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Barn Wiring and Lighting Advice

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  • Barn Wiring and Lighting Advice

    in the over-engineering style of jacksdad we are dropping 200 amp service to the barn (to it's own panel) and getting conflicting advice on the type of wiring we should use. i'm thinking armored cable, but i've read and had some folks tell me that i shouldn't.

    what's your barn wired with and how's it working for you? also, do you have any recommendations on lighting types/schemes? any big time stupid moves out there that i can learn from before i do them?

    thanks in advance!
    * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am
  • Original Poster

    in the over-engineering style of jacksdad we are dropping 200 amp service to the barn (to it's own panel) and getting conflicting advice on the type of wiring we should use. i'm thinking armored cable, but i've read and had some folks tell me that i shouldn't.

    what's your barn wired with and how's it working for you? also, do you have any recommendations on lighting types/schemes? any big time stupid moves out there that i can learn from before i do them?

    thanks in advance!
    * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


    • Original Poster

      oh FARMDAD.....
      * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


      • #4
        going all out [edit metal conduit not to code]
        heavy wall [threaded] conduit for all exposed areas,
        regular conduit for non exposed. [current code requires pvc conduit]
        ground fault outlets
        arc interrupt breakers.
        run a green [earth ground] wire in all conduit.
        [how many times have you seen disjointed conduit?]
        more hay, less grain


        • #5
          and further amplifying what armandh has posted, don't put any part of the electrical system inside a stall or where inquiring teeth can reach it. I have seen conduit pulled from the wall by a horse. Any stall lighting has to be above where a horse can reach.
          But all the finest horsemen out—the men to Beat the Band—
          You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand


          • #6
            You have to remember that rodents like barns, so doing the cable or conduit thing will make it so the mices can't chew on the tasty wires.


            • Original Poster

              armandh - jacksdad is a 'going all out' kinda guy. he's also a perfectionist. which is nice, unless you want to do something quickly

              his greyness - good idea. since the wiring is going in before the stalls it should be fairly easy to build it in. i have a 10 foot ceiling so i'm not worried about the horses getting to the fixtures. i've seen what an exposed lightbulb running into a horses head can do and it ain't pretty.

              tedshel - that's exactly why i was thinking armored cable.

              please folks keep the advice coming!

              i got some GREAT advice from everyone when i was designing the barn - 'to think of the biggest barn i might ever need and build it even bigger'. so far i don't have a horse in it yet (fences first) but i am loving the space to stage all of the other projects.
              * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


              • #8
                Okay don't quote me on this - if I remember, we dropped a 300 amp service to the garage and peeled off 200 to the new barn. We're mainly using 14 to wire the barn. Lots of GFI outlets.

                We're following the latest and greatest code book.
                Hopeful Farm Sport Horses
                Midwest Breeders Group
                Follow me on Twitter
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                • #9
                  You might want to search for postings from tgcelec- or email or PT her. She is a master electrician.

                  chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                  • #10
                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by HFSH:
                    We're following the latest and greatest code book. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                    Which brings me to a question we've been struggling with through house repair and barn building . . . where do you get the dang codebook? All we hear from the inspector's office is that 1) it has to meet code and 2) they can't tell us what code is . . .


                    • #11
                      BX wiring (metal encased) is great for any area the horses can reach. Its easier to install than conduit.


                      • #12
                        We just finsihed ahving ours installed by electricians.They finsihed the wiring today, as a matter of fact. Everything is the highest quality and safety, conduit everywhere (hidden and not, GFCI, trippers, breakers, grounded, etc) and the bar has it;'s own supply right from the street with it;'s own transformer. Not sure about where you live, but here in CT we have to have a licensed electrician doing any electrical work if we're going to pass building inspection. By law. It was worth it...the work is fabulous.
                        You jump in the saddle,
                        Hold onto the bridle!
                        Jump in the line!


                        • #13
                          It would be nice to run everything concealed in the barn...even build a wireway up at the ceiling, etc. so it is completey out of reach of any live animals. Your electrician will know the code and just make sure to remind him that horses can chew through just about anything.

                          I HIGHLY recommend fluorescent lighting. A nice linear (think about 7-12" wide, 4' or 8' long) fixture surface mounted (or suspended, depending on ceiling height) running the long way down the aisle looks great. Wireguards are always a great idea in the barn as well.

                          (The pros of fluorescent: lower wattage = less money to run, more energy-efficient, and less heat = less fire risk)
                          "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future!" - Niels Bohr


                          • #14
                            You should PT TCGELEC. He's an Electrician that does horse barns. He'll give you advice.

                            Kiwayu & Figiso Pictures:


                            • #15
                              OK Jacksmom, here's the scoop. I am a licenced master electrician on Long Island, and have been for the last twenty years. I do specialize in horse barns and horse facilities. And oh yeah, I'm a "he" not a "she".
                              All of our installations are covered by the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), which is currently the 2002 code. Horse barns are specifically covered by Article 547, "Agricultural Buildings". You can get a copy of the 2002 NEC from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). BUT it is not a simple document to understand. It is a legal document, not a how-to book. The study of the NEC in preparation for licensing is a seven-year process of apprenticeship and journeymanship. So you may want to save your money as it is pricey. It's not rocket science, don't get me wrong. But it has about as many different interpretations as the bible does.
                              Under Article 547, the only approved wiring methods are:
                              1) Type UF cable (direct burial underground cable), sleeved for mechanical protection in PVC conduit where subject to physical damage.
                              2) Type NMC cable (a corrosion-resistant variant of above), sleeved for mechanical protection in PVC where exposed to physical damage.
                              3) Copper SE cable (plastic-jacketed service entrance cable)
                              4) Jacketed type MC cable (similar to armored cable but with a thermoplastic over-coating and
                              a seperate ground wire)
                              5) Rigid nonmetallic conduit (PVC)
                              6) Liquidtight flexible nonmetallic conduit ("sealtight") A flexible variant of PVC conduit.

                              All boxes and fittings must be approved for the purpose ie, weatherproof boxes with sealed entries.

                              Notice, no rigid or thinwall metallic conduit permitted Also take note, no armored cable (called type AC, commonly known as BX) permitted.

                              The reason for this is that the environment of a horse barn has been deemed to be hostile to metallic wiring methods due to the damp conditions and the corrosive properties of the vapors urine and manure.

                              Also due to the presence of dust from hay, feed and bedding, all junction boxes and switch and outlet boxes must be weatherproof, as well as GFCI protected. All lighting fixtures must be rated as vaporproof. Which means, fully enclosed and gasketed (no bare bulbs of any type).

                              If you have more specific questions please PT me again. I have attempted to layout general information here only.

                              Incidentally, in the barns we wire, we use rigid PVC conduit, weatherproof PVC junction boxes and switch/outlet boxes, weatherproof PVC covers, vaporproof linear fluorescent fixtures or "bulkhead" type enclosed and gasketed incandescent fixtures.

                              I am well aware of the fact that when I make this information available, some people are shocked (no pun) to find out that metallic conduit is not permitted. Especially if they just had their barn wired that way.

                              May I say that:
                              a) The code is quite specific on this matter, and
                              b) The code is subject to interpretation by the "Authority Having Jurisdiction" (AHD), which is, the local electrical inspector.
                              c) I have heard that some inspectors in different areas do not treat horse barns (for some unknown reason) as Agricultural Buildings as defined in ASrticle 547. If they do not, they may treat it as an accesory building like a storage shed and as such almost any wiring method is accepted.
                              d) While I am much more involved in this area of the NEC than most electricians, and I beleve that my interpretations (which are the same as my local electrical inspectors) reflect the spirit of the National Electrical Code as it applies to the protection of livestock and the facilities that house them, YOUR INSTALLATION DOES NOT HAVE TO SATISFY ME, only the local authority having jurisdiction!
                              HorsePower! www.tcgequine.blogspot.com


                              • #16
                                It might interest some people to know that Pennsylvania does NOT license electricians. Some localities in PA license electricians (Philadelphia, for example) but, basically, in PA you can hire anyone you choose to wire your barn or house. It is the "homeowner's responsibility" to hire someone competent. (Yes, I was told that by a code enforcement officer.)

                                Furthermore, in at least some areas of Pennsylvania, agricultural buildings require NO PERMITS and NO INSPECTIONS. (This will apply to Oxford Borough starting July 9, 2004.) If the area "disturbed" by the building is less than an acre, you do need to file a sedementation and erosion control plan, however.

                                Anyway, it makes barn building pretty easy, but the idea of BUYING a barn years down the road & not knowing how it was built or what you are getting scares the living daylights out of me!


                                • #17
                                  So is using metal (very heavy) conduit a bad thing? Is it only because of corrosion or is possible conduction a problem?


                                  • #18
                                    I stand corrected. this must be new since ours was built, but PVC conduit is easier anyway just cut/glue. but it is more easily subject to damage than heavy wall steel [other than corrosion] as I look at our barn I note that everything that is below 6' high is PVC. above done in thin-wall steel conduit except drops to lights in BX. no corrosion yet. too true it is the local inspector that decides. also the differences between residential and commercial may come in to play.
                                    more hay, less grain


                                    • #19
                                      I can't say if metal conduit is or is not a bad thing, but it does not meet the National Electrical Code when used in horse barns. Each code article has a code-making panel, and the codes evolve over years and years of evaluting input from people involved in that specific area of the industry and that is how new regulations develop.

                                      I have never seen a horse break a piece of PVC conduit that was properly installed and supported, and placed thoughtfully so that a horse would not be apt to chew it. Two thicknesses are available, Schedule 40 and Schedule 80. Sched 40 is by far the most common.
                                      Sched 80 has much thicker walls and is used in severe service or for other special purposes but nothing would prevent you from using it in your barn if you had concern about strength.
                                      There is no designation between residential and commercial in Agricultural Buildings. So called "residential" articles of the code pertain only to dwelling units. Ag Buildings are considered "special occupancies" and have their own article.
                                      You are correct, there is much disparity between municipalities in adopting and enforcing electrical codes. Some towns have not officially adopted the NEC, some have their own codes (like NYC for example) and some have adopted the NEC but have no mechanism to ensure compliance.

                                      Your best bet is to hire (or at least talk to) a local electrician who is familiar with barns.
                                      HorsePower! www.tcgequine.blogspot.com


                                      • #20
                                        The farm I used to board at used to shut off power to the barns at night after the last "bed check", about 1 am. The owners lived thre, so things were never unsupervised. This was an old dairy farm with the cow barns converted to box stalls. The best care in the world and home grown hay. Now that my girls are home, I too, shut power off except to turn lightson if I feed after dark, or am working /cleaning up and need power for something.Great ideas for electrical installations, though. Anything we can do to make our stabling safer is well worth the time , effort and money.