“I Got The Power!” or “Basic Electrical Planning for Dummies”


I’m just going to take a moment to address a pressing issue on my mind. Since I stripped six of the eight fuses from the garage, each that handled empty circuits, single lights or single duplex outlets, I’ve got the building pretty much gutted. Just one fuse unit connected to a plugin that handles my deepfreeze (15cu.ft chest freezer) and another circuit that handles two duplex receptical boxes and a half-dozen fluorescent lights. That’s it. I have a box that has 6 empty units, with no wiring otherwise to worry about. Now, given that power here is so unreliable, with a couple of momentary outages monthly and sometimes DAYS without power during the winter months when ice interferes with power distribution (don’t even get me STARTED on last winters #DarkNL fiasco). I don’t want any of my tools to be running when a power surge rips through my motors/electronics and destroy one of my precious toys any more than I would wish a poorly managed wiring layout to require renovation AFTER I insulate the walls, resheath the studs, paint EVERYTHING with a few coats of white/grey enamal and install shelves or my lovely modular 8′ by 8′ units on all the walls. The solution? I will allude to the old adage: “An ounce (~28g) of prevention is worth a pound (~454g) of cure.”

Now, whenever you consider a wiring job, or many others for that matter, ALWAYS consider the whole building and the whole job (or series of jobs) when you make your decision. I know what I want to do with my modular units, which are 8′ wide. I am a HUGE fan of modular stuff, so I’ll probably do something with that anyway, and I do like serialized systems, so I’ll want the exact same lighting solution for the roof as the under-cabinet lights, at 4′ (~1219.2mm) in length, so 8′ units just make sense. So to avoid problems like THESE, I’ll place many duplex receptical boxes on my walls. I’ve got 32′ by 20′, one of the shorter walls is my garage door wall, and the rear wall is where my wood shed connects to my garage.

UntitledMy Solution: Place a single duplex receptical box every 4′ (~1219.2mm) or so, depending on where the studs are in this irregularly over-built structure. That will equal about [(32/4)+1=9] plugins on the north (left-hand side, in this image) wall, one for EACH corner, and then the roughly 4′ gaps between the plugs. Bare in mind, I only really have half this space on the south wall (right-hand side, in this image), so only [([32/2]4)+1=5] on that south wall and [(20/4)+1=6] on the east (rear-most with the wood shed attachment) on the back. No plugins on the front-wall, methinks. I will have, then, one circuit with 9 plugs, one circuit with 5 and another with 6 plugins. Another circuit will have all 16 ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights (64W per unit) and these are detailed in my lighting-theory post. This circuit will have 4 sub-circuits running in parallel, each to 4 lights and each with it’s own dedicated light switch. All 4 switches will accept power from the same fuse, and in total will power all sixteen of my ceiling lights. That’s five circuits of my total eight. I will have the south-wall circuit (with 5 plugs) will extend up that wall, and into the ceiling where I will have two or three retractable extension cords on reels each plugged into it’s own duplex receptical box; have you seen these things? They are AWESOME SAUCE! It just leaves to reach up and pluck the dangling end and plug in what ever you need! three of these, one on each end of the shop and one in the middle would suit me fine. We’re still hovering around 4 circuits.

Please also remember, before people start hate-spamming me, that I am running a woodworking shop with no heavy gear. It would be beyond reckless to leave woodworking machinery (thinking of lathes, table saws, thickness planers, bandsaws, etc) running, while you’re off doing something else, it’s simple madness. I won’t be at it. Much less, I won’t have many power tools in my shop anyway. The sort of work I’ll be doing will require limited tools, because I don’t want a huge area of my shop filled with tools I seldom use. That, and it’s a relatively small workspace. I won’t have a dozen people in here operating all the tools at once, anyway. It simply will never happen. I don’t (and never will) possess any 240v tools/appliances for my shop, that’s beyond overkill for my needs. Besides, any additional expansion can be done later, in a pinch, by expanding my panel, so this is only meant as a stop-gap measure. I will be doing extensive renovation to my shop every few years, and this will carry me along until I can afford new toys that may or may not tax my system. I’ll build-in measures for that, but more on that later.

1SO! 9 plugins on the north wall, 6 on the East wall, 5 on the south wall and a couple more on that same circuit for the mounted and rectractable cords, that’s 3 circuits not including the one for the lights. Four. We’re half-way there. When I get to this point, we’re going to buy a new chest freezer and store that in the house, eliminating half of my power requirement in the garage at present. Each of the 8′ modular units will plug into the various circuits, 3 units on the north wall (with 9 duplex boxes), 2 units on the east wall (with 6 duplex) and only two on the south wall (another 5 duplex boxes there). Each unit will have plugins, but those are for 120v items like a grinder or mitre saw; bench-top items that will be OFF when not in-use, the task-light too, will only be on when we/I work at the station.

That leaves 4 empty circuits in the pre-existing screw-in fuse panel. I would like a dedicated circuit to run my heating technology as I develop it, like the high-pressure pump for the solar-heated hydronic water solution I discussed, but the solar air pop can furnace I discuss in the same article will have a solar-powered fan, which will automatically stop the airflow at night to not act as a cooler when the exterior “black-body” temperature (the pop can furnace) is actually lower than the indoor temperature. Having a couple of electric heaters, once I get rid of that 30,000 BTU/hr (~8792 W Equiv, or ~8.79 kWhr) wood furnace, which will be BEYOND overkill for a building like mine, once it’s re-insulated inside and out, with ceiling, floor, walls and those two types of solar heaters. A couple of 120vAC heaters would do everything I need for heat for that building, even with the 11′ ceilings. I may get a little pot-belly cast iron stove for exceptionally cold days, to burn scraps rather than run my heaters, if I install them at all. These units are rated for 150sqft rooms, but considering the additional heating sources to reduce demand, it may or may not be worth my while. It’s a moot point, that wood furnace is there until I DO my hella-huge (sheathing, insulation, siding) renovation to the shop, which won’t be for another 18 or 36 months yet.

These are all considerations that may be wise; since I only used 4 of my available circuits, I have room to comfortably expand without requiring a secondary panel, which can sometimes cost a small fortune to rig up. I may have another circuit for exterior night-time motion-sensor lights and the light for my business sign, though I may throw that on the same circuit as my main lights with a 5th switch. It won’t be on at the daytime anyway, which is when I’d usually be in my shop. Remember that I will remove all the windows to conserve heat and control rogue light sources for video-recording.

A final comment or sub-topic is energy filtration. With so many power spikes, surges, outages similar, I worry about my various technology surviving the irregularities. I will have computers in here to control my router, to store and browse my . design drawings or blueprings, cellphone charging and listening to music. I don’t want unreliable juice frying my toys. The solution is simple, if a little counter-intuitive. Batteries!

Yes, I know this image links to battery backup insofar as it relates to fish care. I don’t mean to have two dozen deep-cycle batteries that could supply 24-hours of backup power. That’s not what I’m discussing at all. I’m describing the concept of all the circuits, maybe a battery each, will have the AC power leave the main box, into an inverter that changes the AC power to DC, and the energy charges the batteries. That energy is then converted BACK from DC to AC again for your main power distribution. There is a small energy loss here, only a few percent, but the advantages are really quite impressive when it comes to cleaning your energy and preserving your technology.

Think of it this way: Energy is like water. Your electronic and electrical devices are all like faucets taking away water from your grid, like your household plumbing. The building is supplied with water with an on-demand basis, but there is sometimes a delay. What happens if you get too much water pressure? You could spring a leak, or damage some valves; exactly what happens when you get a short or an electrical fire. I suggest you have a reservoir, like a swimming pool, that you can tap for energy, and as that level goes down, it is replenished from the grid. You can use a LOT of power (or water, for our analagy) until that reservoir is empty. The grid will supply power (water) much faster than you can drain it and keep your battery (swimming pool) from going dead (dry). It will effectively eliminate any/all power surges, spikes or sudden demand challenges from your grid. You could easily run your main service into a an inverter and then a bank of batteries, then another inverter into your power box. You’d never have to worry about individual inverters or any of that stuff. It’s all addressed for you. Got a HUGE tool to suck the juice out? Build your reservoir, in the form of you battery bank, large enough to accommodate your largest tool and you’re good. A dozen smaller ones could do the same damage as a huge bad-boy like a 5 amp table saw.

One way to help reduce load on your grid, reservoir or not, is cordless tools. If you go with a cordless series, like DeWalt Cordless for argument sake, your batteries can trickle-charge all day but your individual point-source loads for handsaws, drills, grinders, and so on will be draining their OWN batteries. When one is dead, walk over to the cupboard where a half-dozen chargers are located and swap-out the battery. Problem solved. It’s my plan to reduce the drain on my wiring and require less infrastructure planning. Going portable is the solution to many woes, as long as such a decision will not limit your work, which can actually happen in some cases. Just so you know, I’m not sponsored (yet), I’m just suggesting them since I’m familiar with the brand. any battery-operated tools would facilitate the same purpose.

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