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Old 01-29-2008, 09:28 AM   #1
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Portable breaker panel?


Hey guys, found this site through a google search. Gonna be sticking around, that's for sure.

This doesn't really fall under "Home Improvement", but here goes. I run lights for a growing band, and we're finding that venue-installed power is no longer sufficient. We're now requiring 4 20-amp circuits at minimum, and many places cannot handle that load. We've seen larger bands and a couple venues with their own portable breaker panels mounted onto hand trucks with outlets and everything. We want that.

Here's what my research has shown: most venues provide a 220 plug for just this purpose. I'll need a main panel that supports at least 100 amps and 5 circuits (preferably 6 so we have room to continue growing) with a main disconnect. A 125-amp panel with 6 circuits would allow us to have 6 discrete 20-amp circuits, so 12/2 wiring and proper 20-amp plugs are a must. I don't much want to get into conduit bending, so I was looking at "1/2 inch flex metallic" conduit at Home Depot. I figure that I can mount it all to a piece of plywood, and mount that to a hand truck or furniture dolly.

My limited background: I've added 4 circuits to my own home without issue, along with replacing a handful of light switches and moving around a couple outlets. My rough woodworking skills are above average - I built theater sets in high school and have built shelving, a workbench, and other crap around my house. None of it is pretty, but none of it has fallen down.

Questions:

1. Is this flexible conduit (basically BX without the built-in wire) the right product for connecting the breaker panel to the individual outlet boxes?

2. I'm comfortable with breaker panel and everything inside down to the outlets, but what about the 220 outlet at the venue to my breaker panel? I assume I would need the same type of plug used by electric washers & dryers, but what about the cable to transmit the power? I'll need probably 100 feet of it.

3. Go ahead with your "Get an electrician to do this. Way too much for a diy-er." I'll listen. I'm thinking that if I can get this beast fully designed with parts and everything, an electrician won't charge me/the band as much.

4. Do main-disconnect breakers come with the panels normally? Would it say on the box or is that a separate purchase?

Thanks for any replies, even ones that are just "you're crazy". Won't be the first time I've been told that.

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Old 01-29-2008, 09:58 AM   #2
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Portable breaker panel?


I don't know what it is called but I would go with a heavy rubber sheathed cable (3 conductors with ground). I just remember seeing those in use by traveling carnivals. What you need is something that can take a little physical abuse like getting stepped on. I think but am not sure it is 2 gauge wires to draw a full 100 amps.

It's going to be guesswork as to what kind of receptacle the venue is going to give you. You might need to make up some short adapter cables each with a different kind of plug. Also an adapter with (I would go 10 feet) cable ending in spade lugs in case you have to be wired in to a panel.

For receptacle boxes not fastened to the panel, I would use a similar rubber sheathed cable. Again, ruggedness is a major factor. The panel may be easier to manage with just one attached cable, the main cable. It would have twist lock receptacles around its perimeter and all of the remote receptacle boxes done up with (rubber sheathed) cables and matching plugs.

No cable can take continual stepping-on. Metal sheaths can get permanently crushed or kinked, too.


Last edited by AllanJ; 01-29-2008 at 10:13 AM.
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Old 01-29-2008, 10:41 AM   #3
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Portable breaker panel?


With 220, I thought 4 conductors were needed, since it's basically just two 110 lines with a common ground & neutral. You stick the two hot wires on each "channel" of the main disconnect, and neutral & ground to the ground bar.

The outlets wired to the breaker panel will also be mounted to the same structure, so the conduit required would only need to go at most a foot, then use standard Edison-plugged extension cords to power our stuff - 20-amp capable where needed, pair of 15's where feasible.

Edit: side note - I like how the Injury or Death warning is repeated every couple posts.
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Old 01-29-2008, 01:53 PM   #4
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Portable breaker panel?


Another musician posted questions/pics a few weeks ago.

240 Volts - 4 wire to 3 wire


Quote:
With 220, I thought 4 conductors were needed, since it's basically just two 110 lines with a common ground & neutral. You stick the two hot wires on each "channel" of the main disconnect, and neutral & ground to the ground bar.
Kind of. two hot wires with a common NEUTRAL. The ground goest to any metal parts and to the ground pin on the recepticals. The neutrals and grounds are NOT together on a sub panel.

If you are provided with only a 3 wire source you need to copensate for that (see other thread)

Last edited by 220/221; 01-29-2008 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 01-29-2008, 02:20 PM   #5
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Portable breaker panel?


you might be better off with something like this
http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Twist-.../dp/B000289ACE

we have a couple and use them for temporary power to buildings. they have breakers and receptacles, can be daisy chained if you need more power, are weather resistant and best of all are ul listed in case some of your band mates try to fry themselves. all you have to do is plug in to them.
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Old 01-29-2008, 04:42 PM   #6
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Portable breaker panel?


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Originally Posted by nacko View Post
you might be better off with something like this
http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Twist-.../dp/B000289ACE

we have a couple and use them for temporary power to buildings. they have breakers and receptacles, can be daisy chained if you need more power, are weather resistant and best of all are ul listed in case some of your band mates try to fry themselves. all you have to do is plug in to them.

For the price of that without any cabling he could hire a pro. The set up 220/221 had shown is more like a little over $100 in parts.
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Old 01-29-2008, 04:44 PM   #7
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Portable breaker panel?


Hey there

I used to do professional sound back in the day before i was an electrician so this is right up my alley.

I am assuming if a club has a 220V plug it will be the same as a range plug, so it will give you 50A, unless you have a huge system this will be plenty. I would look at a few in your area to conifrm this.

So this would require some 6/4(SOW or SJOW) for the main wire and a matching plug end. I would not worry about a disconnect because you will be able to unplug when you need to.

If it was me building this I would use conduiit nipples, to go from the panel to some surface mount boxes for the plugs. This way you don't have to bend anything.

Hope this helps, any more questions please ask.
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Old 01-29-2008, 05:14 PM   #8
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Portable breaker panel?


I applaud people for resourcefulness and generally always support this type of endeavor. Having been around a little I have a few suggestions. First I think you can build this with some professional input and good sound thought. However, when you 'homebuild something ...a product if you will' that will be used in the public or a place of business you fall under the municipalities liability laws for products. These simply put place the liability on the establishment and those performing to provide equipment that is labeled and tested for its uses. So if that one in a hundred thousand accident occurred it could result in a product liabilty claim against you and the establishment where you are performing. So I would be inclined to be insured or at least run what you propose by your insurance issuer to see if you will be covered in the event of an accidental electrocution from a non labeled product. Just food for thought.
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Old 01-29-2008, 06:17 PM   #9
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Portable breaker panel?


Quote:
So I would be inclined to be insured or at least run what you propose by your insurance issuer to see if you will be covered in the event of an accidental electrocution from a non labeled product.
Good and thoughtful advice but this kid is in a band.

No job, no money, no intention of ever having insurance. Insurance is for old folks. His only concern is getting laid, getting high, sleeping till noon and trying like hell to never have a sucker job like us.


I shoulda learned, to play the guitar

I shoulda learned, to play them drums
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Old 01-30-2008, 06:00 AM   #10
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Portable breaker panel?


Post #4: My bad. Thought I'd searched plenty, but this is kinda a different question. Didn't even think about just mounting the outlet boxes butted up against the panel.

Post #5: Hoooooo man. $500? Yeah, agree with post #6.

Post #7: conduiit nipples? Would I need anything if I just mount them right next to each other like in the link in post 4?

Post #8: So true. My thought is this: 3 of the 4 band members work for the corporate branches of banks or are bank managers. The 4th is a software programmer.

Post #9: I wish. I too am a software programmer (though seriously considered leaving it and becoming an electrician), and I'm married. So if I get sued, it's gonna hurt.

Continuing with my 2nd post: if it's 220 @ 50A, I'd wire each hot line to individual bus bars, giving me 2x 110 @ 50A, total 100A if split properly, right? It makes perfect sense in my head...but so does bacon tape. Google it.

Last edited by minameismud; 01-30-2008 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 01-30-2008, 09:25 AM   #11
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221

I think you need to give up your "seer" career.....

Quote:
Continuing with my 2nd post: if it's 220 @ 50A, I'd wire each hot line to individual bus bars, giving me 2x 110 @ 50A, total 100A if split properly, right? It makes perfect sense in my head
You have the general idea. Most "residential' voltages are closer to 240 volts today, 220 is not that common. If your source is 240 volts protected with a 50 amp double pole breaker you will have 50 amps per leg and 6000 watts of power per leg. You will have a total of 12000 watts of power @ 50 amps 240 volts. Either leg pulls more than 50 amps the source overcurrent protection (double pole breaker) will trip. Don't forget you will need gfci protection on your branch circuits.

Also be aware that many businesses will have 120/208 3 phase instead of 120/240 single phase. At 208 volts instead of 240 you will have a loss of 1600 watts of total available power if anything you have is going to run at the higher voltage and of course your equipment needs to be rated for 208 volts if you use that voltage. So you may want to test or look at the panel to verify your voltage source. You need to do this anyway to verify what the circuit amperage is your plugging into, the receptacle type doesn't 100% tell you this. You could easily have 40 amps instead of 50. This all depends on the circuit breaker protecting the branch circuit. 50 amp receptacles are usually supplied with 50's or 40's....(there is no 40 amp receptacle) and 30 amp receptacles are usually 30 amps.

Lastly as brought up in the thread that 221 linked you to a 3 wire connection to this power panel will not be complaint. And that panel shown in that link does not have gfci for the branch circuits or a main disconnect in it.

Good luck and and post back with some pictures of your power panel when you finish it.

Last edited by Stubbie; 01-30-2008 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 01-30-2008, 02:58 PM   #12
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Portable breaker panel?


Quote:
I think you need to give up your "seer" career.....


No sh!t......I am 0 fer 2 now.


But, what the hell?? What kind of musicians have real jobs?


I can't keep up with the crazy kids these days.
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Old 01-30-2008, 03:20 PM   #13
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But, what the hell?? What kind of musicians have real jobs?
These guys apparently do, it's not like the old days when the beer was cheap... ya gotta work to fund your fun now.
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Old 01-30-2008, 09:32 PM   #14
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These guys apparently do, it's not like the old days when the beer was cheap... ya gotta work to fund your fun now.

Pssh. The beer is free! ...as long as it's domestic & on tap. some places allow any tap, and one place regularly fills a cooler with two cases of a certain local brand's Lite flavor every show, more if there's more than one band.

GFCI? Man, alright. Think I should go the second extra mile and get outdoor boxes with covers for the outlets? I don't think we'd ever play at an outside venue that wasn't purpose-built for bands. Then again, one spilled beer...

Looks like I've got some investigating to do before making sure this is worth the band's hard (hah) earned dough. I was wondering how 3-phase power might F this project, and I guess I better find out exactly what the venues have. We have a fairly set venue list, so this shouldn't be a problem.

Wish I woulda found this place when I was diving into my breaker panel adding those circuits in my basement! (...I did cut the mains first...)

Assuming we decide to build it, I'll probably post a parts list for confirmation of completeness, then build & final project pictures.
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Old 02-24-2008, 12:16 AM   #15
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Portable breaker panel?


Hey did you ever build it? I'm in a similar situation as I am in a band and we have the same problem with lights. Another band I was in used one of these but no way to find out how to have it built. Let me know what you came up with and the approx cost and if you can tell me how you built it I would like to do it myself if possible.

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