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I currently have a workstation area setup where I am using a ton of power sockets. 5 monitors (3 for main PC, 1 for server, 1 for CCTV cameras), 1 server, 1 laptop docking station, 1 CCTV DVR, 2 raspberries, 1 printer, 1 network switch, 1 light, 1 speaker, plus a few others, you get the idea...

I currently have this setup in a pretty horrible way, two wall sockets, and power strips plugged into power strips...

A couple questions:

  • What is the (maybe not-so-simple) proper way to add additional power?
  • What is the simplest way to add additional power? If there is one... (I'm renting and would like to avoid redoing the electrical in the house)

Btw, based on what I've seen since living here over the last couple years, it seems the main power for the houses power plugs and lights are separated into two breakers. One breaker controls about 90% of the house (including my fire-disaster-waiting-to-happen). The other one controls an outdoor power plug and a couple plugs on that same wall (on the interior - prob added later).

Thanks!

  • Bank account... "I can't be broke, I still have checks!" The number of sockets is like the number of checks. Plug in as much stuff as you want, just the total draw can't exceed the circuit capacity. So start tallying up the VA, watts or amps of each device on the circuit, and make sure you're not exceeding circuit capacity. – Harper Sep 7 '17 at 1:27
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    @Harper That completely ignores the fact that most power strips are not rated for the full amperage draw that a circuit breaker will allow, nor is the internal wiring rated for the length of run created by daisy chaining power strips. Just counting up amps and ignoring the physics of it will lead to a fire. – David Pfeffer Sep 7 '17 at 1:34
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    Consider, if you will, that "daisy chain" of relocatable power taps (power strips) is also a violation of NFPA 1 Fire Code. They can (legally) only be plugged directly into a permanently installed receptacle, in any jurisdiction adopting that code. Ref NFPA 1 (2009): 11.1.6.2. – Upnorth Sep 7 '17 at 3:51
  • @DavidPfeffer true, thqt totalling must be redone for each strip in turn to make sure its limits also are not exceeded. – Harper Sep 7 '17 at 4:14
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    @Harper No, its not just a totaling of each strip. You also would have to derate the power strips based on the total length of the wire run. – David Pfeffer Sep 7 '17 at 11:28
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The simplest answer here is to continue what you are doing, but use an appropriately rated power strip. Standard 110V wall outlets on ordinary branch circuits in a US household are rated for 15A service. You can easily find power strips that are rated to 15A and beyond. If you want to be extra safe, verify the amperage of the circuit breaker (it will be marked) and make sure all power strips are rated for that amperage. Then the breaker will act as a protection device for your power strip wires.

The daisy chaining of power strips is okay too, but you need to effectively treat the longest length from outlet to last plug as your "wire length." The ratings on the power strips might all be 15A, but if you chain 5 together, the combined length might exceed the gauge wire used internally. If you want to be safer, consider one very large power strip and then oversized, heavy gauge extension cords coming from that power strip to devices too far to reach directly to the strip.

  • Thanks David, this is very helpful. I'm not too familiar with electrical so forgive me for any potentially dumb questions I have :). I have a power strip (it's my "root" one that has other power strips plugged into it, and it's a bit older) - the power light pulsates or blinks in a fast, sporadic, unpredictable kind of way. Is this an indication that it is being overloaded? Also, if I do have lower rated power strips, could they be at the end of the chain safely (with the higher rated ones acting as the "root" power strip)? Thanks – Adam Plocher Sep 7 '17 at 1:04
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    Is the power strip older? Most older ones used neon lamps, not LEDs (which require driver circuits on AC power), and so the bulb would deteriorate and start to flicker. – David Pfeffer Sep 7 '17 at 1:13
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    If you're going to do that, and you don't have a good grasp of electricity (to be able to calculate voltage drops, etc.), you'd definitely want your "root" power strip to be so oversized that it effectively drops out of the equation. A 12-gauge power strip with any reasonable length cord would easily accommodate that for a 15A circuit. At that point, you can just treat the root strip like a regular wall outlet and only pay attention to the ratings of the daughter power strips. – David Pfeffer Sep 7 '17 at 1:15
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    If some of your loads are running 3 hours or more, you have to consider the "derating" for the branch circuit conductors so it can carry the noncontinuous load plus 125 percent of the continuous load. For instance, 110v at 15A is 1650W, derated to a maximum 1,320 watts of continuous load (and no further loads), regardless of how many things are plugged into it, with some exceptions. NEC (2014): 210.19. – Upnorth Sep 7 '17 at 4:16

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