It’s Electric

September 10, 2016

Electric is hard.

Learning

First you learn the basics of electricity, the difference between amps, volts and watts. Then you learn about the NEC codes, the purpose of breakers, the purpose of a circuit breaker and the differences between circuit breakers. Oh and don’t forget you need to learn about the different types of cables (no, not wires. Wires is a whole different term) and what types of wires work with which types of things.

Planning

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Then you have to plan out your system, because you’re limited by the power you can intake. In our case we’re going to be hooked up to a campsite’s power grid, much like an RV. Then you go through your whole list of appliances and power needs. You have to start making decisions because you simply can’t just hook everything up to the electric system.

For us, the first thing to go was an electric stove and oven. You can easily convert a gas oven to use propane (which was a shocker to me, it’s like a 5 minute thing to do) and some of these ovens just need a 9 volt battery to start the flame. Electric usage = 0.

Sacrifices

We also decided to get a propane powered tankless water heater. They are small and run off of minimal electricity as well. This will increase the complexity of trying to install these things – we will need to install piping from our propane tanks out on the tongue of the trailer and into the house to the gas powered appliances.

Roughing In

Then when you have a plan on paper of your different circuits, you can start the “roughing in” process. Which is boring in holes into your studs to start pulling your electric wiring in. We did the hole boring part, but the complete planning part not so much.

Consequences

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After the first couple of circuits I realized that we may have slightly underestimated the need for planning. There were four 90 degree angles to tackle just getting out of the breaker to the left hand side of the house. I learned a great trick to fish the wires through but it was still not easy to fish 12 gauge wire through these holes.

To make matters worse, when boring these 90 degree holes in the wall, I was essentially making blind guesses when drilling from each side. These holes would eventually meet but the path for the wire would never be perfectly straight. This lead to a lot of effort just to pull a few inches of wire through at a time. But on the brightside, it was a great workout.

I think on the 3rd or 4th time trying to drill a blind hole, spending 20 minutes just trying to fish the wire through and then another half an hour feeding maybe 5 feet of wire through it – I decided to work smarter not harder. I went to Hartville Hardware and bought a 90 degree drill adapter. I was so excited to use a new tool that I ended up putting too much pressure on the corner and broke the whole bit on the first try. I ended up making the trip back to the store and getting it replaced. Great folks there. They weren’t even mad they had to replace it, they were impressed that I broke it in the first place. Apparently they’ve never seen that before.

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So this 90 degree adapter solved the blind corners, and as an added bonus it let me make nice straight holes between studs that were too small for the whole width of the drill.

Learning the Flow

But after completeing some initial circuits, we started to get the hang of it. Luckily all wires were pretty easy – we only have one circuit that features a two-way switch. I learned how to wire that up from some surfing around and staring blankly at eletric diagrams for way too long.

Slowly but surely we have learned the classic rules for electrical rough in – but of course the hard way. After quadruple checking that a certain cable belonged to the kitchen circuit for the 80th time we finally labeled every cable in the house. I started using painters tape to mark out were a circuit would go before boring holes. It’s common sense stuff now, but now I know the consequences of not having some sort of idea before putting drill-to-wall so to speak.

The other oddball circuit is our combo washer/dryer that requires a 10 gauge 3 wire. It’s a monster cable and that was the hardest to rough in by far.

We even ended up adding a secondary loft for storage – complete with outlets for our projector and smart home hubs.

Breaker Box
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After spending a lot of time researching and asking dumb questions, we finally found the breaker box that works for our setup. It’s a cute little 70 amp box with 20 circuits. Amy built a little frame for it so it has a snug fit between our studs. The board above it is for organizing the wires coming in.

Inlet

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I found this great RV inlet on Amazon that was already waterproofed and looked like it would fit perfectly into our wall. One of those things ended up to be true when we installed it. The problem is the inlet was longer than the stud and it would stick out of the wall. We’ve found we can take off the sheathing and use a few box extensions to make a nice little cover for it.
Takeaways

  • It’s much easier to erase a drawing than it is to un-wire and rewire through a different stud. Planning saves so much time and effort.
  •  Mark all circuits with a permanent marker!!
  •  Do the farthest away circuits first, nothings worse than having to unwire a whole section of wire because it was a foot too short
  • Pull large amounts of wire through a few studs at a time, this helps keep the wire from twisting and kinking. The smoother the wire, the easier it is to pull through the next studs

That’s all for now folks! We’ll make another post when we actually start to hook up outlets and switches after testing.

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