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Barn Wiring and Lighting Advice

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  • #21
    I have a lot to add but not enough time right now. We have a house full of company--one of the benefits/problems with living at the lake on a holiday weekend.

    My information would mostly be for the do-it- yourselfer. If any are so inclined please say so or I won't bother. No bother if anyone needs the how-to information.


    • #22
      We are (I think) going to close on a farm Aug. 3 or thereabouts & we are building a new barn immediately so I am interested in anything anyone has to say about wiring.

      We have hired an electrician - many, many years experience, worked for Delaware Park (racetrack) for years wiring their barns, now works for a contractor doing commercial wiring. Our barn will be a side job for him. However, I always try to know about things and keep an eye on things, even when I am not actually doing it.


      • #23
        We prefer incandescent over fluorescent and discharge-type fixtures for indoor use due to slow warm-up and cold-weather problems. We use the heavy-duty drip-proof (Nema 4 or 3R) fixtures with screw-in globe and wire cage.

        We also use 130-volt instead of 120-volt bulbs to increase life.

        There is a plastic-coated rigid conduit for use in corrosive atmospheres, but it's very expensive and requires special installation. techniques.

        There was a study performed quite some time back concluding that fluorescent and discharge-type fixtures created stress in animals because of the rapid flickering. A client was building a farm animal research facility, and insisted on incandescent fixtures because of it. I have long since forgotten the details since that was in the early '90s.
        The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
        Winston Churchill


        • #24
          If we were doing our barn over again, I would make several changes regarding lights and electricity.

          1. I would put a light over every stall with a separate switch. (It's just a 6-stall barn, so the expense shouldn't be that much.) Not having light in a stall when I need it is a pain in the neck, even if it's just to clean a stall that was just used.

          2. A double row of lights in the aisle and at the grooming stall. The single row of lights just isn't sufficient, although if I had lights over each stall, the double row on the aisle might be overkill. But the double row at the grooming stall would be much better illumination of what I'm grooming.
          An option would be three rows of lights, one over each row of stalls and the third down the barn aisle, each with a separate switch.

          3. Since we live in South-Central Texas, our barn is wide open and the humidity plays havoc with fluorescent lights. Therefore I would not use fluorescent lights again.

          4. I would not let the barn builder put the electricity box in the middle of the wall where the tackroom door is, rendering the remainder of that wall useless. (It's just one of those little annoyances that I think of whenever I grouse about not having enough hanging storage space.)

          5. Mr. OH decided after the fact to add electrical heating tape to our automatic waterers (after we had freezes that necessitated turning off water and draining pipes). Hindsight being 20/20, I would have those wired in also. (Of course, I don't know that it's been a problem since then due to where we live -- see #3.)

          6. I sure wish I had a ceiling fan over the grooming stall and I wish I had a small air conditioner/heater in the tack room to maintain a more hospitable environment for tack. (After 10 inches of rain last month, I've been scrubbing mildew off everything.)

          Well, I could go on, but I think that's about it for the electricity.


          • Original Poster

            wow folks - GREAT stuff.

            where we are there are no inspections required for agricultural building wiring. scary but true.

            we have a copy of the current code book and jacksdad has taken several courses on residential wiring at the local community college (he was considering becoming licensed).
            we've already corrected some very dangerous wiring schemes in our little house that was installed by 'professionals'. i think we have a leg-up on the average do-it-yourselfer.

            farmdad - please contribute - we are trying to do as much of this ourselves as possible.

            tcgelec - thank you for the great info! i'm printing everything out and passing it to jacksdad. you might find it interesting that the instructor for jacksdad's last class was a female master electrician, and a damn good one at that
            * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


            • #26

              I'm very interested in what you have. I'll be doing much of the barn electric myself.

              tcgelec, if you run the wire in conduit, can you use the TNNF wire? (I hope I remembered the letters correctly)

              My barn is coming today and tomorrow (modular barn) and the crew to finish will be here around July 12th! I'm just a smidgen excited.



              • #27
                On the plastic versus metal conduit:

                Our barn has been built in stages over the past 24 years. The first part was with EMT (electrical metallic tubing) and the later stuff in plastic. The building code might say plastic is required but we have 2 broken pieces in the plastic part and no damage to the metal part. No one has ANY idea how the plastic tubing got broken. I would ask your local electrical inspector and use metal for the drops if possible. Plastic is so much easier to use and I see no problem with using it any place where it is out of harms way--such as the lighting circuits and the main horizontal run up high with something like 1 1/2 inch plastic with 1/2 inch metal drops.

                For any EMT that you use ABSOLUTELY be sure to deburr the inside of the ends so that no wire insulation gets damaged when pulling wire.

                Let's look at the potential problems with EMT from a safety standpoint. I'm sure someone somewhere has been electrocuted by damage to the wiring system or improper installation by the metal tubing itself. The danger of this would be if a "hot" wire were touching the EMT without a it being "grounded" to the ground wire. Okay, so let's come up with a way to make the setup safer. I would run the ground wire as bare conductors through the conduit system. I use double boxes for the receptacles and leave a lot of extra ground wire carefully coiled around the inside back of the box several times and securely fastened to the box itself as well as the device (receptacle). Then if for some reason the hot wire was jerked loose from a connection and touched the EMT the possibility of the ground wire not also touching the EMT would approach zero. This would trip the breaker. I've never seen anyone use NM or UF wiring inside conduit. I use single strands of "stranded" black, white, & red for the conductors and solid bare for the ground.

                For receptacle boxes inside the horse area of the barn I would use the double boxes and either use the double size plates with one receptacle in the center or go ahead and put the two receptacles in. I don't like the little doors on the weather-proof covers because one will always get broken off leaving a sharp point or spring end sticking out. I like to put the little "child-proof" plastic plugs in the unused recetapcles to keep insects from using the holes for nests. I know this is not weather-proof but have no need to spray water directly into a receptacle inside the barn. Just keep extra plugs in a drawer in the barn.

                I like the double boxes because they can be fastened much more securely than the single boxes. Don't use the little ears on the sides of some boxes. Drill holes in the inside corners of the boxes and fasten them with #12 sheet metal screws of a maximum length that will not protrude through the other side of the wooden member it is fastened to. I wouldn't use decking screws because they are not as strong and the heads pop off too easily. Regular wood screws don't have threads the entire length and it's hard to find good quallity ones now anyway. Sheet metal screws have threads the entire length and hold fine in wood. Four in the corners of the double box will give you a very strong mount.

                On the EMT itself put plenty of straps and don't use the kind that have only one screw on one side. Use the type that have a screw on each side.

                For the devices themselves don't get the cheapest kind. I like devices made by Pass & Seymour. This stuff can be bought at electrical equipment suppliers for less and with better quality than the run of the mill stuff you see in Lowes. Get a new screwdriver that fits the slots in the devices and don't use it for any thing else.

                For all wire to wire connections on the ground wire get the little metal sleeves called "Sta-CONs" and the special pliers for them to securely crimp them on the twisted together wires. Don't use wire nuts for this. We already talked about how important the ground circuit is.

                When you put conductors together with wire nuts twist the wire together securely counter clockwise, cut the excess off with the lineman's pliers, and screw the wire nut on. Make sure there is no exposed bare conductor showing outside the wirenut. The kind with the little wings out 2 sides work better than the kind with the knurled sides. You will need some red wirenuts and some yellow ones. They are color coded for size.

                Tools you will need: Lineman's pliers ( to cut wire with and make pretty twists with), good screwdrivers, special pliers (with one orange and one black handle)for Sta-Con's, needle nose pliers to shape the ends of the conductors to fit around the screws on the devices (don't back wire them), a long bit for your drill to run the screws that hold the boxes up so that the drill chuck won't interfere, wire strippers to fit the size wire that you will use,tubing cutters for both the EMT and the plastic. Lowes has a good tool section in their electrical department. If you will only be doing your own work I wouldn't go to the expense of buying a Fish Tape. They are nice to have for pulling wire but for one job I would just use a shop-vac to suck a string through with a little rag tied to it. Buy the types of elbows and tees that have the screw on covers to help with routing the wires.

                You will find that the EMT doesn't fit inside the plastic fittings. If say you use 1 1/2 plastic for your main runs and drop down to 1/2 EMT to go to your boxes you will need to use plastic tees that the 1/2 EMT will go into and use silicone caulking to fill the void around it.

                All this might not be okay with your local inspector. Ask first. I asked my inspector if he wanted to look at my barn wiring. He asked who did it and when I told him that I did he said he didn't need to bother.

                I probably left something out but if there are any questions I will be glad to answer them.


                • #28
                  If you are breeding horses put an additional lighting circuit in your foaling stalls and use the blue 25 watt "party" bulbs available in Walmart. They give enough light to see how to work by without bothering the mares. They also work better for video systems than the built in Infared sources.

                  3-way the barn lights to the house. If you use a video system also 3-way the blue light circuit.

                  When trenching from the house to the barn for anything add in the trench a 1 1/2 inch black polyethylene pipe that you can pull wires through that you forgot.


                  • #29

                    Thanks for going to the trouble of writing that up. I'll be printing this out.

                    The first modular section of my barn came today. The next one should come tomorrow...then the materials to finish it on Thursday.

                    I have my water in their, but will need to run power. I'll be having my electrician do the panel and get me up for my service inspection, but from there, we will likely be doing it on weekends, the old DIY method.



                    • #30
                      The wire you will pull in the conduit is called THHN. There are others approved for use but this is the most common.

                      You can use EMT (electrical metallic tubing) for a very nice, durable, professional, and in my opinion, safe installation. I used to do it myself before the code change some years ago. It's just that, being an NEC violation, it won't pass inspection, around here, anyway. In my area, electrical inspections are not done by building inspectors. They are done by a completely seperate entity, which is certified by the local municipal governments to do electrical inspections on their behalf. We use an entity called the New York Board of Fire Underwriters, which was created by a consortium of fire insurance companies around the year 1900. The inspectors for this agency are specialists in the National Electrical Code, and as such are fairly strict in their interpretations, and are kept up-to-date on changes. After a successful final inspection, we are issued an Underwriter's Certificate, which we give to the owner, who presents it to the local building department after all other building inspections have been done, in order to get a Certificate of Occupancy (or Certificate of Use) for the barn, after which it is legal to be occupied and used.

                      We are in the NY Metro area (Long Island) and building/electrical/plumbing codes tend to be rigidly enforced, to the letter of the law, so we do our installations to comply with that. We also don't usually get paid until we produce an Underwriter's Certificate, and I have horsey mouths to feed!

                      Incidentally, in show barns we sometimes put in supplemental fixtures in the stalls with 200 watt bulbs on a timer to "fool" the horses body into not growing a winter coat. These are also used by some to stimulate the estrus cycle in breeding barns.
                      HorsePower! www.tcgequine.blogspot.com


                      • #31

                        Thank you! THHN, THOSE were the letters I needed.