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General Layout Idea


Torqumada286
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I was playing with my son in our backyard, when I had a bit of inspiration. With the way my mind works, it's always working on little things here and there until something breaks through. It's a bit like background processes in computer software. I looked around the yard and saw this:

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Now this thing is currently filled with lots of stuff: Halloween and Christmas decorations, parts of my comic book collection and general crap, for example. However, I started thinking that it might be a really good place to place my controllers, mini director and anything else I want secured better and protected from the elements. So, I am looking for some advice of possible internal and external layout.

To begin with, there is no external power to the front of the house. When the house was built, no one was expected to use power outside. Previous owners put some outlets out on the back porch and I have used drop cords running around to the front of the house to run my static and Mister Christmas displays over the last few years. I had a new electrical box installed when we moved in (200 amp) and it has 4 external circuits that aren't currently being used. I had planned on getting some external outlets installed later this year to cut down or remove the necessity of using the drop cords. Now I have another idea.

There is currently no power going to the building. I was thinking I could run power to the building, with enough outlets to setup 4 controllers for now. (I only have two at the moment, but would have room for later expansion.)That would be the simple part. Getting the lines from out of the building to the rest of the yard is where I am really looking for ideas.

I was thinking of using banks of outlets, both inside and outside. The outlets aren't connected to the power, but allow you to plug the controllers in on the inside building and then the lines running to the lights or other systems would plug into an external bank of outlets allowing the power and control signals to pass through and on to the lights and other devices Has anyone used this kind of system before? What does everyone think of the idea?

Right now, the only problems I can see is the cost to set the system up and buy all of the extra extension cords. I already own several thousand feet, but to pull this off I may need to buy 3000 more feet to get it to work properly. I have no idea how much it would cost to do this. My finances may not allow that for this year. I may have to go with the less expensive solution of putting some outlets on the front of the house and save the electrical project for next year.

Any constructive input would be greatly appreciated.

Torqumada

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You are in a similar situation to us. I would suggest you run electrical conduit under ground from the small building to the area you want to decorate. Run the cables inside that conduit and have plugs on each end. We are planning to do something similar with ours. We can get the Electric Company to upgrade our service for free from the pole behind our house that is right nexxt to our storage room, and they will put the box there for free, but from there, we need an electrician. So we were thinking of cutting costs doing that and running the conduit from there to the front of our house underground. That storage building would look nice with lights on it, painted red and green to look like a reindeer stable or Christmas house.

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It's not too bad running an underground feeder wire to a breaker box. Copper is up so that is definitely a factor. I have done something VERY similar to our new mini garage. I ran a 6 gauge UF direct burial wire from a 60 amp breaker on my main panel to a sub panel in our new garage. I set up 2 dedicated 20 amp receptacles for controllers and another 20 amp receptacle circuit. I'm going to run 2-3 controllers (these don't carry a massive load - running some LED's) in the smaller garage, 1 outside to eliminate 1400-1500' of extension cords, and 1or 2 on another dedicated 30 amp 2 pole breaker in the main garage (I haven't decided if I'm gonna jump right up to 80 channels yet). I've attached some pics below. DON'T FORGET to drop a cat5E cable in the trench if you're gonna run your PC somewhere else! Using an out building as a "Substation" is a great way to set up your show. I also trench through my driveway and dropped a pvc pipe to run extension cords underground to save wire too. Worked great this past year.

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You guys are into this HUGE I wouldn't even think of trying to tear up my yard--I'm not that brave. I will have a 4 controller system this year. To expand my system last year I had an electrician add 4 receptacles from my breaker box. Each receptacle is on an independent circuit of 30 amps, with each circuit supporting one controller. I made the mistake of having the receptacles installed inside and running power cords under the garage door. It actually tore up the door. Don't do that. SPend the money to buy exterior covered receptacle boxes. Unlike most of the guys, I have all my controllers centrally located just outside the location of the main breaker box. In hindsight, I would recommend that you consider a 'sub box' coming off of your main service box in your storage shed. This will allow you to run one main line from your main service to the substations. It might save you some $ and it's what I would do in my case today if I was starting over. My biggest expense was putting breakers in for the circuits that had never been used. I have old-style slim-line 1/2 width breakers that are VERY expensive. You might want to look into that as you plan.

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You need to figure out how much power you need where. There are some spread sheets out there to help you figure that out. Each of my controllers is going to pull less than 4amps so a a few 20 amp curcuit can go a long ways(I will be about 98% LED for 2012).

Excellent suggestion. In fact - you may want to consider future expansion - it will save you some headaches down the road. If you do rent a trencher - this is the time to drop EVERYTHING you want to got to your "outbuilding" in the trench. Power lines, communication lines, whatever. I regret not dropping a natural gas line in from the house to the new garage for a heater (I'm using a little LP Heater now).

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