In the field ofoutdoor LED lighting and, specifically, street and urbanlighting, the so-called NEMA sockets and Zhaga sockets represent an indispensable element for lighting control and communication between the environment, drivers and LED modules. Both NEMA and Zhaga sockets provide an opportunity to prepare existing luminaires for future technologies. This standardization operation allows the control unit to be specifically modified without having to change the entire LED luminaire.

What are the differences and peculiarities of the two sockets?

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zhaga socket nema socket

NEMA socket: definition and general overview

NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a U.S. association that provides a widely adopted market standard on the American continent (less so in Europe) covering electrical equipment and ensuring its safety, effectiveness and compatibility. This concept also includes the standardization of connectors in lighting systems. The NEMA socket we usually refer to includes 3-pin NEMA, 5-pin NEMA and 7-pin NEMA versions. These are interfaces for lighting controller installation that communicate mostly with RF Mesh technology and are AC and high-voltage powered. The 5-pin and 7-pin socket terminals can be connected to 0~10 V, PWM or DALI dimmer control.

It was back in 1979 that the ANSI C136.10 standard for lighting control in public and private lighting systems was first proposed. In 2013, NEMA added a new standard, ANSI C136.41, whose physical interface includes four new (low-voltage) pins for dimming control and in line with modern control systems.

Universal Science's NEMA sockets

Universal Science's NEMA sockets are available in seven-pin versions and comply with the ANSI C136.41 standard, which provides reliable electromechanical connections. The NEMA socket has preset cables and can be attached with screws after the installer has chosen the best orientation. Connecting LED fixtures to external circuits in this way becomes simple, convenient, and fast.

The NEMA socket is combined with a short cap, a cap that acts as a protective device for the NEMA interface and complies with UL773 and ANSIC136.41 standards. Equipped with a twist-lock connection, it can be rotated and locked to be compatible with street, large area, and numerous lighting controllers. The short cap (without a control system) is the most common on the market and can boast a provision that keeps the LED luminaire constantly on and, if needed, can be replaced by the many controllers available on this standard. Finally, the NEMA socket featureshigh current capability and wide applicationvoltage and is widely used in standard power grids around the world.

Zhaga Book 18 standard in the European LED luminaire market

In Europe, in the LED lighting sector, the reference for market standards is the Zhaga consortium, which was founded in 2010 and has always aimed to standardize interface specifications between LED luminaires and light sources, including LED modules. The Zhaga consortium aims to achieveinterchangeability between products made by different manufacturers, providing lighting manufacturers with a wide range of better and more efficient light source solutions, thereby reducing development costs and time.

The Zhaga standard involves LED modules, LED power supplies, sensors and driver modules. In 2019, the Zhaga consortium expanded the area with the release of Zhaga Book 18, creating an interoperable system for outdoor luminaires and sensing and communication modules. The goal, again, is to create an ecosystem of interchangeable products that, unlike the ANSI standard, is based on four low-voltage pins and a DC power source. This standard interface is designed for sensors that implement lighting control, but it also takes into account sensors found in cities. The lighting controller installation interface adopts aDC and low-voltage power supply and is compatible with Dali2.0 communication protocols. Widely adopted in Europe, this standard is poised to dominate the European market for lighting control.

zhaga book 18

Universal Science's Zhaga sockets

Universal Science's ZHAGA sockets meet the requirements of the Zhaga Book 18 standard interface (Z-LEX-R, Z-LEX-C) and have passed the relevant certification for the development and installation of street, commercial and residential lighting.

Available in both corded and cordless versions, they have compact dimensions, allowing greater flexibility in luminaire design. The Zhaga socket can boast a superior water-proof rating (IP66) without mounting screws. It is a scalable solution that allows the use of Ø40mm and LEX-M Ø80mm photocells in a centralized system with the same connection interface.

The Zhaga socket can also provide flexible mounting, facing upward, downward and sideways. Finally, a very important advantage is the single integrated gasket that seals both the luminaire and the module, minimizing assembly time as well as cost.

Zhaga socket vs. NEMA socket

Both the NEMA socket and Zhaga socket provide interfaces for intelligent control of outdoor lighting. They are two different standards, but with the same purpose, serving the industry and the intelligent control of LED luminaires.

In the case of NEMA sockets, the advantage is first of all the fact that millions of LED luminaires are historically already equipped with this technology. The NEMA socket, then, allows the addition of any control module to the luminaire. Many applications related to so-called smart cities can be implemented with great flexibility of use, including those that require more power and thus mains power.

As for Zhaga sockets, the cost is lower because they are small in size with only 4 connections and are powered by the auxiliary output of the driver on board the LED luminaire. In addition, Zhaga sockets allow the handling of signals only in low voltage and low power, typically 24V 3W (with 10W peak), suitable for the use of low-power sensors.

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