Sink or Swim
Reel Time, Cabling Business Magazine, July 2007
Copper is one of the oldest and durable metals, surviving the test of time as its existence traces back more than 10,000 years. Copper has become the benchmark standard for electrical conductivity. Building construction accounts for more than 40% of all copper use. And, although copper is widely used as tubing in plumbing for heating and cooling, water is one of copper’s fiercest enemies. In fact, in the cabling industry, copper cables and water just do NOT mix.
Copper cable properties, specifically electrical characteristics, are dramatically degraded when exposed to water. The only way to protect copper cable is to keep it away from water. There are versions of outdoor, water-resistant cables, but indoor LAN cables, used in critical data, voice and video applications, such as in data centers or in the high-speed, high-bandwidth enterprise environment, are not water resistant. The reason is that water-resistant materials used for insulation and jacketing for outdoor cables, are not rated for indoor fire-resistant usage and would not pass local or National Eelectric safety codes and regulations.
There are two things that can happen when an indoor-rated cable is exposed to water. Initially, the water surrounding the cable jacket lowers the impedance of the cable. This, in turn, increases the attenuation of the cable and may cause it to fail a test with a handheld tester. The measured return loss (RL) of the cable could also change. The second thing is that since the jacket is not designed for use in water, exposure to water can have a long-term effect on the cable jacket, affecting its mechanical properties. Contaminates in the water, like oil residue or chlorine, can break down the jacket and insulation materials over time.
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