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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a decent sized detached shed that I am turning into a hobbyist grade woodworking workshop. The shed currently has one buried line going to it; I think 14/2 on a 15 or 20amp breaker. I just recently moved into the home so I am not sure yet if that breaker is dedicated to only the shed or not. Regardless, I know i am going to need more juice running to it, and if I'm going to run wire, might as well future-proof it.

It currently has no real lighting so I recently picked up several 4ft fluorescent shop lights (2 tubes each), 6 of which I plan to hang. Each tube is 32 watts, for a total of 384 watts. As far as power tools, I plan to have all the basic stuff, with a table saw likely being the biggest draw (still 110v though).

Since my knowledge of electrical is fairly basic, I'm not sure how much load I should plan for, if it makes more sense to run several small gauge wires or 1 or two larger gauges, etc. I do understand, of course, the basic principle that the breaker has to be matched to the wire load rating.
 

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I would go with one or two ed to large guage wire as most times in a shop you are only using one or two tools at once, however those tools use large currents especially large instantaneous currents that can easily trip breakers that are rated for your power load. However you may want to put things that kick on automatically like air compressors on a dedicated line to help avoid massive surges.
 

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That's a lot of light! How big is your shed? :)

There's a couple of good options.

One would be to install a sub panel and run either 8, 10 or 12 gauge with 2 x 120V legs. This would give the option of 240VAC outlets (like for your table saw). If you do this, you'll probably want to bury conduit and use THWN wire. You'll have breakers in the shed and can branch into several circuits.

Another would be one run of 12/3 and one of 12/2 giving you the ability to install a 240V outlet and a run of 120V outlets & lights. You could use conduit or underground feeder wire (though you probably need to trench deeper without conduit).

If you don't think you need a 240VAC outlet (which I think would be a mistake), then you could run 1 or 2 12/2s.

Option 1 would be the most versatile, but most expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That's a lot of light! How big is your shed? :)

There's a couple of good options.

One would be to install a sub panel and run either 8, 10 or 12 gauge with 2 x 120V legs. This would give the option of 240VAC outlets (like for your table saw). If you do this, you'll probably want to bury conduit and use THWN wire. You'll have breakers in the shed and can branch into several circuits.

Another would be one run of 12/3 and one of 12/2 giving you the ability to install a 240V outlet and a run of 120V outlets & lights. You could use conduit or underground feeder wire (though you probably need to trench deeper without conduit).

If you don't think you need a 240VAC outlet (which I think would be a mistake), then you could run 1 or 2 12/2s.

Option 1 would be the most versatile, but most expensive.
Maybe I don't need so much light? Can probably get away with 4 of those. I just got a bunch of them for dirt cheap on craigslist so I figured i put them to good use, haha.

Ah, duh, didn't even think about having a subpanel in the shed, that make so much more sense. Forgive my lack of knowledge on wire, but what do you mean by "2 x 120V legs"? I know that in order to have a 240v circuit, you need two 120v wires, but do legs mean 2 separate cables or a single cable with more bundled wires? (I've been watching a bunch of youtube vids trying to learn about wiring and terminology...)
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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You are only allowed to have 1 circuit to a detached building. That 1 circuit can be:
A single 15 or 20 amp circuit. Or
A MWBC which will give you effectively 2 15 or 20 amp circuits. Or
A feed to a subpanel consisting of 4 wires, 2 hots, a neutral and a ground.

The subpanel can be any any capacity you require and can support multiple circuits in the detached building.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You are only allowed to have 1 circuit to a detached building. That 1 circuit can be:
A single 15 or 20 amp circuit. Or
A MWBC which will give you effectively 2 15 or 20 amp circuits. Or
A feed to a subpanel consisting of 4 wires, 2 hots, a neutral and a ground.

The subpanel can be any any capacity you require and can support multiple circuits in the detached building.
Thanks for the great info. I am thinking I will go with option 3. Does that mean the feeder can be on a circuit greater than 20 amps? And just to confirm, x/3 (12/3, 8/3, etc) wire would be the aforementioned 4 wire feed?
 

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Thanks for the great info. I am thinking I will go with option 3. Does that mean the feeder can be on a circuit greater than 20 amps? And just to confirm, x/3 (12/3, 8/3, etc) wire would be the aforementioned 4 wire feed?
The feeder must be a dedicated circuit from the main (or subpanel) in the house to the subpanel in the detached building. It can be any size you need, 30,40, 60, 100 amps or more. The wire used as the feeder must be sized the the capacity.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Im going to have to dig up the area where the wire leave the house to see if there is a conduit running the entire length or just to the ground. I can't tell if the wire is THWN but even if it isn't i wouldn't trust that the previous owners used conduit...
 

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Thanks for the great info. I am thinking I will go with option 3. Does that mean the feeder can be on a circuit greater than 20 amps? And just to confirm, x/3 (12/3, 8/3, etc) wire would be the aforementioned 4 wire feed?

If you feed with cable, it would be x/3 configuration, 3 wires plus ground. Better to use conduit and individual THWN wires
 
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If I were you and I were wiring this shop for future use of unknown additional equipment, I'd install a subpanel with a 100A feeder. That's what I did in my garage. Here's why:

First, it makes very little sense to go to the trouble of running power to a shop if you're not going to install a subpanel. You'd be limited to two 20A 120V circuits at most (that's a single 20A MWBC), but you still have to do all the work of trenching, installing conduit, pulling wire, adding a breaker, wiring the shop, etc. Using a subpanel is hardly much additional work or expense. Maybe an extra hour and $100. It gives you much more flexibility, and you can run as much power as you'll ever need in your shop.

Now, if you're going to install a subpanel, why run anything less than a 100A feeder? Sure, you might not think you'll need anywhere near that much power, but you don't know what you may add later. Welder? Large compressor? If you already have conduit and a subpanel in place, it's not much more expensive to use #1 aluminum and a 100A breaker. Then you'll never have to worry about it later on.

While you're at it, lay at least one extra conduit. It's cheap and easy to drop a spare 3/4" PVC conduit in the trench with your 1-1/2". If you ever want to run cable, phone, network, security cameras, or whatever else through it, it will be there for you.
 
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I find that cut wire is cheaper at my local electrical supply. But know exactly what you want if you go there. They suffer fools poorly.
 

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Not sure if this has been mentioned.
All loads in the detached need to be disconnected with no more than 6 switches.
Sometimes getting a main lug panel isn't as smart as getting a main breaker panel. The main breaker disconnects all loads with one "switch".
 

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When I did my garage, I installed a 12 space 100 amp breaker panel and fed it with 3-6ga thwn 2hots,1 neutral and 1-10ga ground in 1 1/4" conduit fed from my main panel with a 60amp breaker and ground rods of course.

60 amps is probably more than you'll ever need unless your running a lot and all at once.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Alright, I think this is my plan based on everyone feedback:

  • Run a single, 4-wire, large gauge (2ga?) from dedicated circuit in house to a main panel in workshop via conduit.
  • Drop in 2nd conduit with Cat6 for networking and future low voltage expansion.
  • Add several circuits of varying sizes for lights, receptacles,tools, etc.
 

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Should the main breaker in the workshop be a gfci?
No, use GFCI breakers or receptacles on the individual circuits. Receptacles are far cheaper.

What amperage are you planning on feeding the circuit (from the breaker in the house)? Do you want to use AL or CU conductors? AL is 1/3 the price.

#4 AL XHHW will give you 60 amps. Price about 20 cents a foot.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
No, use GFCI breakers or receptacles on the individual circuits. Receptacles are far cheaper.

What amperage are you planning on feeding the circuit (from the breaker in the house)? Do you want to use AL or CU conductors? AL is 1/3 the price.

#4 AL XHHW will give you 60 amps. Price about 20 cents a foot.
I honestly don't know the difference (beyond Aluminum vs Copper) of the two, but I definitely lean towards cheaper (to google I go...). And 20 cents is way cheaper than what the big box sells at.
 
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