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Basement wiring

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Basement wiring
Posted by Tin Can II on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 11:42 AM

We are in the process of buying a home in KS that will need to be renovated; one of the first jobs will be re-wiring the house to modern code.  I have a 19 x 40 room that will become the train room.  What electrical needs do I need to plan for?  I will eventually be running DCC; with an 8 amp power supply; possibly adding a 5 amp booster.  Should that be on a separate 20 amp circuit?  Separate circuits for lighting and workbench?

Any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas are appreciated.  I don't think I need to reinvent the wheel here.  Thanks in advance.

 

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Posted by betamax on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 5:00 PM

No.

This is all about ratios. If the power supply for your DCC system outputs 18VAC at 5A, the ratio is 6.66:1 (120/18). The primary current will be 5 divided by 6.66 or 0.75A.

When the voltage goes down the current goes up to maintain the relationship in Volt-Amps. The secondary ouptut in VA at 18V X 5A is 90VA, the primary (120 X 0.75) is also 90VA 

So you don't need a 20A circuit. A 15A circuit could supply up to 80A easily when you step the voltage down to 18V.  

Talk to an electrician, they'll be able to tell you what you need. Especially with lighting technologies, the requirements have changed. You may need safety devices as well.

 

 

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 5:45 PM

My layout pretty much fills a 36 x 60 basement. With four Digitrax boosters, power supplies for lighting, signals, turnouts, etc. many lighted passenger cars and sound locomotives, my total current is 2.6 amps.

 Layout_amps3 by Edmund, on Flickr

Room lighting was designed for several 5000 watt circuits on track lighting that was tungsten halogen but now is mostly LED. Huge drop in consumption.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by gregc on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 7:16 PM

Tin Can II
Separate circuits for lighting and workbench?

wouldn't it be nice to have lights if you need to work on the bench circuit with it powered off?

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by Texas Zephyr on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 7:29 PM

At our club room we had switches for "worklights", "layout lighting day", "layout lighting night",  Then switched power outlets all around the room for  "accessories", and one for "track power".   We also had a set of standard electrical plugs that were on a separate breaker circuit for all normal power uses like power tools, vacuums.

We color coded the outlets so that the white ones were track power, black ones accessories, and almond for normal non-switched power.

Now that I think about it, we had one with isolated ground that had an orange outlet.

 

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Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 8:06 PM

When I had my house reired and brought up to code almost 20 years ago I planned to fill the basement with trains.

I planned two main circuits (aside from room lights) - one for track power and one for structure lighting, turnout, control panels, etc. So I put in two 30amp, 120V circuits:

In hindsight that was probably overkill. I could have gotten by on two 20A circuits.

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Posted by Ladder1 on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 8:39 PM

Make it code, then go from there.  Sounds simple but have seen in the excitement of finally having a place for the layout, mistakes are made.  Residencial codes where I am have outlets every 6 feet and 3 feet above the floor in below grade space.

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Posted by davidmurray on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 8:48 PM

Yes get it done to code, then plus features you want. 

At our club your throw a switch to turn on trackpower and some over track lights.  That means when you are turning out lights to leave, you also turn off the track power to get those lights to go out.

I believe the plugs under the bench work that might get sodering guns plugged in are also on that circuit.  You can figure out what you want to be sure is off when you leave, and put it and a light or three on the switch.

 

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 9:18 PM

Tin Can II
Should that be on a separate 20 amp circuit?  Separate circuits for lighting and workbench?

This is exactly how mine will be arranged.

Tin Can II
Any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas are appreciated.  I don't think I need to reinvent the wheel here.  Thanks in advance.

My layout room is not done yet, but I have talked to an electrician, and we have a plan.

My house was originally built with a well. We have since been attached to city water. So I now have a 240 volt 40 amp breaker for the well, a 120 volt 20 amp breaker for the pump, and a 120 volt 15 amp breaker for the softener that are not being used. This simply means my main electrical supply box/service has the capacity to handle the electrical requirements for the layout room.

This is overkill, both the layout and the workbench will have their own 20 amp circuits. The electrician showed me the cost difference from 15 amp to 20 amp is negligible, so we might as well make them 20 amps. The lighting will be on its own 15 amp circuit. The rest of the room will be on another, already existing, 15 amp circuit.

As Ed showed, layouts do not draw much power. A dedicated 20 amp outlet just for the layout is way more than I will ever need, especially with my planned mid-sized layout.

If you have not bought a house yet, I think the main concern is that the existing electrical service box has the capacity for your hobbies.

Consult with a licensed electrician. Make sure everything you do is safe, and as mentioned, to code.

One more thing... my layout is not in a basement... we do not have those down here.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, April 8, 2021 7:32 AM

I had my trainroom finished before starting the layout.  I'd shoot for a ton of ceiling lights and outlets.  As others noted, ensure the area conforms to local codes.  

The electrical needs probably will change as your layout grows.  I also have DCC and plenty of power to run multiple locos together.

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Posted by ndbprr on Thursday, April 8, 2021 7:39 AM

I agree on the outlets.  I had the luxury of needing a second breaker panel and put outlets every 8' and on separate breakers. Now all I need is a power tool and no extension cords and never an overloaded circuit.

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, April 8, 2021 8:17 AM

i had separate lighting and "wall" outlets when i built my garage.   but i also put outlets on the ceiling joists which i plugged hanging florescent lamps into, but also for middle of the garage convenience (e.g. vacuum).

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, April 8, 2021 8:19 AM

kasskaboose

I had my trainroom finished before starting the layout.  I'd shoot for a ton of ceiling lights and outlets.  As others noted, ensure the area conforms to local codes. 

That is pretty much what I did.  I installed 16 2x2 LED flat panel light and they are on the existing ceiling light circuit and plenty of capacity to add more if I needed, which my electrician informed me of.  I estimated about half of the capacity is used.  I basically wired my basement to code and the only 20 amp circuit is to the bathroom which code requires.  The train room has 2 15 amp circuits and the back basement den, it's own 15 amp circuit.  Looking at how the rest of the house is wired, this is a little overkill but not major.  There is a utility room which has power separate from those 4 new circuits (3 x 15 and 1 x 20) where I can use as a shop area and paint booth.

There are often the Tim the tool man types who go arr arrr arrrr! and install major overkill.  Their choice.

The electrical needs probably will change as your layout grows.  I also have DCC and plenty of power to run multiple locos together. 

Based on my anticipated needs, I'm starting with one DCC booster and may add a 2nd or 3rd if need be.  The recommendation I got for a yard, mainline, 15 track staging and branch was to run up to 4 separate power districts with PSX breakers on each to manage power distribution.  I don't expect to need more than 3 boosters but the circuits I have could handle more if needed.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, April 8, 2021 10:02 AM

Our trains don't need much power so beefing up electrical is a waste of resorses. Placement of outlets can be important though. As far as lighting goes what are you using.

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, April 8, 2021 10:24 AM

are all layout accessories going to be plugged into basement wall outlets?

do you plan on having outlets on the layout itself?

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, April 8, 2021 10:29 AM

The only reason I would go with 20 amps is if a future owner would use the room for a workshop. My radial, table and mitre saws would occasionally trip a 15 amp breaker on startup so I now have 20 amps for those. 

Anything more than 15 amps is a waste of money.

Brent

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, April 8, 2021 11:48 AM

BATMAN
Anything more than 15 amps is a waste of money.

As my electrician explained it to me:

14 gauge and 12 gauge wire cost almost the same. 15 amp and 20 amp breakers cost the same. 15 amp outlets are rated for 20 amp pass-through, so the outlets are the same. The main service box has the capacity.

What is the waste of money? He said for the nickel/dime difference, there is no reason not to go with 20 amps. He did say 30 amp would be very different.

The lighting circuit needs to be on a 15 amp breaker, I do not know the why for that.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, April 8, 2021 12:29 PM

I found this electrician point of view regarding wiring #12 vs #14:

How about box fill and ease of wiring in boxes? The two main reasons [going 14 unless required by code to use 12].

I was just discussing this today with a carpenter. He looked at a 4G box, with all 3-ways, two of which will be dimmers. I said imagine that box wired with all #12. He fully agreed what a pain and how rather unreasonable it would be.

It was from a 14 vs. 12 gauge house wiring discussion.  And a few more.

"cost isn't really much of a factor"

 

When you wire houses for a living it is a substantial factor. Not just the cost of the wire but make up and trim out takes a LOT longer with #12 wire. We run #12 where required, #14 everywhere else. Anything more is an upcharge. Sometimes the drawings will call for #12 everywhere, when I explain the cost difference during the bidding that usually gets axed pretty quick.

...

Experience of others may differ, but installing switches on #12 invariably results in a few broken switches from the strain of the resistance of the #12 while pushing the switch into the box.

 

I guess if you are paying for wiring to be done and money isn't a factor, you don't care about cost. 

From the above electrician discussion, it appears they are likely to charge more, however, to go all #12, even if the hardware doesn't cost that much more (wire, breakers etc.).  So over all costs to go all #12 wiring may be more than a little. 

If you are doing it yourself and it's only materials, hey ...  Most of us probably don't do our own house wiring.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, April 8, 2021 12:53 PM

SeeYou190
What is the waste of money? He said for the nickel/dime difference, there is no reason not to go with 20 amps.

Mission creep.Laugh

All those little things start to add up.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, April 8, 2021 1:26 PM

I don't know about outlets South of the border but our 20 amp outlets are different than the 15 amp ones. If you are paying for 12 gauge wire for 20 amps, the proper outlet makes sense. I stand to be corrected.

Note the different shaped tyne slot.

 

 

Brent

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Posted by FRRYKid on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:33 AM

I will put my 2 cents worth on this. When I bought my house, my plan was (and is) to use the garage for the layout. I wish I had taken a little more time to prep it a bit better but there is a 30 amp circuit in it. However, my local electrician (who just happens to be across the street) told me for electrical outlets it can't be more than 20 amps so he changed out the fuse. (Blew it once trying to put a switch on the irrigation pump but that's a whole different story.) I did also have him put another box in for an additional light socket. I wired in the socket myself. I use the "new" app-controlled LED lights. I can get away with having two per socket due to low power draw (OK'd by the electrician) so the layout room gets bright if I need it. (I only run the lights at 75%) I also have a program where I can replicate night effects with blue light at 50%. I could use more electrical outlets but I manage with the one on the wall.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, April 9, 2021 5:28 AM

BATMAN

I don't know about outlets South of the border but our 20 amp outlets are different than the 15 amp ones. If you are paying for 12 gauge wire for 20 amps, the proper outlet makes sense. I stand to be corrected.

Note the different shaped tyne slot.

 

 

 

Yes, that is a 20 amp outlet, but generally you don't install them even on a 12 gauge/20 amp breaker circuit unless there is only one outlet on the circuit - like your frig or washing machine.

Appliances that draw more than 13 amps and less than 18 amps will have the special plug with one prong turned, and require that outlet.

But on a circuit with multiple outlets the 20 amp wire and breaker allows more stuff to be plugged into however many 15 amp outlets are on the circuit.

It is code legal and design prefered to not install multiple 20 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, unless there is a specific use intended that requires them.

In normal use, a 15 amp circuit is allowed to provide general power to about 600 sq ft of your home. A 20 amp circuit can supply 750 sq ft, so you can actually run less wire and cover more rooms, and need less circuit breakers if you use 20 amp circuits.

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, April 9, 2021 5:40 AM

riogrande5761

I found this electrician point of view regarding wiring #12 vs #14:

 

 
How about box fill and ease of wiring in boxes? The two main reasons [going 14 unless required by code to use 12].

I was just discussing this today with a carpenter. He looked at a 4G box, with all 3-ways, two of which will be dimmers. I said imagine that box wired with all #12. He fully agreed what a pain and how rather unreasonable it would be.

 

It was from a 14 vs. 12 gauge house wiring discussion.  And a few more.

 

 
"cost isn't really much of a factor"

 

When you wire houses for a living it is a substantial factor. Not just the cost of the wire but make up and trim out takes a LOT longer with #12 wire. We run #12 where required, #14 everywhere else. Anything more is an upcharge. Sometimes the drawings will call for #12 everywhere, when I explain the cost difference during the bidding that usually gets axed pretty quick.

...

Experience of others may differ, but installing switches on #12 invariably results in a few broken switches from the strain of the resistance of the #12 while pushing the switch into the box.

 

 

I guess if you are paying for wiring to be done and money isn't a factor, you don't care about cost. 

From the above electrician discussion, it appears they are likely to charge more, however, to go all #12, even if the hardware doesn't cost that much more (wire, breakers etc.).  So over all costs to go all #12 wiring may be more than a little. 

If you are doing it yourself and it's only materials, hey ...  Most of us probably don't do our own house wiring.

 

I've been an electrician all my life and done LOTS of commercial work that is often ALL 12 wire. 

Broken switches? Maybe if you use the 50 cent ones. That has never happened to me in 40 years in the trade.

This guy you qouted is a residential tract house hack electrician, slapping up crap that barely meets code as fast as he can....... he is not goning to wire my house....

I generally try to stay out of these electrical discussions because of all the miss information.

But for the small job of upgrading a trainroom, the cost difference been 15 amp and 20 amp ciricuits would be hard to measure done by a REAL professional. And there are no code box fill issues of any concern at the 12 vs 14 wire level. 

Sheldon

    

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, April 9, 2021 5:59 AM

When we had our home built some 21 years ago, the unfinished basement consisted of one 15 amp circuit (14 gauge wire) to control three wall outlets and five ceiling outlets for 60 watt incandescent bulbs. We moved in, and I quickly rezoned the basement, equally dividing it into two 15 amp circuits (14 gauge wire), one zone for the layout and one zone for the rest of the basement.

Before I started my new layout in 2018, I installed 54 "cans" across the basement ceiling each contained one LED bulb. I have had no problems with either the basement lighting or the layout.

Up here in the Chicago area, we are required to use thin wall metal conduit for wiring. This requirement is a blessing, especially when any type of rewiring or additional wiring is required. I avoid 20 amp circuits with 12 gauge wiring like the plague. 12 gauge wire is thicker, heavier, and difficult to use because it is bulkier inside the junction boxes. 

About six years ago, I rewired the back wall of our kitchen which had four junction boxes on the back wall controlled by two 15 amp circuits. I turned this configuration into four 20 amp circuits with 12 gauge wiring. To do this, I added new conduit to two of the four junction boxes to run 12 gauge wire. Stuffing all that 12 gauge wire into the existing conduit would have been all but impossible.

The reason for 20 amp circuits in the kitchen was to stop blowing out 15 amp circuits with several electrical appliances operating simultaneously, namely a microwave, toaster oven, deep fryer and food processor. Each one now has its own 20 amp circuit.

Rich

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, April 9, 2021 7:02 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
I've been an electrician all my life and done LOTS of commercial work that is often ALL 12 wire.  Broken switches? Maybe if you use the 50 cent ones. That has never happened to me in 40 years in the trade. This guy you qouted is a residential tract house hack electrician, slapping up crap that barely meets code as fast as he can....... he is not goning to wire my house.... I generally try to stay out of these electrical discussions because of all the miss information. But for the small job of upgrading a trainroom, the cost difference been 15 amp and 20 amp ciricuits would be hard to measure done by a REAL professional. And there are no code box fill issues of any concern at the 12 vs 14 wire level.  Sheldon

Fine for you but the OP may still be faced with the higher costs that the "other" professional electricians were talking about.  We'll have to see what he says if he rejoins the convo.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by gregc on Friday, April 9, 2021 7:06 AM

i thought wire gauge has more to do with run length than current capacity. 

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, April 9, 2021 7:29 AM

Rich, I hope you used stranded wire. 1/2" EMT can hold 9 #12 wires, or 4 circuits with separate neutrals. With 14 wire you can get 12 wires in 1/2" EMT.

Chicago is unique with electrical codes, but I am surprised your kitchen had 15 amp circuits. Not sure when it changed, but 20 amp counter top circuits have been code for a long time.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, April 9, 2021 7:47 AM

gregc

i thought wire gauge has more to do with run length than current capacity. 

 

Wrong, building wiring is seldom long enough to have voltage drop issues.

Wire size and breaker size:

#14 = 15 amps

#12 = 20 amps

#10 = 30 amps

#8 = 50 amps

This is a simplification, but basically that's how it works in your house.

Sheldon

 

 

    

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, April 9, 2021 1:23 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Chicago is unique with electrical codes, but I am surprised your kitchen had 15 amp circuits. Not sure when it changed, but 20 amp counter top circuits have been code for a long time.

When I built my house, over 30 years ago, I bought an Ontario Hydro code book, to ensure that I would be able to wire it properly.
In Ontario, all kitchen receptacles (15 amp) must be split:  two circuits for each and each circuit on its own breaker...if I owned enough of them, I could have 12 fridges or deep friers or microwave ovens all running at the same time, with never a breaker tripping.
The code also limits 15 amp circuits to a maximum of 12 lights and/or receptacles. All of the electical heating circuits are on double 20 amp breakers.

The 200 amp service panel has 64 breakers.

I also re-wired the garage...a 150 year-old building which was, at various times, by the looks of it, a house, a barn and a double garage.  It's not used as a garage, but mostly for storage of firewood, and garden tools, along with pool equipment, and my paint shop.  It has a separate 30 amp feed from the house, which is sufficient for what's there.

When the Hydro inspector came, he went over the whole house very thoroughly, well-aware that I was not an electrician, and at the end, pronounced it "extremely well-done, and one of the neatest jobs he had ever inspected".

Wayne

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:37 PM

Wayne, from you I would expect nothing less.

Here in the US electrical breaker panels are allowed a max of 42 circuits.

Sheldon

    

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