NEMA vs. Zhaga: Lighting Connectors

6 Minute Read

In the industry of lighting, finding the right attachment method for controllers and fixtures is crucial. Although the classical method is via wire, internal installations can jeopardize the warranty. Conversely, external installations might seem bulky. Enter specialized connectors: NEMA and Zhaga.

NEMA vs. Zhaga: Lighting Connectors
A Closer Look at NEMA Connectors

A Closer Look at NEMA Connectors

Origin of NEMA

With the widespread installation of photo-relays on light fixtures, particularly in the USA, the NEMA connector emerged. The term 'NEMA' stands for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which represents a set of standards for electrical connections and devices, prevalent in various sectors, including street lighting.

The Evolution of NEMA Standards

Tracing its roots back to the early 20th century, the first NEMA standards came to light with the advent of electrification and the proliferation of electric lighting systems. These standards dictate the connector's shape and size and its defense mechanisms against dust and moisture. The latter is vital for ensuring the longevity and reliability of streetlights across diverse climatic conditions.

The initial standard, tailored for outdoor lighting, was named ANSI C136. This early version of the NEMA connector was three-pronged, designed specifically for the operation of a standard photo relay. These prongs played distinct roles: voltage input, voltage output, and a neutral setting. Notably, given the potency of lights equipped with bulbs, and with the US grid voltage standing at 110V, the connector's contacts were reliable, capable of managing currents up to 15A. For safety, the neutral contact was designed to be longer and larger, ensuring it's the first to connect.

A Closer Look at NEMA Connectors

A significant shift occurred around a decade ago when the standard was updated to ANSI C 136.1-2012. This introduced four additional contacts: two designated for control and two unregulated contacts meant for sensor connections and supplementary low-voltage supply.

In its contemporary guise, the NEMA connector maintains its three-pronged power structure but adds either two or four control contacts. While some might view it as somewhat antiquated and criticize its bulkiness, its efficiency and reliability remain undeniable. Its enduring presence is evident, as many light manufacturers consistently include equipment fitted with this connector in their product lines. Our range of lighting controllers with the NEMA index is testament to its continued relevance.

Zhaga Lighting Connectors

Zhaga Lighting Connectors

While NEMA has long been the industry standard, the lighting world continues to evolve. With digital shifts, low-power LED fixtures, and the miniaturization of connectors, a newer standard emerged approximately 5 years ago: Zhaga.

An Introduction to Zhaga

Zhaga represents a global consortium established to streamline connectors and interfaces in LED lighting systems. The name itself finds its roots in the Swiss town of Zhaga, the birthplace of this groundbreaking agreement.

Zhaga's Unique Design and Functionality

Zhaga's Unique Design and Functionality

Key Features:

Compactness: The Zhaga connector stands out as a miniaturized low-voltage connector, designed optimally for a maximum voltage of 30V. 

Control over Power: A distinct feature is that the Zhaga connector doesn't power the light fixture. Instead, it is purely for control purposes.

Diverse Contacts: Zhaga uses two contacts primarily for the digital DALI interface. An additional contact powers the gateway, while yet another unregulated contact is designated for synchronization in initiatives like the Smart Pole project.

Zhaga Innovative Structure:

Zhaga connectors are ingeniously crafted. Unlike their NEMA counterparts, they feature plastic hooks, which allow devices to be connected both from the top and bottom. This ensures that devices remain securely in place, facilitating the connection of gateways from above and sensors from below.

Challenges of Zhaga

Regarded by many as the zenith in the evolution of outdoor lighting connectors, Zhaga does come with its precautions. To function optimally, it necessitates special drivers (D4i) that support low-voltage power output. Absent these, powering the devices becomes challenging. Given the current pricing of these D4i standard drivers, fixtures with Zhaga connectors are still a rarity. However, as with all technological advances, this is targeted to change. For those seeking the cutting edge in sensor-equipped fixtures, Zhaga is the gold standard. Our product range, equipped with the Zhaga connector, exemplifies this transition.

Embracing Zhaga signifies a step towards the future, ensuring efficient lighting solutions tailored for modern requirements.

Wire Connection

Wire Connection

As we conclude our discussion, it's essential to circle back to the fundamental wire connection method we touched upon at the beginning. Its relevance remains undiminished in today's lighting landscape.

Wire Connection in Modern Settings

Though the industry has evolved, the wire connection method is still in use. Imagine a scenario where you possess a hollow support and leverage PLC technology; here, it becomes straightforward to install a lighting controller at the base of the support, a perfect fit for the Wire Simpline Node module.

Convenience and Cost-Efficiency

One undeniable advantage stands out: its installation doesn't necessitate an elevated platform. This means streets remain unblocked and additional expenses linked to elevated platform setups are sidestepped.

Making the Right Choice

To summarize, the choice of connection type entirely depends on the chosen light fixtures. All methods allow for the construction of reliable lighting control systems.