Considering power options for building...?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by jenzden, Dec 22, 2003.

  1. jenzden

    jenzden Active Member

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    I have a storage building that is 20' by 40'. It is 3 to 4' off the ground. It is insulated, roofed and sided. I want to be able to put in electric mainly for lighting. Also, I want to be able to heat it in the winter. I only want to keep the heat at about 50 degrees to make sure that the books and other stuff I have stored don't freeze.
    We thought of just running a line from our house (from our breaker box) down to the building but our box can't take any extra lines. As it stands we decided we would just have the electric company install a line of its own from its own pole. But this means having another electric bill each month.
    So.......... before we get involved in doing this I thought I might investigate some options. I would love for the building to be solar powered but I don't think it would generate enough power for the heat. And I think it would be harder for wind power as it is in a valley.
    I know I can put in a propane heater of some type but then how would I regulate the thermostat without having the electric?
    There is a creek about 25 feet away and I even thought about some kind of water powered generator. Is there such a thing? If any of you out there have ideas I would love to hear about them.
    I thought if I could keep this building off grid then perhaps I could work on eventually getting my home off grid also.
    Thanks in advance :)
    Jen
    (in Western PA)
     
  2. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Before you add another monthly bill have an electrician look at the box, it is very possible that an extra line can be attached to the main buss bar. Allowing you a second connection to the main breaker be the shut off. Also, there is info in the archives conserning hydropower projects. Go into archives, find 'countryside' click there and scroll down to 'alternative energy'.
     

  3. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    Not all propane heaters require power. Shop around .


    mikell
     
  4. Kirk

    Kirk Well-Known Member

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    Propane space heaters are often non-electric. I have one in my house.
    Do a google search for micro hydro and you may find many resources for the stream route. Just wondering why the storage building is elevated and what area of the country you are in. Also is it insulated?
    Kirk
     
  5. Yankee1

    Yankee1 Well-Known Member

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    You can add a doudle breaker to your panel. It will give you two lines in place of one breaker spot.
     
  6. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    jenzden asked "There is a creek about 25 feet away and I even thought about some kind of water powered generator. Is there such a thing? "

    There is a water powered turbine that is less than $200 USD, and it puts out about 5 hp. You take water from upstream to turn the turbine and return it downstream. I think the hoses are 2 inches and require 60 feet of head. So if it takes 100 yards of stream to be uphill 60 feet, you would need 100 yards of hose. American engineering for developing countries. I lost the website, but I think I can get it back. GObug
     
  7. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    You can Buy #8\2, with a ground and neutral that is a direct bury cable at H. depot for about a dollar a foot. You just dig a ditch , plant the cable and cover it up. Then you run it in too the main breaker box and hookup with say 1 ten amp breaker for each 120 volt leg. That's all you need for lights and a very LOW amperage load . If and when it is determined that you can actually draw More amperage , just install larger breakers . 8\2 is good for a 50 amp load and probably MORE ....if your distance is less than 100 lineal feet.......fordy :D
     
  8. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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  9. owhn

    owhn Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jen:

    Ive read the comments of others and agree wth most of them. As much as I adore self generation, it is unlikely reasonable for this.

    But let's be sure. How far away is the storage building from your home (roughly)? How many lights? How often will they be on?

    (as for various fueled heaters, yes they can be with bimetallic thermostats that need no electricity)

    Wire service is normally sized to lose only a few percent of voltage. Lights draw very little power, really, under normal cirumstances. And standard light bulbs are pure resistive loads, so they work with even much lower voltages than normal, just dimmer.

    you could have one of two problems, 1) the input from the power company to your main bus in the service panel is too small. If so, get them to upgrade the service. Its generally their responsibility ... squawk! They have the obligation to serve SAFE and Reliable power.

    Or if the feed to the house is big enough, but the MAIN BUS in the breaker box that receives the feed from the power company is too small.

    Ask yourself this, if these lights were added to the inside of your house, would the input MAIN BUS to the breaker box be big enough to handle the load. I would guess the answer is yes. After all whats few more lights?

    (if no, consider getting a new service entrance ... you are seriously overloaded).


    So is instead the point is that the existing breaker positions are all full? Well, depending upon the age and manufacture of your breaker box, there are ways to beat the problem, which you will find out with the help of any competent electrician.

    A)
    You may be able to put in a double breaker (as per Yankee 1)(essentially a pair of two slimmer ones built as one pievce in lieu of a single larger one). Then wire the new breaker to the load ... (per Fordy)

    B)
    Or you could add a sub breaker box. This is the same effect as the double breakers .... you essentially disconnect certain lines in your house and pull out one or more breakers from the exisitng box, and use that position for a feed to a sub box. That sub box can now hold more breakers which can both feed the lines you just disconnected as well as the new loads in the storage shed. Sort of like the hard wired version of extension cords from extension cords idea. You will need to do some calculations, but this is not rocket science.

    Then run underground a la Fordy (I haven't checked wire size, and you will want to include conduit for mechanical protection/identification and underground rated wired insulation but details, details...)

    As to your other options

    C)
    The new power pole (expensive) and line work from power company, as well as new account is a big waste of money.
    If you can afford a new pole, you can likely afford an ENTIRE new service entrance that can feed your house and shed.

    D)
    And in my view, as much as I love off grid stuff, there is no economic incentive to go off grid when you have utility power readily available, and this situation is a sounds like a very poor load for self generation.

    Self gen, at its best is may times more expensive as utility power, unless the feed from the utility (or your house) is VERY far away. I'm talking kilometers, not feet .

    I hope this is helpful

    owhn

    engineer/writer
     
  10. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The cost of a second power line is going to be more than adding an extra line to your current box. Even if your box is full you can pull one line, add a second bod and come off that box. A second electric bill will add base fee's back into your cost. Your electric bill has a base fee plus electrical cost. Its not just electric cost plus taxes.
     
  11. jenzden

    jenzden Active Member

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    I'm hearing a lot of good ideas.... :)

    moopups: I could not find the alternative energy listings in archives. I haven't used this forum much so I'm not sure where to find certain things. Are your directions current, or is it that I'm just not seeing it? (It's probably right before my eyes!)

    mikell: I will shop around on the propane heaters. If I go that route I want something that is regulated with a thermostat.

    Kirk: I am in western PA. The building is elevated because there are many springs on the hill above. When there is a lot of rain or snow meltoff this area can be so saturated that there are pools of water.

    moopups, Yankee1, fordy, owhn: I am considering some sort of split off of our homes power. I'm not 'up' on electrical terms so forgive my language. I do believe that the storage building would require its own box. I need a lot of light in there plus I want to be comfortable in harsh weather (I work in there a lot). Our current set-up does seem to be overloaded. The building is about 125 feet from our house so a ditch would have to be dug....

    Belle: I need a lot of lighting. I have a lot of books plus I have hobbies that I work on. Having books freeze is OK for some of them, but others have glued bindings which freeze, dry out and crack apart when the book is opened. I am worried about this more than I am dampness as I know the building is well insulated. Right now I have a long extension cord hooked up to an oil-filled radiator heater. I am careful to make sure that nothing else is running off the same breaker. It keeps everything from freezing but that's about it. I know I can't rely on this because I am not confident of its safety (no thermostat).

    There is so much to learn. Unfortunately I don't have lot of money or a lot of time to decide what to do. It's gonna have to be the most economical method.

    Thanks for your help folks!
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
    Jen
     
  12. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    Jenz, here is alittle elementary electricial standard to illuminate your data base. Amps x Volts = Watts , so for a 100 watt bulb>> 100 watts divided by 120 volts equals .83 amps. or.....a 100 watt standard bulb will require 83% of 1 amp. With this simple example ......You can read the Stated wattage requirements of various items and then you calculate the Potential Load or Total wattage requirement that you will have IF...you decide you Need certain items in your workshop. You can also take your total wattage or Load to a Home Depot and consult with the Knowledgeable folks there and they can TELL you what size wire you will need to "power" your lights, etc. ........fordy.... :D :worship:
     
  13. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

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    I would get the new line put in. All the power you will need and you could plobably wright it off your taxes as an office or shop. No extension cords to deal with. Nice size storage building