quality and speed of WiFi connectivity for computers and other compatible devices. By using USB WiFi adapters the type of WiFi and frequency bands accessed can also be improved (for example being able to utilize 5 GHz or MIMO-based versions of WiFi), meaning older networking technology on a computer or laptop is effectively upgraded. These WiFi adapters can be inserted via a USB port and deliver an alternate wireless connection, bypassing the integrated PCI wireless networking card. Some of these Many USB WiFi adapters utilize an integrated or external antenna for improved reception of a local WiFi network.
- Outdoor USB WiFi adapters or WiFi outdoor USB antennas combine a WiFi-enabled dongle with a high gain omnidirectional antenna for mounting outside of a vehicle, workshop, garage, or house. The antenna receives the available WiFi signal and relaying it to a device connected by USB.
- Long-range USB WiFi adapters are a popular way of accessing WiFi hotspots which are located far from a computer’s location. Long-range USB directional antennas (with a range of 2000 meters or more) or omnidirectional antennas are used and can be housed within the weatherproof enclosure. The attached USB cables require are usually several meters long, providing adequate length for routing to a device or router. Long-term installation of this kind of USB WiFi antenna adapter, within a wall-mounted weatherproof enclosure is the ideal solution for remote or rural properties that need distance coverage.
Why are weatherproof enclosures for USB WiFi adapters important?
A good quality weatherproof enclosure will assist your wireless networking gear and antennas in withstanding the continual challenges of being sited in an outdoor environment. These are:
- The effects of moisture ingress
- The effects of dust and particulate matter
- The effects of air pollution
- The effects of temperature extremes
The outdoor installation will certainly age electronics, which can lead to deterioration of their performance, the speed of this process depending on the level of exposure. Corrosion, literally the progressive destruction of the materials that make up the wireless equipment, once started cannot be stopped. Good housing in an appropriate enclosure will help to slow these effects. They keep the immediate environment of the wireless equipment clean, dry, free from dust, and humidity low.
- Enclosures for USB WiFi adapters protect against the effects of moisture ingress. If the antenna and cable assembly are exposed in a humid environment, air vapor can enter devices and connectors and condense on their surfaces. Moisture causes corrosion and electrolysis of metal components. In coax cables, moisture ingress increases the electrical conductivity of insulators with increased dielectric losses and failure of the radio circuit ensuing. The presence of water in any amount will raise the risk that corrosion of the assembly will start, so keeping wireless networking gear enclosed within good housing that is dry on the inside, is vitally important.
- Enclosures for USB WiFi adapters protect against the effects of dust and particulate matter. Dust ingress is a significant cause of the failure of electronic devices. Corrosive dust such as soot, sand, and electrolyte salts can settle on exposed equipment and settle in the threads of connectors or gaps in their crimping. Their accrual on electronic equipment can induce a mechanical change with leakage currents being created and even short-circuiting. The effects of dust will be accentuated by the presence of moisture and airflow. These high-quality enclosures are designed to minimize the access of dust and particulates to the enclosed wireless equipment.
- Enclosures for USB WiFi adapters protect against the effects of air pollution. The oxidative and corrosive effects of air pollution, in particular, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen dioxide are not to be underestimated. Prolonged exposure to these and other airborne pollutants will produce a tarnish film on radio frequency connectors electrical contacts raising contact resistance even where gold and silver are present. This leads to a disturbance of the performance of an antenna or other connected WiFi equipment. High humidity combined with air pollution will accelerate the progression of corrosion. Protection of externally mounted wireless equipment is therefore especially important in densely populated urban districts or where industrial emissions and traffic volumes are high.
- Enclosures for USB WiFi adapters protect against the effects of temperature extremes. Temperature control is essential to the optimal performance of all WiFi equipment and cabling in an outdoor installation. Every component will be individually rated for their tolerance of temperature extremes, but the entire radio frequency circuit may need thermal control. Enclosures help shield the USB WiFi adapter setup from high or low outdoor air temperatures, but within, the heat generated by the electronic equipment can build up and cause damage to electronics. The most common method of dissipating excess heat is passive cooling which relies on convection to move cooler air around the enclosure. Many enclosures carry vents for this purpose, or ventilation holes may be drilled at strategic points. For equipment like access points or router which may need additional cooling, fans may be incorporated in the enclosure to keep things cool. Where extremely low temperatures are likely to be encountered, heaters can be integrated into an enclosure, but this is a technical task that raises the cost of the entire setup.
The high-quality materials used in these enclosures for USB WiFi adapters ensure their performance in protecting your equipment
Plastic enclosures for wireless equipment are versatile and cost-effective material for signal -transmitting wireless devices and usually offer unimpeded transmission. As non-metallic enclosures, they carry some notable benefits including being:
- Hard-wearing and rugged
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Resilient against ingress of water, dirt, and dust
- Thermally stable
- Often fire-resistant and UV stable
- Easy to cut, drill or otherwise customize
Key rating systems are used to score the level of weatherproofing of these USB Wifi adapter enclosures
There are several rating systems used by manufacturers to qualify the level of protection a wireless enclosure will confer. They are useful for electronic equipment and accessories because of the effects of exposure to water and dirt, explored above. Rather than just relying on the term weatherproof, a rating provides an objective assessment of the level of resistance the enclosure will have to ingress of dust, particles, and moisture.
3 key rating systems for outdoor enclosures
- UL certifications cover several standards for electrical and electronic products, including enclosures. They are delivered by Underwriters Laboratories, a US-based company that is Government (OSHA) authorized to undertake safety testing in a range of areas. The wireless enclosures themselves may carry a rating or a particular component such as fire-retardants or other coatings used.
- Ingress Protection codes, known as Ingress Protection codes are a system of ratings devised by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). These codes specify the level of protection an electronics enclosure provides against the ingress of moisture, dust, and accidental impacts. IP codes provide a more detailed and structured description of the protective properties of an enclosure than simple descriptive terms. The code consists of two standard digits and two supplementary digits.
- The first digitdenotes solid particle protection. The numerical ratings span 0 which indicates that the enclosure does not protect against dust or solid particles, to 6 which means that the enclosure is dust-tight. An X in place of a numerical rating means that there is no data available for the particle protection of the product.
- The second digit outlines liquid ingress protection. Ratings here span 0 meaning that there is no protection against the ingress of water to 8 or 9 which indicates the ability to withstand prolonged immersion at up to 3 meters and high-temperature pressure washing respectively. An X in place of the second digit means that there is no rating for water-resistance.
- An additional letter may be added that specifies resistance of the enclosure to access by personnel with their fingers, hands, wire, or tools.
- A second additional letter may be used that is for specific properties of the enclosure, eg. weather resistance or high voltage uses.
- National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) ratings are a North American rating system for enclosures. Weatherproof enclosures are scored on the enclosures resistance to environmental hazards, corrosive agents, and personal access. Their enclosure specification outlines the characteristics of the enclosure following the features outlined by the organization. Enclosure specifications and ratings range from enclosures which are for general purpose use and protect against light splashes and minimal dust ingress, to waterproof and dust-tight housings that are resistant to corrosive chemicals.
Frequently asked questions
How do I install the USB WiFi adapter enclosure outside?
Once you have determined where you want to set up your outdoor USB with WiFi antenna, you can make an assessment of the wall or pole you are going to use for optimally mounting the enclosure. Most enclosures come with pre-drilled holes or external wall-mounting brackets that mean that you will avoid drilling the enclosure itself. If needed, new holes can be drilled and tapped but they may compromise the weatherproofing of the enclosure.
According to your mounting arrangements, the enclosure can be fitted on a mounting bracket that attaches to metal, brickwork wood, or concrete. Straps or U-bolts can be used to attach it securely to a pole. Wall-mounting kits or pole mount kits can be purchased for convenience.
Test fit the enclosure by holding it in place and mark positions for the necessary mounting screws. Drill your pilot holes and then insert suitable masonry plugs, making sure to avoid inserting plugs into mortar. The enclosure can then be screwed into place using appropriate screws.
Can I mount my USB WiFi adapters antenna within the enclosure?
Non-metallic enclosures, such as the range above are suitable for housing WiFi antennas as the wireless signal can pass through the plastic. Simply mount the antenna within the enclosure, allowing the antenna cable to exit through the base of the enclosure via a rubber grommet.
What are my other options for weatherproofing an outdoor USB WiFi adapter setup?
Properly weatherproofing your USB WiFi adapter is well worth the investment as it will save the expense and inconvenience of replacing corroded gear! Here are some other weatherproofing items you can use alongside your outdoor wireless enclosure:
- Glands: cable glands are a method of confidently sealing the cable entry point to your weatherproof enclosure. Glands function like connectors that seal the end of a cable and forms a watertight seal with the enclosure outlet hole, keeping your cabling and connectors contained and orderly. They are made up of a check nut, washers, and seals, that attach to a hollow body through which the cable is passed. Glands are also available for USB, fiber, SIM, and terminal block.
- Rubber gaskets and seals can also be used to enhance the weatherproofing of an enclosure. They are usually self-adhesive and may come on a roll so that they can be cut to size for the opening of your enclosure. Cutting the seal to size on the diagonal produces the best results.
- Grommets can be used to seal outlets and knockout holes in an enclosure. Sharp edges can wear at and even cut through cables that are fed out of the enclosure. A rubber grommet protects the cable from excessive rubbing. They are available in a range of sizes.
- Silicone greaseis a convenient and effective waterproofer for WiFi enclosure, antennas, and other radiofrequency connections. Dielectric grease will actively repel moisture and prevent oxidation and corrosion of your antenna connectors.
- Coaxial sealant tapecan be used to seal connections in your wireless assembly. The stretchy moldable tape is stretch-wrapped around the connectors and cable and molded to form a weatherproof seal. If it needs to be removed it can be carefully cut away with a sharp blade.
- Drip loops help to divert water that is tracking down exposed cables away from connectors or outlets. By including some slack in your antenna or USB cable you can form a loop that keeps water away from downstream electronics. Drip loops can be fixed to the wall by using coaxial cable clips.
If you are installing a USB WiFi adapter for long term use, a wireless enclosure is a prudent investment for safeguarding the performance of your equipment. Installing your WiFi networking gear within these robust housings provides confidence that your assembly will be able to withstand all that seasons throw at it.