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I'm building an entertainment center unit, and on the unit I want to embed wall outlets into it so I can plug things like my receiver, NAS, consoles etc in a clean method. I thought the entertainment unit could be plugged into a single wall outlet.

Unfortunately I'm not much of an electrician but I have a lot of respect for 120V AC and don't want to mess with something if I'm unsure.

Now, I could use a power strip, but there's two reasons why I don't want to. For one, I want the outlets embedded into the unit so it is clean, with some of the outlets that have built in USB ports for fast charging mobile devices. The 2nd reason is I have this cool Wattmeter that I want to mount to the unit. I thought it'd be neat to watch the gears turn and see how much power my stuff is consuming.

From my understanding, this is how I'd wire everything up: enter image description here

Obviously the cable that comes in from the right is the cable that plugs into a single wall outlet.

Is this design feasible? Are there caveats to the design that would not work? I can't seem to find this kind of information online.

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    Receptacles have two sets of terminals, it's common to take advantage of this while chaining them together. Connect the "hot" and "neutral" from the incoming line to the appropriate bottom terminals (could be top, it doesn't matter), then connect the "hot" and "neutral" from the cable feeding the next device to the top terminals. – Tester101 Sep 18 '14 at 13:27
  • @Tester101 Huh neat, I wasn't aware of that but that will certainly clean up the set up. – Nick Williams Sep 18 '14 at 13:28
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    You'll also want to make sure all your devices, and connections are within an approved enclosure. – Tester101 Sep 18 '14 at 13:33
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The best solution here, would be to find a UL approved device that can satisfy your needs. Building your own device can be risky, and fraught with unexpected dangers. There are tons of UL approved power strips available on the market, it hard to imagine you wouldn't be able to find one that suits your needs.

If you must build your own solution, you'll want to be aware of at least a few of the dangers.

Exposed wiring

First and foremost, you'll want to make sure nobody can ever touch anything that could be energized. This means that all connections, splices, junction, etc. should be contained within an enclosure. You'll also want to make sure the enclosure is listed for the use, so that it will also contain any sparks, heat, etc. that might be produced.

Most areas now require tamper resistant receptacles in living spaces (living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, etc.), so you'll likely want to use TR receptacles for this project.

Overcurrent

While there are no hard-and-fast limits on the number of receptacles on a circuit, or the number of devices that can be fed by a receptacle. You'll want to be cautious not to overload your wiring. In industrial and commercial settings, 180 Volt-Amperes is the value that's used to calculate receptacle loads. If you use this as a guide, you should have no problems with overloading the circuit.

While the circuit breaker should protect the house wiring, you may want to protect the wiring in your cabinet from overload as well. You can do this with a fuse, or circuit breaker. You'll want to wire this in as the first device, possibly putting it in the same enclosure as the watt meter.

Surge protection

Since you'll be dealing with expensive electronics, you'll probably want some form of surge protection. There are receptacles available that offer surge protection built in, but they may not offer the level of protection you require, or that can be found in a manufactured surge strip.

  • Thanks for an awesome answer. I'm not too familiar with these concepts, it seems I have more research to do but your answer gives me good leads. – Nick Williams Sep 19 '14 at 12:59
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There are some very good answers here, so I'm not going to duplicate what has already been written. I will suggest however that an advantage to a good quality (not a $9.99 strip at Wally World) surge protector is that it will protect all of your equipment from voltage spikes, such as from an electrical storm. It won't look as neat and tidy and professional as the proposed setup, but it will protect your equipment better.

I use a protector that actually guarantees the equipment that is plugged into it. Most warranties only cover the surge protector itself. Find one (it will be expensive!) that also warranties the stuff plugged into it.

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There is a maximum number of outlets you are allowed to wire up to a single breaker that way (depends on jurisdiction).

If you go above that limit and you want to see the total power usage you will need to create a subpanel and run a heavier gauge wire over from the main panel. Then you put the power meter on the heavy input and have multiple breakers for the entertainment center.

  • Yeah, I think it's eight outlets for the US here. Apparently I also shouldn't pull more than 12 amps from a single socket. I've been trying to figure out the amperage with how many watts the components require. I think I'm pretty close to 12. – Nick Williams Sep 18 '14 at 15:21
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    Can you cite a source that limits the number of outlets? – Tester101 Sep 18 '14 at 16:17
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    Also note that this whole contraption is technically a cord and plug device, so it's not actually part of the branch circuit. – Tester101 Sep 18 '14 at 16:44
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    @Tester101 depends on how you look at it, but there is also a limit to how many extra plugs you can chain off one outlet – ratchet freak Sep 18 '14 at 18:18
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    @ratchetfreak can you cite a source for that? – Tester101 Sep 18 '14 at 18:22

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