Power to the People, part 2

I will give a better tour of the shed, and the electrical layout in the near future, but in the meantime – here is a sneak peek.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 49 21Power is entering the shed from under the slab (through a conduit I put in place during the slab pour).  It is coming from a 63A breaker on the main switchboard, to a second 63A breaker on this panel located near the roller door.  There are a number of circuits running off this, including lighting circuits, multiple 10A circuits (5 or 6?), 15A circuits (3). When the electrician comes back after the long weekend, I will get a run down of each circuit and breaker.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 49 29Some of the conduit running away from the switchboard and off around the shed.  All wires potentially susceptible to damage are encased in conduit to protect it.  That is to stop any being damaged, and then causing the metal shed becoming live.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 49 50 Photo 25-01-2014 18 18 20The lighting circuits run to GPOs at each lighting position.  As these light tubes are wired with a standard 10A plug, this makes it very easy to connect the lights, and unplug and remove (and replace) any that ever become faulty.

If you look closely, you’ll notice a GPO on the main cross-beam in the second picture…..

Photo 25-01-2014 17 50 05This is specifically placed here, as it is for the roof-mounted air filtration unit.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 49 39

Then, there is power all around the perimeter (and on the one support post), all double GPOs. You’ll notice the wood trim all round.  This is an alternate to running conduit everywhere, as instead the power is run inside the top hats, and then this is faced with the pine.  I chose skirting board for this – Masters had it on special and it was exactly what I was looking for.  Rounded top face, exactly the right width.  It is screwed in place, so very easy to remove for access to the wiring if ever needed (installing additional points for example?!!!?)  I also chose it because it looked a bit classier than just MDF.  It is raw, so I can always apply a finish if I feel so inspired.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 53 07

In the back corner where the lathe will go, you’ll notice an additional switch in between the two GPOs.  This is an additional isolating switch for the external GPOs on the rear corner of the shed.

Photo 25-01-2014 17 53 25

These are installed to allow an air compressor (and lights) to be plugged in from another shed, so I don’t have to put up with the noise of an air compressor in the main shed.  The isolator switch means I can turn off the air compressor at the end of a session from the main workshop, without having to go out to the other shed.

So that is a bit of an overview.  As machines are rolled in, the number of GPOs becomes better explained, as there are a lot of machines to plug in, without having to resort to power boards and extension cords.


A couple of major milestones, and really the last two as well.  Looking back at my tracking timetable (1 Nov), the last boxes to complete were:

Power for the shed: done (or will be completed by the day’s end)

Final Building Inspection: done! (just need to send in a copy of the electrical certificate)

The shed is now a legitimate, legal, completed (as far as construction is concerned) structure.  w00t!

There is one item left on the original list – an opening.

Let me get my house in order (and by that I mean the shed), machines and tools moved in, mezzanine area finished (which won’t take much over this weekend), and then we will talk.  It won’t be one of those Facebook free-for-all parties, but I’d like to show my regulars (if interested of course) the place.  I’ll have the SawStop up and running then too, and I do have a spare brake and blade………. and I’m sure a banger could be coerced into jumping into the blade!

Should do it reasonably soon while it is still BBQ weather, and I do have some items I need to find new homes for, including my awesome TS10L 10″ tablesaw, a Router Master, and perhaps even a Jet Midi Lathe.

Power to the People

So the electricians came today (and are back again tomorrow to finish off).  Had quite a discussion with him about what he had thought, and what I was looking at, and we came up with the following.

Perhaps a bit of overkill, but you cannot have too many outlets.  Not that you plan to use them all, but that gives the most flexibility.

This is where we have gone to far (and although it looks complicated, it is no where near as noticeable in the shed.  Other than there being power where you’d want it).


So what do we have?  Two double GPOs per wall, between columns.  Two outdoor GPOs.  3x single 15A GPOs (green).  The main section (where the tablesaw is in the image above) has 2 circuits.  This circuit also covers 2x double GPOs on the mezzanine.  Bay 1 (at the back) is another circuit, Bay 2 (near the main entrance door) is another one again.

The lights are on yet another circuit, and there is a dedicated circuit for the dust extractor.

Sum total: 50x10A GPOs, 3x15A GPOs, 15x10A GPOs for lights

Just one missing – I will get a double GPO put on the central column (for the jointer), off the dust extractor circuit. probably.

One thing to be sure of – I am not going to be left wondering if there is enough outlets, or where the nearest spare outlet is!!  Another thing to be sure of, with the number of individual circuits (8), and the 63A supply to the shed, it will be the most robust power supply we can come up with!

Deciding on GPOs

Looking at the shed plans, trying to decide on the distribution of GPOs (power outlets) around the shed.

So far I am getting stupid numbers – like 4 GPOs per pillar, plus 1 each corner of the mezzanine, and each light fitting (and two for air filtration).  Total: 75.  Plus 3 x 15A GPOs and 2 outdoor GPOs.

What would you suggest would be a sensible layout for this shop footprint? (Machine location is very approximate at best)


A New Tab

At the top of the website, you will see a new tab has appeared – Shed Build. (It may take a little bit for it to appear – the site is quite heavily cached it seems!  Even mine is appearing and disappearing – idiosyncrasies of the web!)

I will use this to capture some of the specifics of the shed design and construction.  New content will still appear here as new blog entries, and then summarised and refined under that tab for prosperity.

So to start, I wanted to look at some of the lessons learned from the existing shed.

With the decommissioning of the current shed in approximately 30 days (a month seems so much shorter when you realise how many, or rather how few days there are, especially if you only count weekends!), I am going to document the process involved in setting up the new shed, at the new location.

The existing 8×4 shed was a great improvement when we built it, but it has been well and truly outgrown  in the past couple of years.  It was as large as I could justify on the existing block at the time.

Looking back through the website, I didn’t realise how long the existing shed had been around – time sure flies! (Built April 2008)

So what lessons have I learned from the existing one, that needs to be incorporated into the new design?


The current shed is 8m x 4m, with a 2.1m high ceiling (to the lower beams).  Shed width is a critical factor – not just the square metreage. 4m is ok, but 6m would be more desirable.  This allows machines to line the walls (those that suit that location), and still provide plenty of room between them for work, manipulation of stock etc.

Length then is as much as possible for maximum area – the more wall space the better too – I ran out a way back!

Height – 2m is a minimum, but I found I was regularly banging stock into the beams.  2.4 – 3m would have been better (as in total clearance).


The doors on this shed were a good size – about 2m across (when both were opened).  It would have been better if I hadn’t had to block one of the two for the bandsaw, and would have been preferable if I hadn’t had to consider out and through the doors as space for some of the tools outfeed!


She’s solid – no doubt about that, and with society as it is, nice to know things are locked away.  However, one point is lighting, which is the next category.


I ran 10x double fluorescent tubes in the workshop, and as there were no external windows or skylights, this was the only source.  These have been good, but more would have been better.  Daylight for example!  With the new shed going to be directly opposite the house, having some windows would be ideal, and the ability to open part of the side of the shed (roller door).  There is a limit of course – the more windows and doors, the less wall space.


I struggled along for quite a while with power being provided to the shed via an extension cord, but things really improved once I had a decent amount of power bought directly in.

2x 15A, plus 3x 10A circuits.  I made the mistake of using the ready-wired plugs from Bunnings for the 10A supply (wired into the supply by the electrician).  These had their own circuit breaker on each line that was forever tripping.  Running too much on the same circuit, and some being machines that needed the full 10A when under high load.  The circuit breakers on the GPOs tripped at 10A at best, if not before  Normally, circuit breakers do allow some overcurrent before tripping, but these seem to be right on the limit.

You can never have too much power.

Temperature control:

It was always either way too hot, or way too cold out there.  Insulation (and installed during construction) is mandatory!  Additional temperature control in the form of air con or heating would be a definite added bonus.  I tried a gas heater, but that posed a number of problems.  For cooling, I didn’t want to use evaporative – too much cast iron and too much timber to want to change the workshop moisture levels.  When I did give in, it was very ineffective (portable units don’t cut the mustard).  One way or the other, if it is not a comfortable environment, you can loose so much shed time by not wanting to be out there.  Shed time can be hard to come by, and you can’t afford to throw it away because the weather is too hot, or cold!

So that is a first pass – I’m sure there is much more that I can glean from the existing shed to build into the new design.

Not so green on the other side

A few have asked about the result of installing solar panels earlier this year, and finally I have some info from the letterbox.

To start, we didn’t get a single bill since installing the panels until yesterday when the result of me having a go at the power company has finally resulted in the bill being delivered.

Of course the bill is now near on $700, and because they have wacked the whole lot together, it will be harder to really assess the impact – perhaps that is what they want – hide the myth.

There are two aspects to having solar power.  The first is obvious: during the day appliances can draw some of their power from the roof, rather than from the grid, saving the 26.4c/kWh

The second is whatever power is not used is fed back to the grid at 66c/kWh  Before I got the smartmeter, I watched the old one spin backwards, but the new one actually allows the company to know how much to refund. The old way is interesting to watch, the new way gets more money on one hand, but the tariff has also crept up to compensate (them).

So over the 76 days of solar power on the new meter, and being fully wired in, I got a massive $9.90 refunded.

Compared to the same time last year, my average daily usage dropped a whole 2kWh per day. Doesn’t seem worth the massive government investment to achieve such a minor saving.  $8000 invested to achieve a daily saving of 45c/day.  And 13c/day power back to the grid.

At that rate, the investment will have paid for itself in 38 years.  Glad I didn’t pay for it!  However, in fairness, that is not only over the winter period, but also a bill that was over 6 months.  I’ll wait for the next bill before passing final judgement.

Back when I thought about the solar panel, and thought about the shed, what occurred was that during a sunny day, any work I did in the shed would draw no power from the grid – enough power would be generated by the panel on its own, and any power not consumed would effectively offset power used by the shed in any evening.

So the shed is power neutral – thanks to the solar rebate.  Wonder if that was their intention?  They certainly don’t seem to achieve much more than that.

Bureaucracy is a painfully slow machine

Back on 18 May 2009, I wrote that Stu’s Shed will be getting a little greener, with the intro of a small solar system, funded by a government grant.  On 10 June, it looked like it might be a dead cause, with the government prematurely pulling the plug on the scheme because it was too popular.

But in the end, it seems that we had just managed to get into the original solar scheme in time, and after a long 8 months, the system is finally installed, and generating a pitifully small, but free never-the-less amount of power.

Solar Panel Bank

It took about 3 hours or so for the install (our house is pretty convenient for that sort of thing apparently). We had to mount it on the west side of the house, rather than the north side, partly aesthetics, partly because we didn’t have sufficient roof space for all the panels on the north side anyway, so that will drop 20-30% of the power production.  Guess the building code needs modification to ensure there is sufficient north facing roofs for future implementations.

A pretty futuristic looking house now – Federation design, solar panels – a likely mix!  I’d have put it on the shed if I had a choice! At $8000 for the system, you wonder if the house price will be escalated by a decent proportion of that price, or whether people will take solar systems with them when they move homes.

Power Inverter

The DC comes off the roof to the power inverter, which then provides the power to the house power board.  The system as I understand it will feed unused power back to the national grid, but given the size of the unit, any power it generates will likely be consumed by the typical house loads.  I’m not sure exactly how this is wired – the way it was explained it feed power to the house after the house power meter, so whatever power it generates means the meter will slow down, (saving me money), and can even get to the point where the meter runs backwards (doubt that will ever happen!) Apparently the power company will want to install one of the new power meters now (at my expense), but there was a new issue raised about those meters.  The overall power generating organisation is trying to get peak power charges increased 500% over the next 4 years, and those with the new meters will be the first hit with the increased fee.  It may not happen, but it is a huge call to even apply to charge so much more for peak power.  If that ever goes through, I’ll be wishing that the 1KW unit I got was 4-5 times larger, and bugger the brown coal power generating companies.

And just to show Stu’s Shed has at least a component of solar providing its power…..

Dual Power Supplies

Cool 🙂

Footnote: I can honestly say I never thought I’d see it, but for the past couple of days, even with relatively low power generation conditions (ie near dusk), I’ve been watching the meter winding itself backwards quite happily. Unbelievable!

Stu’s Shed goes a little greener

Or is that whiter when the carbon loading gets decreased?

I’m not weighing into the climate change discussion / arguments etc, but an opportunity presented itself, and that may be the end result, if not the justification used.  Australia’s primary power generation fuel is brown coal after all.

Through a government rebate initiative, and $8000 grant for installation of solar power systems, we are installing a 1kW system that is costing $8000.  No, it isn’t a huge amount of power generation, but the systems are typically very expensive, so being able to do it without dipping into our own pocket seems a no-brainer. If it wasn’t for the zero-net-cash aspect of it, we would not have made use of the government grant, nor had any solar system installed so a little is better than nothing.

The average over the year is said to be about 6kW / day.  It will be mounted on the house, and feeding into the house supply, but I like to think that while I’m in the shed, the first 1000W I use are solar (whether that be 1000W of my 2400W tablesaw, or half the dust collector’s power requirements or whatever.  The rest of the time the power being generated won’t get wasted – it will be utilised in the house keeping important things in the fridge cold 🙂

In the Beginning, Stu Said

“Let there be POWER

And there was, and it was (very) good!

Shed Subpanel

Shed Subpanel

Here is the shed’s new subpanel.  40A of power directly from the house main switchboard, down to the shed, and out into the circuits I’ve mentioned before (light x 1, 10A x 2, 15A x 2)

I had to put up this board for the electricians to mount the switchboard to – guess the joinery method would look kind of familiar!

I had the saw rewired so that it had the correct rating lead and plug on it (it is a 14.5A machine, but for some strange reason from the machine’s junction box to the plug, it was only 10A cable, and a 10A plug.)  It now has a 15A cable (most likely rated quite a bit higher), and a 15A plug.  For those that don’t know, a 15A plug as an oversized earth pin, so the plug cannot fit into a 10A socket.



So that is the new box, so power issues are (near to being) resolved. (I still have a little issue of the dust extractor – 2HP, but seems to draw near 15A to start!)

All up, including a couple of motion detectors for elsewhere on the property, and them doing all the work (including digging!), $1000.  Seems a lot when you write it down, but without power, there are no electrons to murder!

Some Toy Blocks

Been making a bit of sawdust cutting up some pine to be some toy blocks for my daughter.  Nothing particularly flash or anything, and not worth taking a photo, but still a fun, quick evolution.

Once I’ve worked out a few block designs (and that doesn’t have to be anything more than a square, a rectangle, a triangle, an arch, (obviously their 3 dimensional equivalents) and a couple of other basic shapes, rinse and repeat.

Next, they are going to be dyed using some of the Ubeaut wood dyes, and if I am happy with the results, I might start making a few more sets for some of Jessica’s young friends.  Speaking of which, I have to make some Thomas track for a couple as well – hmm – how many hours are there in the day?

I wanted to turn some round sections as well, and given I have finally run power around the machinery section of the shed, thought it would be easy – turn the lathe on and go.  Nothing.  Dead. Weird.

So I started looking for the fuse – none.  Tried swapping out the switch.  No effect.  Was just packing it up, and saw a suspicious split in the cable near the plug.  Looked just like a cut that a certain skew chisel would make.  One had fallen down while I was reorganising the shed, and had been caught by Deep Throat.  Guess it had also caught the power cable on the way down, and severed the neutral wire.

So to make a short story shorter (as well as the cable), I’ve cut off the lead at that point and wired a new plug on.  Safer than repairing the actual split.  Lost about a foot of length in the cable, but small loss.

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