Gearslutz (
-   So Much Gear, So Little Time (
-   -   Electrical Question (

jerdude 13th September 2005 10:39 PM

Electrical Question
I have an ITB mix room/studio in my home basement which is 650 square feet with 10 foot ceilings.

Other than backup/surge protection, there is no special wiring or seperate circuit panel for the "studio"... in other words, when the house was built, 1989, the electrical stuff was implemented for a home. I haven't done a thing to it.

So far i have had no issues with power or noise. I have a fair amount running down here... a decent home studio for programming, recording vocals and guitars, and mixing... 2 computers, 1 PARIS system with 2 MECS, Nuendo, triton, XV-5080, 8 hardware pieces (various pre's, eq's and comp's), tube mic, and other various little gadgets that need the outlets from time to time. There are 4 ceiling lights and 2 rows of track lighting.


There are 8 outlets in the room. Best i can tell, everything runs in to 2 seperate 15 amp breakers on the circuit panel.

I am wanting to add 10-12 hardware pieces to the room... ad/da's, clock, eq's and comps.

I'm thinking there isn't much power left for these new boxes?? I certainly could get all the stuff here and plug it in and see if the breakers trip... but i'd like to know what's going on before i just plug everything in. tutt

Does anyone have any experience doing something similar? Or maybe someone can chime in with some general advice or knowledge that would be useful to me. I'm sure I'll prolly need to get an electrician here... but i'd like to be informed before i start talking with one.


jchas 13th September 2005 10:54 PM

#1 I would seperate the lighting from the circuit. This would free up quite a bit of juice and reduce the amount of line noise from ballasts or transformers that the lights may use.

You'd be hard pressed to have enough gear running to trip a 15-amp breaker (though a 20-amp circuit would be nice) but it's certainly not impossible. You can simply add up the power requirements found on the Serial Number tag of each piece to give you the 'high-end' amount needed, or buy a amp-clamp meter (i've seen them as low as $50) that clamps around the wire where it enters the breaker and will tell you what the actual draw is.

Best case scenario would be to have a dedicated 20-amp line installed where you will know for sure that nothing else in the house has been pig-tailed into the circuit.

jerdude 13th September 2005 11:58 PM

thanks dude!

I guess i would need an electrician to seperate the lights? You are saying put the lights on 1 15 amp circuit and the gear on the other?

I wonder what it would take to install a 20 amp breaker just for the gear? I think that would prolly mean that some wires have to be replaced as well... but i am not sure which ones. Would it be all the wires from the outlets running to that new 20 amp breaker? That sounds messy!

Faderjockey 14th September 2005 12:15 AM

Any monkey can replace a breaker...It's just pulling out the 15amp and adding the 20. It has one wire the (hot) going to it. The ground is connected when it snaps in. So you won't shock yourself unless you grab the ground and lick the hot wire at the same time.

But yeah...Putting the lights on the other breaker will help big time...But you'll need help with that. I wired my whole studio like that. Really I have all my gear on one Box and everything else in my building on the original box that was in this building. I just rewired it and ran all new ground.

Jason Poulin 14th September 2005 12:40 AM

Don't change your breaker just yet though!

Make sure what wire size you have. If it's #14... forget it! The breaker is a protective device to make sure that your amperage will never reach over 15amps which is the max allowable for #14 wire.

Your best bet is to run #12 wire and put a 20amp breaker if you'd like.

the other way that buddy suggested is putting you at risk if a full load is reached and will melt the wire and cause fire if the wire size is too small.

I'm an industrial electrician by trade (wish it could be recording engineer but...)

hopefully this helps!

Ps: run your lights on a seperate circuit and the studio on another. Just need to run a wire.


jchas 14th September 2005 01:00 AM

Electrical advice isn't much different than electronics advice - the big difference is that bad electronic advice might make you sound like ****, but bad electrical advice might kill you. As Jason said - don't take FaderJockeys advice. Upping the breaker size without upping the wire guage is a really stupid idea.

If you've never played with high voltage before I won't recommend doing it yourself simply for the liability. But it really isn't very tough and you could probably get a home handyman to help you out.

Option1: If the lights and outlets are on the same breaker (doubtful, but a possibility), and if there's no extra room for additional breakers - seperate the lights and outlets to the two breakers you have.

Option 2: If the walls aren't finished (or if the neighborhood handyman can help you), and if there's room for one more breaker in the panel - Add one or two additional outlets, connect them with 12 guage wire, connect the wire to a new 20 amp breaker, label the breaker and the new outlets as your dedicated music-room circuit. This way you'll have plenty of juice for all your gear and won't be tempted to plug in a noise maker like a motor, flourescent light, or transformer into one of the music-room outlets. Just pick up a couple power-strips and daisy chain them to plug in all your gear. Another plus to this is in an electrical storm you just unplug the power strip and your safe from a Bzzzzt- much more reliable than a surge protector.

nosebleedaudio 14th September 2005 01:06 PM

Most outboard gear does not pull alot of current, I have measured the current on a rack with 12 to 15 piece's of gear such as mic pres, reverbs ect and it was less than 2 amps. Power amps and large consoles is what can pull alot. I prefer to use 2- 15 amp circuits instead of 1- 20 amp, that way if their is a problem the 15 amp will trip quicker. Most people don't know this but a 20 amp breaker may take as long as 45 to 180 seconds to trip with a 40 amp load. Obviously that's why you should have a fuse in electronic equipment. As mentioned add up everything on that circuit including lights and see what you have, and extra circuit may not be required. Use surge protection as you may know.

jerdude 14th September 2005 07:42 PM

thanks for all the info guys. i really appreciate it. kfhkh

i have one more question for Mr. Poulin.


Make sure what wire size you have. If it's #14... forget it! The breaker is a protective device to make sure that your amperage will never reach over 15amps which is the max allowable for #14 wire.

Your best bet is to run #12 wire and put a 20amp breaker if you'd like.
you are are talking about the wire that runs from the outlets to the breaker right? so to do this would mean actually getting inside the walls right?

lukelukeluke 14th September 2005 08:21 PM

My advice is-

If it ain't broke don't fix it. Most studio gear draws very little power, far less than lights. So I'd only bother isolating the lights unless you need to. Just keep all the gear on one circuit to avoid ground loops.

Yes, and any monkey can change a breaker. Just shut off the big one to the whole house and then you're safe.

The comments about wire gauge are true from a building code perspective, which you may or may not care about. The truth is that it depends on length just as much as gauge. For example, you're going to be able to safely get more power through 20 feet of 14GA wire than through 100 feet of 12GA wire. If you're in the basement, you probably have a pretty short cable run from the breaker.

If you can pull an outlet and look at the outer jacket of the wire, look for a number before either GA, GAUGE, or AWG. Same thing.

brianroth 15th September 2005 08:09 AM

Geeeez...there is a LOT of misunderstanding about wire size and the NEC (National Electric Code).

NEC specifies the maximum size breaker that can be used for a given wire gauge. The whole idea is PROTECTION of the downstream wire.

15 Amps is the MAXIMUM size breaker allowed to PROTECT a run of 14 gauge wire. 20 Amp breakers are allowed for 12 gauge wire. Those specs are for wire in conduit or "romex".

If you swap in a 20 Amp breaker in place of a 15 Amp breaker that is PROTECTING a run of 14 gauge wire, and something goes awry, causing the wire to overheat and start a fire, you will likely have no recourse when your insurance company rejects your fire claim.

While it's probably true (I need to find the resistance per foot for 14 and 12 gauge wire to verify my hunch) that a 20 foot run of 14 will have less *voltage drop* than a 100 foot run of 12, that has NOTHING to do with the safety aspects. The IR losses (dissipated as heat) are distributed along the length of the longer wire.

Don't play fast and loose with AC mains circuits..