I Have POWER!

September 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

And it WORKS!  🙂  I have never wired anything at all.  Ever.  To me this was the most scary part about jumping off this big cliff of building a tiny house.   I knew there was always the back-up that I could hire and electrician but I WANTED to do it myself… because of this and the fact that electricity can hurt you I have been pokey about getting to it (I have excellent procrastination skills!).  I wired the house a while back but I never hooked up the stuff, it was too scary so I justified putting it off.  But now, it works!  I’m SO proud!

I have 15 outlets and 7 switches, including 2 3-way switches.  Of the outlets there are 2 GFCI outlets, one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen.   In total I have 8 breakers, 3 20 amp, simply because the panel came with them and 5 15 amp, one of which is a GFCI breaker (the floor), which is different from a GFCI outlet.  So, that’s the general breakdown of how my power is diverted, to go a little further I will break down HOW I decided to break up the spaces:

I could have done this with WAY less breakers but since my panel is in the middle of my front wall it made sense to save some work and some wire by separating out the sides, in theory the whole living and bed area could have been on one breaker but instead the right side is on one (15 amp) and the left side is on another (15 amp).  Then the lights in the living room and the side porch are on one (15 amp), the kitchen lights are on one with the back porch light (15 amp).  The kitchen outlets are on a separate one (20 amp) .  The microwave is on it’s own outlet with a dedicated breaker (20 amp) and the fridge is on the same run as the bathroom light and outlets (20 amp).  That is my 7 standard breakers.

Now, I left one breaker off, the floor.  I debated how to do this a bit but I settled on buying an extra, small, dedicated panel, one that is typically used for a hot tub.  My rational behind doing two separate panels as opposed to one is as follows:  I COULD have hooked them all to the same 100amp panel I had planned on just fine.  A typical extension cord is 15amp (maybe 20 amps if it has the wonky plug, and we have plenty of these) so no matter how large the panel is I am limited to the size of plug I use so I would be at 15-20 amps unless I bought a bigger cord which was WAY more expensive than my chosen path and, as I see it limiting to how flexible I can be with choosing a location (most people don’t have a 30 amp plug).  My max draw on my floor is 12amps, so long as that is in operation (winter) I am only going to have an extra 3 or so amps for everything else (I see me blow-drying my hair on a cold winter morning and having to run, outside in the cold, to the source of the extension cord to flip a breaker… not ideal) .  Since the floor is designed as a temporary test so I can see what radiant floor heat is actually like (goes back to actually testing systems I shamelessly push in my day job…), once I go off the grid I will have to use another system for heat.  In the mean time, I am trying to make my house as easy as possible to hook up so I have the most flexibility in where to park, while I am on grid I am trying to stay urban with my tiny house (it’s going to be a lot harder to find a place if I say, oh, I just need a 30amp plug, let me re-wire your house for you…).  SO, the logical solution for me was to keep all the functioning parts of my house on the main panel, 15 amps will be more than enough to power everything I need to power, the MOST pull I have consistently is the fridge (mine is at 2.5 amps), if I got that fan heater I referred to in the previous post that would add about 3amps, my blow dryer will boost it for short increments.  The only other things I really have to worry about is lights which are low pull (even LED Christmas lights which are coming soon!!).  I am very confident that 15 amp is plenty for everyday stuff but because I want this floor heat I am going to add it on its own 15 amp, GFCI breaker system that will only need plugged in in the winter time.  At any point, while grid tied I can have one standard extension cord coming from my house to wherever I am parked at or in the winter have two standard plugs plugged in.  I just have to remember to either use two plugs from a 30 amp breaker OR to use two plugs from two separate smaller breakers.  Hopefully that makes sense, I am happy with the flexibility I am keeping with this system!  Once I go off grid the floor heat just goes away… sad but it will have served its purpose of educating me (and I got it WAY cheap off of Craigslist, I wouldn’t get rid of it if I had to pay full price 🙂 ).

I was prepared to work all night and then NOT have the wiring work at the end of the night and it nearly happened that way!  Once we hooked everything up we had grabbed a lamp from inside which was on the ‘on’ position and plugged it in one of the outlets hoping that when we plugged in the panel it would light up and let us know all was well.  It didn’t.  We realized the outlet we used was after the GFCI plug and thought maybe that plug needed reset, we reset it, it didn’t turn on.  Slightly bummed I thought maybe somehow the light got turned off, I clicked the switch a few times… nothing.  We go to the panel with the voltage tester… it’s getting power but the power isn’t getting to the breakers… at this point I was getting frustrated and was ready to go lay down but James persisted, knowing it had to be some simple fix.  We flipped the main breaker, nothing!  Finally, we tested the other side… we had hooked up power to the wrong side!  There is room on the particular breaker I got for 10 220 volt breakers… I was using 110 so I had to hook them all up to the same side and power just that side.  I picked the wrong side, once we figured that out we fixed it and STILL no light!  We walked around to the other side though and saw the little glowing lights from the GFCI outlets letting us know they were tripped, SUCCESS, SOME power was getting to them… we reset them and STILL no lamp… totally flustered again we got the tester out, they were getting power!  In trying to turn ON the lamp I actually turned it off… all I had to do was flip the switch and then SUCCESS!  We had light!  Best. Feeling. Ever.  We tested all of the outlets and all of the switches and the ALL work perfectly!  Even the 3-ways! feels SO good, my house is alive and I am  HAPPY girl!! 🙂

Ok, sorry I got poor pictures, it was dark.  I almost forgot to take any pictures at all so this is what I got:

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