Portable/Temporary Subpanel

Old 10-11-04, 12:52 PM
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Portable/Temporary Subpanel

Hello. This is my first post and it will probably sound a bit weird. If you don't care for background info and want to get straight to my question, scroll down to THE PROJECT.

I am the co-founder of a LAN party group known as LAN Lordz. A LAN party is a group of computer gamers that gathers as often as once a month or more to connect to a Local Area Network and play computer games together. Our party currently holds about 50 gamers, however, we have moved our event to a new location that has enough space to hold around 100 gamers. We hold our events once a month for about 36 hours straight. Our new location is not owned by us, we rent it for 1 weekend each month. Because of this, wiring in a permanent sub panel just for our event isn't a viable option for the building owner. The existing wiring is chaotic at best and we managed to only find 4 dedicated recepticle circuits in the whole 3000 sq ft building. This is just not enough power for 100 computers.

What I want to do is make a portable or temporary sub panel that can connect to the buildings main panel connection. This sub panel will need to have 9 20 amp circuits and be mounted to a piece of plywood. Other lan party's have rented such sub panels from electrical contractors. Here is a picture of one and this is exactly what I'm wanting to create. http://www.lanpartynetwork.com/how2l...wgg4_pwr02.jpg

I have general electrical knowledge. I can wire in light fixtures and power recepticles and the like. I have not wired in a sub panel or ever watched one get wired in. Any tutorials on how to do so would be great help and any ideas on how to achieve my goal easier would be greatly appreciated. The temporary panel will need a feed of no more than 50 feet to connect to the main panel. I had planned to connect to the main panel with the use of some heavy duty clamps such as those used in high end car jumper cables. If there is a better way to temporarily connect, I'm open for suggestions.

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and also your knowledge if you choose to help.
Old 10-11-04, 02:46 PM
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You do not want to use "jumper cable clamps" to make this connection. You have the landlord install the proper receptacles and breaker ot allow you to plug in the sub panel.
Old 10-12-04, 12:27 AM
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Ok I talked to a friend and he thinks we can figure this out. Basically the only thing we haven't figured out is how to wire it into the main panel. If anyone could just link to the right tools for that I think we can handle the rest. Thanks.
Old 10-12-04, 05:24 AM
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joed just told you how to connect to the main panel. Have the landlord install an appropriate receptacle into which you will plug your panel using a cord and plug.
Old 10-12-04, 06:55 AM
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I cracked up when I saw the contraption in your photo. But while it "seems OK" to connect such a device to your mains, it definitely is not. To have a non-electrician clamping and unclamping this from the mains every month sounds uber-dangerous and foolish.

Installing a sub-panel is no big deal and you could easily do it on your own property, but you're doing it in someone else's building which is illegal, and exposing 100 people to a fire hazard if it's not done absolutlely to code and spec.

You must be making money on this weekend gaming deal, contribute a couple of grand to having an electrician do the work in the landlord's building at your expense. Maybe make a deal with the landlord, go 50-50 and make a deal that reduces your rent $100/weekend until his half is paid off.
Old 10-12-04, 09:16 AM
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Temporary power distribution centers are available commercially (see for example the Leviton PB103), and they can also be built up. This is essentially a sub-panel, suitably protected for portability, designed to be plugged in to a main source of supply using a flexible cord. So what you want to do is not all that far fetched.

What is totally out to lunch is the idea of opening up the main panel in a commercial structure, and then tapping the subpanel off the main supply leads using some sort of heavy duty clamp, and then using this to supply what is essentially an assembly of people.

You are talking about stupid levels of liability.

The right way to accomplish this task is to get a new circuit installed at the main panel, feeding a single high current receptacle right next to the main panel. No long distance fishing of wires, no large changes to the electrical system, and thus minimal cost. This portion _must_ be done professionally, since you are talking about a rental hall where people will assemble. This is going to be a permanent addition to the building that you are renting in, so essentially you pay for it but the landlord gets to keep it. That is why you want to make the installed portion as small as possible.

Then you buy or rent a portable power distribution center. This will plug in to the receptacle that you have installed. You could even have an electrical supply house build up a custom distribution center.

The distribution center will plug in using an 'SO' cord, essentially a large, heavy duty extension cord. You will want to protect the cord, possibly using plastic channels made for this purpose, though often simply duct taping the cord down is considered good enough; these are _heavy_ duty cords.

You will have to carefully plan your power requirements; more power means more expense. You will also need to find out if the service in the hall is single phase or three phase. You may need to determine if the service to the hall is large enough to support all of the computers that you expect. Finally, for any of these components, be sure to specify that you are running computers, because 'harmonic' issues on supply leads to computers often require full size or oversize neutral conductors.

Old 10-12-04, 12:03 PM
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Thank you for your response. I figured just clamping on wasn't the right way to do it. I think i'll be calling a few electricians once I get the ok to add on. Thanks again.

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