I need to run power from my house out to my 35X70 workshop out back. What I have; a dedicated panel with 150 amp breaker on the side of my house that is currently only powering my well. My workshop is 275 ft. away. I intend on putting a 100 amp sub-panel in the shop. I have most of the 2” conduit ran in a trench from my house to the workshop. I intend on having a welder, compressor, wall unit a/c in a small office, lights and maybe an outside outlet to hook up for a travel trailer. I want to use copper wiring. What main wiring is recommended to run inside the conduit from the 150 amp/panel on the house to the 100 amp sub-panel in the workshop?

  • 2
    See diy.stackexchange.com/questions/150929/… and many similar questions.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 20:53
  • How many nameplate amps does the welder you have or are looking at pull? How many amps and HP does the compressor have? What's the minimum circuit amps on the workshop air conditioner, for that matter? Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 1:07
  • I can’t answer those questions as I don’t have the welder, compressor, A/C etc....it’s currently an enclosed pole barn with no power. I wanted to run power to it and get those items later. It’s a backyard mechanic shop, nothing industrial.
    – Lynwood
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 1:47
  • You can use an ampacity chart to find the minimum size of wire, you can use a volt drop calculator to figure out what your losses will be at full load for several sizes above that, and you can call the retailers you might purchase wire from and price out the minimum size and 3 or 4 sizes above that as sometimes an ubiquitous size is cheaper.
    – K H
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 5:50
  • @isherwood choosing a question that had an accepted answer or a link to a wire gauge calculator would be helpful that question is quite different from this one.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


I use Southwire's wire size calculator.

At that length aluminum feeder would be much cheaper, selective boxes for; feet, single (phase), aluminum, direct burial/conduit/overhead, minimum conductor size, input 275 (for the length), input 240v for the voltage, max voltage drop leave at 3 (but we will play with this), current at end (since you don’t know guess at 80), input 1 for parallel sets.

This came up for 2/0 with a standard 3%. Input in 5 in the % and the wire size drops to 1 awg with a 4.44% voltage drop

In the US the National Electric Code there are suggestions of 3% and 5% for voltage drop but these are only suggestions.

If you actually used 80 amps of 240v then the drop would be 10.6v with 1awg or #1 wire not a problem.

if you are drawing 50 amps 240v on the #1 wire the voltage drop would be only 6.6volts (got that by playing with the amperage and % voltage drop).

Only during really heavy loading of your circuit would #1 aluminum have a voltage drop that was at the max recommended by the NEC and it never exceeds 5% up to 80 amps.

Going to a larger feeder breaker 90 or 100 requires a larger wire size but I doubt you will need that much power.

I would get the 150 amp panel with more circuits you can feed it with anything below 150 as long as the wire size matches the feeder wire requirements.


See what Ed Beal says about getting a larger panel with more spaces. I understand gravitating toward the smallest panel that will do the job today, that's your "thrifty gene" doing its thing. But a) panel spaces are cheap, and b)having to replace a panel because you ran out of spaces is a nightmare, and c) a 100A panel can support a lot more stuff than you think, and you'll want to do that later. So wildly over-sizing the panel (in terms of number of spaces) is always a good idea. This sometimes means getting a higher bus ampacity because that's what's cheapest at 24 spaces, say.

That's especially true when you install without a permit, and then the inspector comes 'round later and holds you to NEC 2020 standards, and you discover you need GFCI breakers in places you did not expect... and those take more room in the panel.

Ed's advice is also spot-on about 3% not being mandatory and #1 aluminum being a viable choice.

To be clear, aluminum is the right stuff for feeder. Copper is practically a waste of money, the wires will be landing on aluminum lugs in any case.

But here's an alternate way of looking at things. Certain sizes of wire are extremely popular and have "price point sweet spots" (or availability: that they are made at all in certain cable types). #2, #2/0 and #4/0 are popular because of the "whole service derate rule" (310.15B7) which allows those sizes for 100A, 150A and 200A whole services.
You CAN'T use this rule to use #2 for 100A, since it isn't your whole service.
But you CAN use this rule to use 2/0 for 150A, since it is your whole service.

So, since Ed has made a good case for 2/0... I say go ahead and use that to bring 150A to the subpanel. That will need 150A breaker protection, but your main panel's main breaker already is 150A. So, you won't need another breaker. I say that because I have a hunch it might be one of several panel types which make this easy.

  • I did check and copper is out of my price range so I will be going with aluminum. I agree the bigger box in my shop is better as I have 30 other feet in my pole barn that I can concrete the floor and expand. The dedicated panel on my house that has 150 amp breaker was intentionally put there by my home builder for my shop. So the subpanel in my shop that is 275 ft. away needs to be big enough for 24 spaces but no 100 amp main breaker, is that correct?
    – Lynwood
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 19:25
  • As I read the comments I take note that it has a lot of information that is foreign to me. I’m not try to to shady electrical work but I’m doing all the grunt work, trench, conduit, pull wiring to panel, so when I get a certified electrician out here all of that is done and I hope to think I cut costs and still feel a sense of pride for some of my effort. I’m mechanically inclined but I just never gained any electrical knowledge. Thanks for all the informative comments, I really enjoy them.
    – Lynwood
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 19:40
  • @Lynwood 24 isn't mandatory but you'll be glad you did it later. On a panel that big, most likely its busing will be 200A which is not a problem. You need a main disconnect at the shop, and the cheapest way to do that is choose a sub panel with a main breaker, which can be any size (e.g. 200A is fine). Get yourself a book on home electrical e.g. at the library or DIY store, and read at your leisure. Always pays to know more... Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 21:06

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