Sunday, 12 January 2014

20 Amps for the Garage tools.

Getting things functional out in the garage is a big step towards our 14 for 2014 goals. I have to get the garage functional in order to meet a third of the goals listed there, and in order to get the garage functional, I have to get some stronger circuitry out there.

For as long as we've lived here, the garage has shared a single 15 amp circuit with all our outdoor lighting, the basement, and the pool shed. It is a badly overloaded circuit. If I am working in the garage and the pool pump kicks in, the lights go out, and I find myself standing in the dark next to a saw blade spinning away. In order to reset the breaker, I have to run through the house and down to the basement to the breaker panel. SWMBO has had it "up to here" with vacuuming my trail of wood shavings and dirt between the garage and breaker panel.

Inconvenience aside, running a wood-shop off a single outlet has meant a snake's honeymoon of extension cords crawling across the garage. They seem to be everywhere. Somehow cord management is beyond me, and so I have extension cords looping around ankles, snagged on equipment, trapped under boxes, and just generally in the way every time I turn around. Its time to try something different.

Garage Pony Panel with new (legit) 20 Amp Circuit and
older not-to-code pigtail tablesaw connection

So last summer we hired in an electrician to install a new breaker panel, and to put a pony panel in the garage. Since then I've been meaning to get around to running circuits off the pony panel. The pony panel has a 30 amp breaker for the table saw already, but nothing else. Last weekend I started installing a 20 amp circuit to power the rest of the garage, and yesterday I wrapped it up. Its still a mess out there, but at least its a well-powered mess.

Where the breaker used to pop with great regularity, and the bandsaw would barely start on the 15 amp circuit, the 20 amp seems to hold its own. I think it will make a big difference.

According to the electrical code, you are allowed up to 10 outlets on a 20 amp circuit. In order to be safe, I ran 4 duplex receptacles for a total of 8 outlets. I also ran everything in 3/4" PVC conduit, surface mounted in the garage. I went with surface mounting so that if I ever feel the need to add to the circuit or to run additional wires through the conduit, everything would be easily accessible. I don't see that happening any time soon, but you never know.

"Car-side" outlet

The layout of the electric is pretty simple. On the 'car side' I put in 1 outlet for a welder or battery charger or block heater. I purposely put it near the front of the garage so it would also reach the driveway easily. On the shop side of the garage I put in 3 outlets spaced 5-10 feet apart. Initial testing looks like all the shop tools can now reach an outlet without extension cords, but i may still need cords if I need to move tools around to work on larger pieces.

"tool side" outlets. Its a wee bit cramped

The only thing left to be done with regards to electricity out there now is to replace the fluorescent light that probably used to work with something more functional. Likely a pair of bare bulbs on pull chains. Right now I am working with the lights on the garage door openers and they are adequate, but I think I can do better. I seem to remember hearing something back in the day about fluorescent lights flickering in phase with equipment and making it look like a blade wasn't turning or something. Anyone able to confirm this as a safety issue?

Dead fluorescent fixture.

While I was patting myself on the back and feeling good about getting something off the 'projects completed' list, SWMBO came running in to tell me we had water in the basement. Ugh. One step forward, one step back. Time to tackle a new problem.

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