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I don't think that i have ever seen this question asked before, so here goes. When you get a call for a elborate display, do you ask the homeowner about their house wiring? If the each outdoor outlets are on separate circuits, with no other outlets attached to that circuit? Do you check or take the customers word? I know that i wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I wasn't sure things were safe. I don't do any lighting but have done quite elborate displays for my parents home years ago. For them I had to install several new circuits and many out door outlets to keep from burning down the house. Just curious how you guys go about this.
07-19-2010, 08:00 AM
You always want to ask 1) what is the load on the circuit and 2) you need to know if you are dealing with GFCI. As you mentioned 1) for safety without question, and 2) service calls can become a real pita as I found out last year with GFCI tripping.
07-20-2010, 09:05 PM
I use all LED lighting... so we dont have alot of issues like this... But I only install lights on GFI outlets just to be safe.
People will call thier lawyer for just about anything these days...
07-26-2010, 12:04 AM
my rule of thumb on my customers is if the first year cost exceeds $2000 then I have a dedicated outlet on a dedicated 20 amp circuit installed. this is usually easiest at the A/C compressor where you nearly always have a the 230v feed on heavy guage wire. cost wise I pay about 150-250 to the electrician, depending on distance driven to job.
I would say in 80% of the US a/c units do not run from Thanksgiving to New Years. most notably excluded are california and all far southern states.
If you do it at the A/C, it costs you very little more to jump up to 2 breakers and a 4 outlet box with bubble cover. for me, this handles all displays up to $6000-8000 or so. usually homes that exceed that are 6000 suare feet and up, have 2-4 A/C compressors and I just use those feeds.
also, many times the breaker panel is on the outside wall of the garage, and usually there is a spot or two open in the panel and a breaker can be added, and simply drill through the backside of the panel to have an outlet outside. of course have the electrician seal it for water intrusion. That voltage is as good as it gets.
The largest displays we have put in required a dedicated 200 amp panel, new feeds from the street and we usually do 12 20 amp outlets/breakers and load them to no more than 16 amps each. we have a few properties we have to watch the total load on the main panel, as the 200 amp breakers will pop if you load them over 160-180 amps.
I am not an LED fan, as they hurt my eyes, but they are getting better. I would say in 5-10 years everything will probably be LED and the power situation will be dramatically better.
07-26-2010, 09:30 PM
You need to make sure you balance the load across both legs. I worked for the power company and many times I go to homes in the holiday season and find that one leg is twice as much as the other. You need a meter that reads amps it has a clamp on the end of it. The circuit breakers are designed for the wire it finds so unless the breaker has been changed out then it should trip before overloading of the leads.
07-28-2010, 12:11 AM
I agree on overloading the breaker, but my reccomendation is to only use the A/C outlets when the A/C unit is not running, which is normally safe here from Thanksgiving to Christmas. loading either leg on that feed is no different than loading a leg on one side of the breaker panel or the other. I normally have 2 20 amp breakers, a double outlet on a 2 gang outdoor box with 2 GFCI outlets and a double bubble cover. that usually covers 95% of our residential installs.
an important note here, you can NOT do Christmas outlets on heat pump units, as they use the outdoor compressor to make heat in the winter.
every year there is usually one or 2 that needs more of those, usually at a 6000+ square foot home that has 3-5 A/C units outside. These folks always seem to have 2-3 225-250 amp breaker panels already.
I have had outlets/breakers installed right from the panel as well, but the empty 2-4 slots available on the panel always seem to be on the same leg side.
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