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If you have devices that can be powered over ethernet, like a wireless access point, you may be wondering if they can be powered directly from the router itself, or whether there is any additional equipment needed.
The majority of routers cannot provide power over ethernet. A PoE injector or a PoE network switch will normally be required to power a PoE device like a security camera or wireless access point. There are some exceptions, though, that have both PoE inputs and outputs.
Even though they are available, most people won’t get much benefit from having a router that can provide PoE. Having a separate device, be it an injector or a network switch, can be a more cost-effective solution when you have PoE-enabled devices.
How to Tell if Your Router Can Provide PoE
Although most consumer-grade routers are unable to provide PoE, the easiest way to check whether your existing router does is by checking the specifications of that particular model.
The specification manual that came with the router, or the one found online, should clearly state whether the router is capable of providing PoE.
In fact, I would suggest that it would be clearly advertised as a stand out feature given how few routers have it.
You may also notice that the ethernet ports found on the router itself are either labelled differently or are a different color to the rest of the ports, indicating that can deliver power over ethernet, but again, this is quite rare and most people will have to resort to using a PoE network switch or a PoE injector.
Do Any Routers Provide PoE?
There are actually a couple of routers provided by Ubiquiti, amongst others, that have both a PoE input and a PoE output.
The Edgerouter X has 24V passive PoE as an input and a passive PoE passthrough as an output. The output does require 24V passive PoE or a 12W minimum power adapter that is not included, so that is something to keep in mind.
The Edgerouter X SFP model doesn’t have any PoE input but does have 24V passive PoE output. It also has a single SFP port, whereas the regular Edgerouter X doesn’t, but to be honest, this won’t be particularly useful for the majority of people.
Which model is best for you will be determined by whether you want the router itself to be powered by PoE, or you want it to be able to provide PoE to other devices, like a wireless access point.
I believe that the vast majority of people would benefit much more from a port on the router being able to deliver PoE and so the Edgerouter X SFP would be the better option as it has 24V passive PoE built-in.
Unless you are using more than one router and want one less cable to be used, I can’t really see much benefit to the router itself being powered by PoE.
This would only really be beneficial if you are using it as a secondary router, but even then you would need a PoE switch or a PoE injector to give it the power it needs in the first place.
For anyone wanting their router specifically to provide PoE, I would recommend the Edgerouter X SFP by Ubiquiti.
Is a PoE Router Worth It?
In my opinion, a router that can provide PoE is not worth it for the majority of people, unless it is simply an extra feature that comes on a router that you know already fits your needs.
I wouldn’t suggest investing a in a particular router, just because it is capable of providing PoE.
If you do have devices that can or need to be powered over ethernet, a more affordable and convenient option would be to keep using your existing router and purchase a PoE network switch or a PoE injector instead.
This is actually what I did when I needed to power my wireless access point, the UniFi AP AC Lite.
My access point is the only device I have that required power over ethernet to function, and I don’t have any other devices where it is even optional, so for me, the PoE injector was the best option.
This, of course, does only facilitate PoE for one device, but for me this was all I needed.
If I were to have more than one device that needed PoE, I would instead get a network switch that is capable of providing PoE, like this one from Ubiquiti to save having multiple PoE injectors.
So how would this all end up working?
Using myself as an example with a PoE injector, the injector is plugged into the mains power supply and I have an ethernet cable connected to one of the LAN ports found on the back of router which is also connected to the LAN port found on the injector.
Another cable is then run from the PoE port on the injector into the single port found on the wireless access point.
This one cable provides the access point with both the power and data it needs to function.
If I were to exclude the PoE injector from the equation, the access point would not work as it won’t be receiving a sufficient amount of power to even power on.
If you were to use a PoE switch instead, the setup would look slightly different.
As you now known, most routers are unable to provide PoE themselves, which means that although the switch can provide PoE, it still needs power itself and so will be plugged in to a regular power outlet.
A single ethernet cable would then connect from one of the LAN ports on the router to any of the available ports on the switch, making all of the other ports available to connect other devices and receive data.
It’s then as simple as taking another ethernet cable, plugging one end into one of the available PoE ports on the switch, and plugging the other end into the relevant port on the PoE device.
Continuing with the example of using the UniFi wireless access point, there is only the one ethernet port so you really can’t go wrong.
In addition to providing more than one PoE-enabled port, the PoE switch provides another advantage of using a PoE injector, which is the fact that the PoE ports can also be used for non-PoE devices.
It’s not as if the PoE ports are reserved only for devices that can receive PoE; you can plug any device into them just like you would with a regular network switch that doesn’t have any PoE functionality.
The ports on the switch are intelligent enough to know whether they should provide power as well as data, or just data, depending on the device that is plugged in at the other end.
In my case, a PoE switch wasn’t worth as I already had a network switch in place for all of my other devices. Settling with the PoE injector to provide my access point with the power and data it needs was simply a more cost-effective solution.
If you are trying to decide between a PoE switch or a PoE injector, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need to provide PoE to more than one device?
If yes, a PoE switch will be more suitable. If not, a PoE injector will suffice.
- Do I already have a network switch?
If yes and you still only need to provide PoE to a single device like, go for a PoE injector. If not, a PoE switch would be a better investment.
- Do I anticipate adding more PoE devices in the future?
If yes, go for a PoE switch to save having multiple PoE injectors. If not, stick with using the one PoE injector.
I hope this helps you decide which is best for you and your home network setup.