In hot water

… and loving it! As some of you may remember, we cut all electric to our house just days before moving in as part of having a new outside service installed.  I got the well back online before we arrived, via a quick hack job (which fits the overall well setup quite nicely), but the water heater .. well, that required bringing power inside.  An electrician friend suggested that the interior subpanel would be best located just past the back door on the wall between the rear bedroom and the kitchen.

So, that’s our destination, but the journey starts outside at the newly installed meter main.  This exterior panel has slots for only 8 breakers (for exterior loads such as the well, and one day perhaps the barn, a shop, and a grid-tied photovoltaic system).  It also has lugs to connect a 200A carrying cable for an interior load center. In the picture on the right you can see the huge red, white, and black cables connected into these lugs.  These 4/0 gauge aluminum cables are obnoxious to work with, especially by flashlight in the cold.  They don’t bend well at all, so you are fighting them for every inch.  I also ended up sticking myself in the finger with a utility knife while stripping one.  That was fun.

The cables in the previous picture are bundled into a 4 strand SER cable (two hots, one neutral, and a 2/0 bare ground) with sheathing for most of its journey.  This cable goes through the wall and then down through the floor as shown.  The hole through the wall was caulked between the panel and the siding.  The cable is then protected by a plastic bushing I glued in place.  I plan to spray-foam all the holes after inspection.  An observant viewer will note that the cable sticks out into the room past the 2×4 wall framing.  This would normally be a problem, except that I plan to double-stud insulate all exterior walls in the house, so the cable will be well within the final wall assembly.

This whole install process actually started in the crawlspace.  I wrestled 52 feet of that wrist-thick SER cable into this dusty, cramped space under our floor.  With only about 9 inches of room under some beams, it wasn’t the most comfortable experience.  Actually, comfort isn’t even on the chart.  Rocks in your back, your head in the dirt, dead mice and spider webs everywhere … and a respirator to keep from sucking in all the fine dust that layers everything.  Ughh!  Unfortunately, I think I’ll probably get pretty familiar with our crawlspace.  Although I don’t plan to run any electric circuits or water lines through it, the drain lines will remain and I still need to shore up some sagged areas of the floor.

This is the only shot I have of the actual cable installed.  Good tools don’t mind a little dirt.  Digital cameras — not so forgiving.  The cable is that twisted object in the top center of the frame.  After I dragged all the cable into the crawl I pulled it over the beams along a floor joist and then pushed it up the first hole (after some chiseling to round out the opening).  I then took the other end down the floor joist into the area below the kitchen, turned a corner, and ran along the bottom of the floor joists and up into the other hole by the back door.  It’s strapped in place every 4 feet or less.  I wonder if the electrical inspector will crawl around here to see if I did this part right?

From the crawlspace the cable returns to the land of the living through a hole below the subpanel I installed a couple days ago.  It enters though a clamp at the bottom, the sheathing is then stripped, and each individual cable runs off to its respective lug.  As this is a subpanel, the ground is bounded to the panel box and the neutral is kept isolated.  The reasons for this never made sense to me until I read Rex Cauldwell’s explanation in the book Wiring A House.

Finally, here on the left is the installed panel, complete with one 30A circuit running to the water heater.  This is a temporary circuit, as I’m not keeping the water heater in it’s present location.  Technically, I should have got this subpanel inspected before I added a circuit.  If you’ve read some of my past posts, you know my opinion of the Lane County building department.  The electrical inspection process is especially designed to be inconvenient for homeowners.  You are supposed to have all circuits run and the grounds bounded and inspected before you apply power to any of them.  This really isn’t practical for a homeowner living in the space they are working on.

Anyway .. short story long, about 30 minutes after I threw the main breaker back on there was hot water coming out of the tap, and about 2 hours later Robin had drawn a big steaming tub full of water for her first official bath of the new house.  Given that our indoor air temperature on the first floor is probably in the 40s, it was a very steamy bath.

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2 Responses to In hot water

  1. charity says:

    YAY, hot water! Every girls best friend. 🙂

  2. robin says:

    Yup, it’s been nice.

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