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Thread: Does this shop wiring make sense?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Austin, TX

    Does this shop wiring make sense?

    So, I have two boys (16mo and almost 4y) and a shop space. I really don't want them to play with the machines, especially as they head towards their teenage years, without my express permission and supervision. To this end, I'm thinking about installing a safety switch to the circuits that control the heavy equipment, dust collection, and general 110 outlets. Lights, AC, and compressor would not be on this switch.

    Here's the detail: I'm starting with a 100Amp subpanel in the shop, and am thinking about using a 240v 60Amp circuit breaker to the safety switch. The safety switch could be locked with a padlock, and high enough to keep it from children's probing fingers. I would engage this when I get into the shop, and turn it off when I leave. I'm assuming the safety switch does not need to be fusable. The switch then feeds another circuit breaker box with roughly four circuits: a 240v for large equipment, another 240v for dust collection, and 2 120v for all of the outlets in the shop.

    Does this make sense? Does anyone else use this type of arrangement? Anyone have better ideas?


  2. #2
    Why not just get a lockable 100 amp box and turn off the breakers you want. It would be simpler and less costly.
    Last edited by Eric Gustafson; 02-04-2008 at 11:06 AM. Reason: typo

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Deep South
    Certainly sounds reasonable to me, for whatever that's worth.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Deep South
    I thought about just using the breaker switches too but I don't think that breaker switches are designed for daily use.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Austin, TX
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Gustafson View Post
    Why not just get a lockable 100 amp box and turn off the breakers you want. It would be simpler and less costly.
    This did occur to me, but I wasn't convinced that the breakers were built to handle the mechanical stress of being switched on and off every day.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Colorado Springs, Co.
    Breakers can definitely be switched on/off on a daily basis.

    Used to run a shop, and I know many others, that only switch breakers and have no wall switches.


  7. #7
    I believe the sub-panel will have a main cut-off that shuts off power to all breakers. Shut off the main then lock the panel.

    Even if you turn individual breakers off just replace them in 15-20 years if they wear out. They're fairly inexpensive.
    Check to see what manufacturers breakers are stocked at Lowes or HD and use that manufactures sub-panel so replacement breakers won't be a problem.
    Last edited by Mick Zelaska; 02-04-2008 at 11:38 AM.
    ďA man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist." - Louis Nizer

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    New Hampshire
    Let me see if I'm reading this correctly.
    100 amp sub panel with "4" circuits for the 1.lights, 2.AC, 3.compressor, and 4.60 amp subpanel for the shop tools. The 60 Amp circuit in 60 Amp panel would have its own breaker from the 100 amp to the 60 amp subpanel.

    With the single 60 amp breaker to the shop subpanel you could use a lock-out/tag-out device for circuit breakers, such as

    But circuit breakers do not like to be used like switches. That will shorten their life and reduce their trip rating.

    You could install a lockable disconnect in a box between the main panel and the sub panel.

    Either something like this mounted in a enclosure

    or this

    These are both rated at 60 amps and they make higher.

    Just make sure the switch is rated higher than your subpanel draw.

    I would also swing by an electrical store and ask what options they have. When you mention shop safety and kids, I'm sure they will show every option they have on the shelf.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    Dave, I installed a 30 ampere locking disconnect switch that was fed from a 20 ampere 2 pole breaker.

    This turned off all the 20 ampere 240 volt receptacles, and the 20 ampere 120 volt receptacles. This is the only feeder in my shop, except for the dedicated circuit to the cyclone, and the circuit to the compressor.

    I wasn't worried about the kids running the compressor, or the cyclone.

    I used to lock it when the kids were young, now that they're in their twnties, I don't.

    I liked the idea of being able to prevent un-athorized use of the machinery in the shop.

    Regards, Rod.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Carol Stream Illinois

    Red face Different Thought

    When I was little, maybe nine or ten, started using my Dads tools when he was working at the tool and die shop (he made the faceshield for the first astronaut on the moon). My father taught me a great respect for machines, flowing water (rivers-drift fishing), and snow in the mountains, I am still alive today. I would have been glad to see my son follow me into the workshop (he is 21 now), last summer I showed him how to replace a window in his car, he told me that he missed alot. My ex does not know how to change a light bulb, he makes a healthy six figures but is as D__B as they come. Teach your children well, there are things that will be more dangerous for them to face, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, etc.

    Last edited by Heather Thompson; 02-04-2008 at 4:50 PM.

  11. #11
    I installed one of those non-fused disconnects for my TS. Much easier for me to shut the power when changing blades, etc, as the power cord and plug were in a difficult to get to location.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Southern MD
    I wired my shop with that in mind. Similar idea to what you're proposing. The lights and DC circuits are fed by the main panel and a subpanel feeds the rest. I had to do it that way for breaker count, but I chose circuits on what made sense. I can switch off my entire 60A subpanel easily if necessary. But, I find I don't. So I installed a cipher type lock on the door. Now they can't get in unless I'm there.
    Jay St. Peter

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    I wired my 100A subpanel with "kid safety power cutoff" in mind, and used a subpanel with a Main CB of 100A on it(came that way from HD as a kit). The subpanel is fed from a 70A CB. When I priced 70A cutoff switches to be placed between the two panels, it turned out they were more expensive than the 100A main breaker in the sub. Since the 100A CB in the sub will never be "tripped"--just the sub panel circuits, or the 70A feeder in the original panel-- it provides no safety function really for the sub panel. Therefore, I used it as a switch to turn everything on/off. If it degrades that CBs trip rating, no worries--that CB could never be tripped due to lower CB on both sides of it. And if it wears out, I can buy a replacement 100A from HD for < half the cost of a real cutout sw.
    Thread on "How do I pickup/move XXX Saw?"

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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    If I'm not mistaken, a lockable cut-off switch box between the main and the sub panel is the right way to kill all the machine circuits. A breaker, itself, isn't supposed to be used as a general switch. If you want to see an example of such a switch, there should be one near your outdoor A/C unit.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Upstate NY
    Some breakers are designed to be used as switches, and others are not. If you can get the right kind, you are all set!

    It might be easier to teach them not to go in your shop; that's how I handled it.

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