View Full Version : Extending power source from transformer

04-19-2011, 08:01 PM
to GFCI outlet?

I have a job where the GFCI Outlet is about 8-9 feet further away than my cord length from the transformer. The GFCI outlet is flush mounted into the brick and I don't really have any alternative methods for pulling power. I can't really move the Trans closer to the outlet because there is an espaliated wall plant that sits between the two.

I don't want to run an extension cord if possible. I am not really one to mess with line voltage, but since I am dealing with a pluggable device, I was wondering if I could remove the present 3 foot trans plug and build my own or splice the trans power source into a longer wire run. My question is really, what is the safest avenue here and what kind of wire do you recommend. I was hoping to avoid the grey direct burial romex and be able to stick with something similar to the original cord style.

RLI Electric
04-19-2011, 08:13 PM
You are not able to make a nm cable a cord. Legally, I should say. Do you have an electrician that can install a bell box extension ring and use a pvc conduit to move closer to the transformer? If you don't currently have an electrician that you can buddy up with, it would be a good idea to find one. Especially one savvy enough to be able to help you out with lighting controls and change switches to dimmers to bring existing glare bombs (I mean coach lights) into the lighting scene you are designing.

04-19-2011, 08:41 PM
I do, but he is the one who said "save your money and just make a romex run to a junction box and splice your transformer cord with the romex". Which I didn't really feel comfortable with.

starry night
04-19-2011, 08:47 PM
Can the client afford to put another GFCI next to the transformer location? Separate run to its own breaker?
Cost maybe $200 by an electrician.

RLI Electric
04-19-2011, 08:55 PM
Greenlight, no offense but it might be time to find another electrician. You cannot use SJO cord as a permanent wiring method, nor can you leave romex or a uf cable unprotected. Go online and look for local electricians that have lighting controls in their SEO's. That is the guy you want to talk to.

04-19-2011, 09:28 PM
Greenlight, no offense but it might be time to find another electrician. You cannot use SJO cord as a permanent wiring method, nor can you leave romex or a uf cable unprotected. Go online and look for local electricians that have lighting controls in their SEO's. That is the guy you want to talk to.

No offense taken. You do bring me to a question. What kind of cord would the original trans cord be classified as? Is this not some type of sjo cord?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-19-2011, 09:47 PM
No offense taken. You do bring me to a question. What kind of cord would the original trans cord be classified as? Is this not some type of sjo cord?

It may very well be the same cord that is on the original transformer, however the minute that you cut, remove, or alter the transformer or its power cord in any way you have nullified its electrical listings. (UL, CSA, ETL)

Some transformers, by their classification, are limited to using only 3' of 12Ga wire for their receptacle cords. Change that and you have eliminated their listing.

04-20-2011, 12:25 AM
I can see your electrician likes to follow code.
Run a new dedicated line from within the residence. Stub out with a pvc surface mount box and install the GFCI. Place a bubble in use cover on and your done. Less than an hour. Do it right or don''t do it all.
I am an electricain and its shameful to hear suggestions like your electricain provided you. I am with Bob, its time to look for an established electrical company not a trunk slammer.
Just my 2 cents.


David Gretzmier
04-20-2011, 02:07 AM
ok guys-little rant here,

a proper rated cord for the length, properly installed should work period. the problem today is "who" can do this and what are the proper connections.

It is so funny how back in the day, over the past 2 decades plus FX and Nightscaping and other trans manus offered longer cords and instructions on how to easily turn a few screws to get a longer cord length. these pigtails were 12 guage wire and had plenty of UV resistance and amp capacity to go 25 plus feet away if you wished. although I have not bought a new Nightscaping trans in quite some time, the FX trans I installed a few weeks ago still had the same easy ability, and the longer cords are still available.

we also used to wire up our own photocells on the high voltage side ( FX still does) of the trans before there was plug and play. One could argue that us non electricians, mounting a photocell in a remote location, even when it is totally pluggable, is a code violation.

But alas, as electricians have unions and lobby's and political power, and we have...not that, codes change and legal issues change what you can and should do. Lets face it, if they were really honest, electricians would do away with us in all 50 states.

for now, get an electrican to do what needs to be done.

04-20-2011, 12:08 PM

In my opinion it has nothing to do with what someone can or can't do but specifically has everything to do with insurance companies and liability. As soon as you begin to modify a manufacturers product that has gone through the process of being listed you are taking a huge risk if something goes wrong.
A simple squirrel or chipmunk can naw at that extended wire and possibly cause a fire or create an unsafe condition for children. Is it really worth losing sleep over 2 or 300 hundered dollars? Something to think about before you proceed to modify products that have already been engineered, designed and passed by UL or CSA etc.


INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-20-2011, 12:49 PM
Very well stated Ken.

04-20-2011, 02:57 PM
Appreciate all the follow up. So yes, I have spoken with a new electrical contracting company and they are going to come have a look tomorrow and see if I have any options. I am taking heed of all advice and avoiding messing with the Trans cord. Now, that being said, im going to stray off topic a bit on my own thread topic!

I was doing some research on what James stated about as soon as you alter the cord in any way, it nullifies the ul listing. I came across some interesting information that in some ways acts as pretty big loopholes for the companies.

From my research (from various sites) altering the transformer in anyway could stand as reason to null the ul listing. For instance, something as simple as removing knockouts for conduit insertion was one that was specifically stated as something that could be considered altering the transformers factory finish. Yes it sounds like a stretch, but I was just reading about fair warning issues on stuff most consumers don't consider.

04-20-2011, 09:59 PM
Do you have an electrician that can install a bell box extension ring and use a pvc conduit to move closer to the transformer?

This to me seems like the best solution, better than a new outlet. You're going to need an in-use (bubble) cover with an extension/longer cord, so this is basically the same type of protrusion. Pull the power in PVC conduit over where you need it, install an outlet above ground and you're set. A lot less work than drilling through brick to run a new wire.

04-21-2011, 10:32 AM
One of my thoughts on why I would run a new dedicated circuit is to allow the flexibility to install a solar timer for control purposes. This timer could be installed inside the residence for convenience to the client. It would eliminate the possibilities of the circuit being overloaded by someone plugging things into the other devices on that exsisting circuit you want to tap off of. Not to mention I am sure that you would have to check for the number of devices already on that circuit as 12 would be the max. for code.
Even though it may seem like more work it will provide the best possible installation for your lighting system and trouble free as you eliminate those pesky photo cells and timer issues.

04-21-2011, 10:34 AM
Fair point, Ken. I should have said "simplest" not "best" -- a new circuit will cost more and take more work, but definitely has the benefits you identify (and may be necessary if the existing outdoor circuit already has a substantial load).

David Gretzmier
04-27-2011, 12:40 AM
I'm not so sure that a 9 or 19 foot cord is more appetizing to an animal than a 6 foot cord or a 3, but I will agree there is more to chew on.

It just really bothers me that if the solution is always hire an electrician to solve your problem, we are over time going to be solving ourselves out of jobs. We need to have a proficiency to do this work and do it right, and understand how to do this. State legislatures will be more than happy to see us as folks who do not understand electricity and should not get to touch it period, low voltage or not.

If I purchase a cord from a manu for thier trans and install it according to thier instructions, and an animal chews through it and causes a fire, I am pretty sure the fire marshall/inspector will place the liability on the animal. I have a fire inspector for a Christmas client, I will call him tomorrow and ask him.

04-27-2011, 02:02 AM

I think you missed my point. The animal was just a silly example. There are always many ways of proceeding and I was just trying to share my thoughts and electrical experiences on how I would proceed. To each his own my friend.


RLI Electric
04-27-2011, 08:01 AM
I appreciate what you are saying and what you are concerned about. Perhaps there is a way to bypass having to hire the electrician. Relocate the transformer and the homeruns back to the transformer. If you have to be licensed in your state to do electrical work then it appears that you have 2 options. Get an electrical license (can range from nothing to 6 years as in my state) or hire an electrician and understand that the majority of them will not want to crawl in dirt, mulch, climb trees or trench thousands of feet. You may have to be concerned about some realizing that this is a wonderful trade and joining in the fray. You also have to look at it from their perspective. "Now low voltage guys or landscapers can add an outlet?"
This comes up again and again, licensing to do low voltage work. Don't go down that road and do unlicensed work (or even think of ways to do it without hiring the professional) just to save a couple of hundred bucks.
I want to climb trees but today I have an arborist installing my tree lights. They know what branches are safe, they are INSURED and most of all they have the experience. I am not an arborist, I am probably not insured and to be honest I don't have all the proper equipment.
Naturally, I have a bias on the electrical thing but please don't think about doing electrical work without the license. We can all agree that it is not hard to install an outlet but if you do it, and that receptacle that cost $.15 fails due to factory default and the house catches on fire, you are in jail, the homeowner and their family are out of a house or dead. No one wins.
Extreme example but one that must be made.
If your 10 foot cord (or whatever) gets chewed, and bad things happen because of it, you will be contacted. Guaranteed.

04-27-2011, 08:59 AM
I ultimately put the situation to rest by bringing in a electrician with a fairly large service company here locally. Granted I wasn't thrilled that they wouldn't give me a ballpark figure over the phone, but no one seemed to want to do this that was a larger franchise or commercially listed company. Long story short, just to get someone out there it was a $70.00 service call which I understand because I do service work and you have to have some caveat for your travel and tire kickers who waste your time. Ultimately the total price was $365.00 to move an existing outlet 9 feet with conduit strapped to a wall (no digging). Personally I thought this was pretty damn high for an hour worth of work and $10.00 in materials, but I had wasted enough time messing around with it and I was going to have to pay them $70.00 bucks even if he never touched it. Logically though, they were fully licensed and insured and in the long run It saved me a lot of time not having to reroute five runs of 12-2 100 feet away to an existing outlet on the side of the house and then having to rebalance the entire system.

I still haven't heard any follow up about what I posted a week ago about these UL listing loopholes. I understand the "messing with the electrical source" will negate the ul listing. That being said, from my research it appears the UL leaves themselves a ton of breathing room as soon as you touch the transformer. Does anyone else have any verification if in fact, simply removing knockouts and placing conduit, adding timers and other stuff we often think is common sense upon installation would be considered altering the transformer? From the random forums I have visited I have heard some fair warning about these issues that could possibly even range to something as simple as installing your wire runs into the transformer.

David Gretzmier
04-28-2011, 11:38 AM
I spoke to my client who is the fire investigator for Benton County in my area. He basically said a fire investigation breaks down into two parts, criminal and civil. he handles the criminal side and works completely independant of the civil or insurance side. He told me that if the cord is installed properly and a fire happened for any reason , as a criminal matter, if it was installed properly, it does not matter who installed the cord- joe landscaper, the homeowner, or an electrtician. period. He basically said they look for items that are done wrong. the cord, was the GFCI outlet installed properly? or the GFCI breaker? The outlet itself and then the breaker should stop a fire, and if not, the items or the person installing them are looked at.

The civil matter is a different story. he stated insurance companies are always looking for someone else or someone elses insurance to pay the claim, as fire usually don't start themselves. something went wrong. but he said common sense prevails in court. If the cord was installed properly, and it has been common practice in the industry to install cords, especially if Manufacturors provide the cords, then He said it was unlikely in court the landscaper or light installer would be held liable in a civil trial. again, the insurance company will be looking for why the GFCI outlet or breaker failed when it should have tripped.

My situation is also a bit unique as we do Christmas lights. much like Christmas Decor, as an HBL distributor we install cords and plugs on a number of items and custom fit c-9s to homes and business. wMy insurance reflects that , and we must follow industry standards. While these are only temporary installs, it would be expected of me in court to be able to install a cord properly. as an estimate, I would say we cut and install hundreds of plugs per year. I spoke with my insurance agent this morning and confirmed this for the second time now that we are insured for high voltage applications, and even if we do it wrong or my employee does it wrong, we are covered for that, but only for the first time. they would not insure us for doing it wrong after the first claim. but we could always be insured for any number of claims as long as we do it properly.

The fire marshall also compared this to installing a dishwasher or garbage disposal. those are often installed by the store staff, homeowner, or plumber. They are often wired in direct, and if they are done right, even though it is technically an electician's job, they would not likely be found liable in court unless they installed the cord wrong.

long post, but this needs to be put to rest. If you wish to not have the responsibility for doing it right, then hire an electrician. If you can do it right, and as long as you are insured to do it right, then you can do it and not worry.

04-30-2011, 03:59 PM
Excellent summary David!
Thank you,