How to ID unsafe electrical and fix it

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Articles and How To's' started by 4G1v3N, Nov 9, 2008.

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  1. 4G1v3N

    4G1v3N Spaghetti Worm

    Dec 30, 2006
    San Pedro,CA
    When we set up our tanks the last thing we think about is power, we just look for an outlet and figure we can just add a plug bar to suit our electrical needs. Most of the time this will work with no consequences, however we rarely check what other appliance is drawing power from that same circuit. In this article I will explain how to check if an outlet is OK to use, and how to add a dedicated circuit.

    First thing would be to check to see if you have adequate power on your outlet to add your equipment. Depending on the year your house was built and the materials used for the home electrical system this could be easy, or a little more difficult. You want to check the panel that your outlet is being powered by, either a sub or a main panel. If the electrician did a good job the first thing he would do is label the breakers! If your breakers are labeled then your job is going to be a lot easier, If not your going to have to do some breaker flipping. An easy way to do this would be to identify the amperage on the breaker. (On a 120V standard outlet the amps would be 20) When you find that you want to plug a radio in to the outlet you plan on using, that way when you flip the breaker off the radio is going to go off telling you that is the breaker. Before you do any flipping you want to make sure you have your computer or any sensitive devices turned off. Once you determine your breaker you want to look around for anything else that is turned off, telling you everything that is on that circuit.

    You can use your best judgment on how much stuff is on the circuit. You don't want anything major (stoves, microwaves, washer/dryer, computer) on that circuit. All the appliances listed above draw major amps when they run and could cause your fish equipment to turn off and most likely get damaged. If you have something like a TV or a light, something that doesn't require allot of power I would say it's alright.

    If you have a major appliance or you don't want to chance it you can run a dedicated circuit. If you have no experience at all with electrical I don't recommend you do this, remember electricity is a dangerous thing that should not be played with. With a little understanding and experience electricity can be a great thing! Now for those that feel comfortable doing this the first thing you want to do is to get a game plan and a material list. For a 20 amp circuit you will want to buy 12 Gage wire, if your run is longer than 50' you want to run stranded, not solid wire.

    GFCI (Ground fault circuit interrupter) is a cheap device that monitors the flow of electrical current to sense any loss of current. If any current is lost the GFCI will act like a breaker and turn off before any damage can be done to you or your equipment. GFCI’s can come in two forms for the household use, a receptacle or a breaker. Either one is just as affective as the other, but if you are running a dedicated circuit for your tank you would want to use the breaker if possible.

    Identify where you’re going to get power, i.e. sub panel/main panel. Then find out where you want to run the conduit or Wire (on the wall or inside the wall). Now a 20 amp dedicated circuit with 2 receptacles will be good for the basic tank set-up. For bigger equipment like chillers, big pumps, high watt lights etc... You might want to run a couple of circuits to accommodate these items. Then you want to find the maker of the panel and buy your breakers accordingly. I highly recommend a GFCI Breaker; this will save all your equipment from any water getting into the outlet. If you can’t find one of these a gfi outlet will do the same thing. After you have your conduit or wire ran you want to hook them up to your breaker/receptacle. The black or red wire will be you’re hot, white will be your neutral, and green will be your ground. In the panel you will see a neutral bar and a ground bar (depends on how old your house is), and the hot wire will go into your breaker terminal. On the receptacle side you will see a brass color, Green, and a silver color screw terminal. Brass will be your hot, silver your neutral and green your ground. On a GFCI you will see a line and load on the brass screws, the line will be the power coming in and the load will be the jumper wires going to your next outlet. You only need one GFCI if you’re going to hook up 2 receptacles.

    Well there you go, plug your equipment in and reef on! This is a basic explanation and could go into way more detail about materials. I hope this article will educate all reefers about electrical and just how important it is to establish a successfully reef tank! When the correct steps are taken in the beginning you will not run into bad problems and broken equipment.

    If you have any questions Please feel free to PM me and I will give you my email or phone to help with your electrical! Thanks.