Electronic – Could Cat5e be used for RS485


I'm working on a project that will be using RS485 to communicate between a bunch of modules and a master controller. Low baud rate, 9600, but a decent distance, like a couple of hundred feet. I'm wondering if I can get away with reliably using Cat5e for this, and whether or not I need it to be shielded and connected to ground?

If that is the case, would I be able to use the remaining 3 pairs as the ground instead of getting cable with actual shielding?

Best Answer

Short answer: yes. That should work just fine. It is quite common to use CAT5 for RS485.

More detailed:

RS485 requires a common ground reference for all devices. Yes, you can use spare pairs in the cable as ground reference. Proper shielded cables provide better noise immunity. But it is not by any means necessary for RS485 communication to work. Depends on your environment. Lots of high power electrical motors and welders around? Then you may want to use shielded cables.

Depending on your exact cable length requirements, you may want to consider thicker gauge CAT5. Up to ~100m/300ft any CAT5 should do the job. Beyond that, the resistance of the copper conductor can start playing a role in attenuating your signal. Thinner conductor=higher attenuation. RS485 cables designed for 1000m/3000ft have really thick copper wires.