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Old 02-19-2008, 05:08 PM   #1
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Retro Barn Wiring


When I was little (a long long time ago), I seem to remember that my grandfather had his barn fed by a single overhead hot wire.

I'm I mistaken? If not, how was this possible without a neutral?

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Old 02-19-2008, 06:19 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Randell Tarin View Post
When I was little (a long long time ago), I seem to remember that my grandfather had his barn fed by a single overhead hot wire.

I'm I mistaken? If not, how was this possible without a neutral?
At one time alot of folks did this. It is called SWER, single wire earth return. He was relying on the Earth as the other leg of the circuit. Bad idea.

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Old 02-19-2008, 06:21 PM   #3
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At one time alot of folks did this. It is called SWER, single wire earth return. He was relying on the Earth as the other leg of the circuit. Bad idea.
Okay, I'll call BS. SWER doesn't work at customer secondary voltages.
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Old 02-19-2008, 06:26 PM   #4
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Okay, I'll call BS. SWER doesn't work at customer secondary voltages.
Well I did say it was a bad idea. That doesn't mean it wouldn't power a few light bulbs or a radio. No doubt they were dim, but I bet they worked.

I know for a fact that the Earth will carry enough current to light a lamp, because I once had a service call about about dim lights and struggling motors in a remote workshop. I investigated and found a lost neutral on the 2-wire subfeed. The ground rods were completing the circuit.

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Old 02-19-2008, 06:37 PM   #5
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Well I did say it was a bad idea. That doesn't mean it wouldn't power a few light bulbs or a radio. No doubt they were dim, but I bet they worked.

I know for a fact that the Earth will carry enough current to light a lamp, because I once had a service call about about dim lights and struggling motors in a remote workshop. I investigated and found a lost neutral on the 2-wire subfeed. The ground rods were completing the circuit.

InPhase277
How do you know it wasnt the phone or catv supply?
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Old 02-19-2008, 06:41 PM   #6
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And before I get flamed, yes I said 2-wire. Some jackleg previous to the current HO ran two black #10s in a water pipe and grounded the neutral at the 8-circuit fuse panel in the workshop to a driven pipe. I ripped it all out.

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Old 02-19-2008, 07:03 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Randell Tarin View Post
When I was little (a long long time ago), I seem to remember that my grandfather had his barn fed by a single overhead hot wire.
Do you have any memory of how big it was?

It could have been a 18/2 or larger extension cord...
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Old 02-19-2008, 08:31 PM   #8
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It wasn't an extension cord. The line ran from the house to the barn. I seem to remember it transversing a couple of poles with insulators on them.

I was curious, because from what I've read in this forum, I knew that the ground wasn't that great of a return path.
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Old 02-19-2008, 09:12 PM   #9
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I was curious, because from what I've read in this forum, I knew that the ground wasn't that great of a return path.
No, no, this was a great system. Adaptive light control I think they called it. When it was sunny out, the lights automatically dimmed. When it got cloudy and rained, the lights automatically got brighter to compensate.

Now that's technology!

I'm glad I read this. When I saw retro in the title, I got scared thinking that all the kids were suddenly kickin' it oldskool with K&T (duuuuude, my analog sounds WAAAAAAY better with K&T).

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Old 02-19-2008, 11:58 PM   #10
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How in the heck did the old timers manage not getting electrocuted. Wouldn't you get a little bit of a jolt if you accidentally touched the ground?
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:06 AM   #11
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How in the heck did the old timers manage not getting electrocuted. Wouldn't you get a little bit of a jolt if you accidentally touched the ground?
You'd have to touch the ground at two points far enough apart for the difference in potential to be large enough for a shock. You might have to stretch.

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Old 02-22-2008, 07:33 PM   #12
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fasinating jim...
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Old 02-22-2008, 10:04 PM   #13
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You'd have to touch the ground at two points far enough apart for the difference in potential to be large enough for a shock. You might have to stretch.
You mean like if you were running back to your truck after seeing it?

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