All-weather WiFi Enclosure

all-weather housing

Reader [Krome] wanted a reliable, modular, weather proof WiFi bridge. The outer weather box was purchased for $50. The main radio is a proprietary Wi-Lan HP45-24. A lightning arrestor is included because this proprietary box was purchased before the WiFi band was official allocated and would be hard to replace. A Linksys WRT54G is used as the local access point and is connected to a Hyperlink 500mW amplifier. The Wi-Lan box and the amplifier have their antennas connected to panel connectors on the outside of the box. The WRT and Wi-Lan box are both powered by an ATX power supply while the amp is connected to the pass-through. Looks like a really solid setup and it should be easy to replace individual components if they fail.

22 thoughts on “All-weather WiFi Enclosure

  1. Personally, I would have done away with the hp45-24. But if it works, it works. I just think it would have been easier to use a cheap AP instead and used the wrt54g as a client/router. Flash it with OpenWRT, set up the iptables and you’re golden. Would probably consume less power too, that’s my guess at least. AND the ATX power supply just screams of overheating in a sealed ‘waterproof’ metal box, in the summer. The power connector is a bad idea, like his friend said. The plug might be a tight fit, but unless its designed for outdoor weather, water, bugs, fungus, mold, all kinds of bad stuff can get in.
    Ideas to fix it: get a waterproof cable gromet, a powersupply that dissapates heat through a metal side so it can be bolted to the case for use as a heatsink of sorts, and use products that are actually certified to work with the technology you are using(what if the guy you are leeching off of changes channels to one you can’t use)

  2. this is really cool, although not exactly original. i wouldn’t however want to have it in direct sunlight or under snow. aren’t wrt54g’s really finicky for operating temperatures? something like 5C – 35C or something.
    At least it isn’t tupperware, and thus no greenhouse effect ;)

    #2, it creates a wireless hotspot. What you do with it is up to you (share your internet connection, provide an access point for nearby people to connect to, …). The 500mW adapter he shoved on it will really beef out the signal, too

  3. forgive me for being an idiot, but what good is the 500mW amplifier?
    Sure it beefs up reception but it only works on one end. You’re still limited by the signal strength of whatever you try to use to connect to the WAP.

    In other words, if he’s sending at 500mW and you’re sending at 50mW aren’t you going to be the limiting factor? Is it just so that if you’ve got a more powerful transciever on your end the system will scale and you’ll have greater power?

  4. To #5: Yes, you’re correct. But it means that if it’s connected to an omni antenna, you can receive stuff from lots of places. The clients could then connect with directional antennas, and there you go :P

  5. #5 and 6:

    Most modern day amplifiers are bi-directional. Meaning they can switch their power between transmit and receive. This makes communication with weak clients at greater distances possible.

    Picture each node having a theoretical sphere (assuming omni style antennas)representing its range of communication. Node A may have a much larger sphere than node B. But as long as those two spheres at some point overlap each other they can talk. The larger you make one of those spheres the higher the capacity for distance between them. Make sense?

  6. Agreed with mike – the power connector and ATX power supply are a bad idea. Why use a 300 watt power supply (that includes a fan and generates a lot of heat) when you’re drawing about 10 watts?

    In the final pictures, it looks like there is a hole for a fan drilled in the bottom — also a bad idea.

    The lightning arrester is a good idea, however, it doesn’t look like it’s connected – there is a connection on the side that must be grounded (standard pratice is to ground it to the metal box), which is where the power from a lightning hit is redirected. This means you need a very good ground connection on the box, and the PC power connector probably isn’t a good idea for that.

    A better way to do the power would have been to use a waterproof gromet, and put a small terminal strip inside the box, and actually hardwire the power in. Internal power can be supplied with an industrial 5V power supply (this will run $80-100, but will operate under a wide range of temperatures and be much more reliable than most PC supplies).

    If the box is connected to a grounded metal post, the power cable could probably be cab wire (the kind used to make extension cords) with a standard plug on the end.

  7. to #3:

    Isn’t the hp45-24 used for backhaul to his base radio? I.e. this is a local hotspot with wifi, but then there is another (proprietary) link back to the base network (elsewhere), via the hp45-24.

    How could you use just the wrt54g for that purpose?

    I suspect you misunderstand the goals of the project (based on your “guy you are leeching off” comment).

  8. to answer mike and groog’s concern about this enclosure, here they are.

    Why use HP45-24?

    the wi-lan is a proprietry bridge, this simply means that it is impossible for a common user to hack it as the frequency is not a Wi-Fi Stantand, secondly, this unit is not prong to “Long-Range Slow transmission” just like what other wi-fi is suffering from because this unit is desinged to be a backhaul bridge and not like those cheap AP’s or bridges, this unit is an ISP grade backhaul, Also, it is not prong to interference with other wi-fi that is working around because of frequency issue, this unit is connected to my base station that is 35KM away.

    Why use ATX PSU?

    i already thought of using an ordinary Off-The-Shelf dual voltage PSU, however, the reason i opted for the ATX is for simple reasons, industrial PSU is the same as the regular ATX, infact ATX PSU is designed to withstand high temperature (i have not seen a broken PSU due to high temp yet) ;-) , the most factor i opted for ATX is its “availability” ATX PSU is literally available anywhere whereas industrial PSU are NOT so if i ever have a broken PSU i can simply buy them at any local PC store, bear in mind what i after for is being “MODULAR” and easy acquirements of components. The ATX does not generate much heat as it is not at full load, althought the ATX is rated at 200 watts that doesn’t mean it uses the whole wattage alone, hp4524 only requires 2.5amps for its +5 volt requirement and 3amps for the +12volts, the linksys only need 1Amps for +12, so the ATX has a lot of power to spare and it doesn’t generate much heat, the power socket is infact a good idea, most people tend to think it is not, however, if you looked at your own power leads and study how it is constructed you will be amazed how secure they are, i did put a vulcanizing tape around thw power socket/leads, and BTW the socter outer shield is rubber so having a direct contact to the plate is not an issue. If you noticed the location of the PSU, the fan is facing towards the hole, underneath i drill a hole to blow the hot air out, i put a filter pad at the hole to prevent dust and bugs, it is also an option to install a piece of PVC tube at the hole (outside the box).

    Lightining Arrestor,

    The whole base mount is already touching the metal box, hence it is already grounded, plus i do not have to worry about lightning strikes as it rarely occured in the middle east.

    Metal Box

    The box itself is a High Quality made enclosure, the metal thickness is 2.5mm and the powder coating paint is about 1mm, it is fire resistant and heat resistant, i made some test with this box exposing it under the heat of middle east sun and the highest temperature i recorded is below 34 degrees, somehow the powder coat paint seems to help bounce off the heat.

    This unit is installed on a 60 meter high tower to provide wide radius coverage of 12 KM (infact we’ve done the actual survey test and reality the signal reaches 24km, we use directional antenna towards the tower) the actual radio is installed below the tower inside a concrete box thus using a 500mw amps is a great help.

    since i build this enclosure, the system has been running for nearly 4 months now.

  9. to dax,

    I’ve seen different sort of wifi DIY enclosure but none of them is modular especially the PSU part so i can safely say that this is original as it can get, the enclosure has a touch of being made properly, regarding the direct sunlight the box itself is fire and heat resistant, i don’t worry about snow as i am located in the middle east and there is no snow from where i am at.

  10. As a former bix-6 airline i.t. doofus, I know the airlines use this type of thing (“nema” enclosure), but it’ll never withstand a northern winter, even with all that stuff in the box. Needs a thermostat-controlled heater for cold; this would not overheat in direct sunlight. (And, no amplifiers were used.)

  11. The poletop enclosures used by Metricom/Ricochet for their ill-fated wireless-internet service make excellent cases for such a project. They have an N antenna connector in the center and four built-in directional 2.4GHz panel antennas with a really slick switch box (uses 5V to select which antenna to use- lots of interesting hack potential there). Nice heat sinking, plenty of room. Millions were made and they show up on eBay (priced $10-$50) all the time, as cities tear them off their light poles.

  12. I have to agree with the power supply comments.
    (it was something I didn’t notice.)

    What I did notice was the use of standard connectors in an outdoor enclosure and the vent holes.
    Outdoor stuff requires special outdoor weather-rated components for long-term operation.
    A quick fix for the vent holes would be putting a piece of window screen material behind the holes to keep out insects and larger debris along with a drip hood.

    I know obtaining special weather-resistant connectors can be a pain because they cost money.
    One thing I’ve done in the past is ‘social engineering’ myself some by posing as a design engineer and contacting companies for engineering samples.
    (not for everyone, but it works)

    It’s not that it’s a bad project, because it’s a great project.
    It simply requires a little refinement.

    Rock on!

  13. @strider_mt2k,

    i have to agree with your standard connector concern the reason i use an ATX standard socket because of its availabilty during the work process and infact rugged-outdoor connector is not easy to acquire from where i live, and component availability is what makes the project having a lot of setbacks.

    anyways, the vent issue has been fixed, i use a proper filter pads which i took from my old air-conditioning unit and mount it inside the box.

    anyway, thanks for your opinions.

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