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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Managing Electrical Devices and Wiring During The Build

One of the challenges during the build is managing and tracking things like electrical devices and how they are wired. Tracking this is important as standards bodies like ABYC have guidelines and recommendations (in the interest of safety) for electrical wiring that dictate wire and fuse sizes. A device that is wired with too small a wire presents a fire hazard. A device that has too large a fuse or breaker size reduces protection of the device in the case of a malfunction (the purpose of a fuse in the first place!).

This project does not have a pre-determined list of planned electrical items. It is constantly changing with the relatively slow pace of the build (and me changing my mind, mostly). So, designing a master plan and drawing fancy circuit diagrams at this point is somewhat of a waste of time. But I need to track which devices are installed and where to ensure wires are not undersized and breakers/fuses over-sized as the build evolves.

To help with this I have developed an online spreadsheet to act as a database for this information. By recording things like voltage, device current ratings, wire length and size, the spreadsheet is programmed to identify and warn of circuits that have undersized wiring.

While not as sophisticated as some smart circuit diagram software that is out there, it should be enough to serve my purposes. The key is to see how effective it can be without spending too much time on the documentation.


Usage of the spreadsheet goes like this:

As a new device, terminal strip, switch, fuse, etc, is added, new entries are created in the spread sheet that represent devices and terminal points. Connections between items are recorded just as they are connected by the physical wiring. As devices are added to a fuse block, circuit, panel, etc, maximum current loads and minimum wire size calculations are automatically performed by the spreadsheet. The minimum wire size is displayed in a column and compared against the actual wire size to indicate if the wire is undersized. Similar calculations are made for fuse and breaker sizes.

Should a device be changed out for a different device, or should device's wiring be changed to a different circuit, the change can be updated in the spreadsheet to identify any potential wiring or fuse problems.

Now, the real trick is to stick with this and keep it up to date.
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