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Author Topic: AC Power for small outdoor event  (Read 2170 times)

Justin Schack

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #20 on: August 28, 2014, 09:18:14 am »

Thanks again for the advice, folks.

Regarding liability insurance, any recommendations on where to buy it cheaply and efficiently (perhaps online)? Or a ballpark estimate of how much it should cost? Can it be used just for a single event or is it applied over a period of time to cover multiple events/continued usage?

I continue to lean toward the generator route we are in the Northeast US so with all the hurricanes we've seen in recent years there's a good chance someone in the neighborhood will have a portable one that suits. I'm also going to work on adding up all the current draws of our amps, mixer and speakers (thanks for the clarification about pedals, Mike). But I also have been reading on other forums that using very heavy-duty extension cords from a single wall outlet or outdoor GFCI outlet (or perhaps two outlets) can successfully run a small rig like mine. And a couple of weeks ago I ran the same equipment in a small Knights of Columbus hall using only the wall outlets on and near the stage, in combination with my two Furman 6-outlet conditioners. I don't know much at all about 20-amp circuits or whether all of those outlets were on the same circuit or not, but we had no noise issues with the equipment and no power interruption issues either. Additionally, none of the other forums I've researched are dedicated to AC power and grounding like this one is, and I know you all are experts there whereas the other forums (places like Gearslutz) are generalists. But I guess in light of the aforementioned factors I'm still wondering whether, if all our equipment uses "grounded" power cords and balanced connections for mics and speakers, the one-or-two-wall-outlets-fed-by-heavy-duty-extension-cords method will truly be unsafe.

Really appreciate everyone's time and attention to my newbie/novice problem. Thanks again.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #21 on: August 28, 2014, 09:57:56 am »

Using the dryer plug is not acceptable.  Dryer plug is three wires two phases and a neutral.  Without a safety ground.

Now you can take the ground out and connect it to a regular outlet but this is not to the NEC because the safety ground can be disconnected without disconnecting the mains.

Code requires all sub panels (this application is a sub panel) to have four wires of the appropriate size, period, end of conversation. 

Do people make other temporary accommodations every day?  Of course they do.  Is it safe, no?  Is it right, no.  Does it void your liability coverage, for sure.

Code requires that present day electric clothes dryers use 4 wire service, although 3 wire is "grandfathered" in IF it was installed x years ago.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #22 on: August 28, 2014, 02:13:36 pm »

But I guess in light of the aforementioned factors I'm still wondering whether, if all our equipment uses "grounded" power cords and balanced connections for mics and speakers, the one-or-two-wall-outlets-fed-by-heavy-duty-extension-cords method will truly be unsafe.


Did you already tell us how long of a run this would be from these "home" outlets to the stage? If not, please walk it off and let us know. I typically rent something called Yellow Jacket cable ramps for gigs where the power wires cross paths with pedestrians or cars. Maybe you have a local sound company that will donate some Yellow Jacket rentals for the good of the neighborhood. Or at least they can give you a cheap deal. They're typically 3 ft in length and heavy as all get out, but you can drive a truck over them while protecting any power cables.   

Secondly, any extension cord recommendations even from a distro or generator to the stage and speakers will need to include wire gauge, at the very least. Do you already have extension cords? If so, exactly what are they?

For liability, my home insurance agent was able to provide me with a rider for sound gear and liability coverage for my little gigs many years ago. This was a yearly policy and wrapped up into my homeowners liability policy. Essentially, you don't want to be the fall guy if some guy falls (or something like that). My current business liability policy isn't really cheap, but it covers me no matter what sort of gig I'm doing anywhere in the country (USA). But I need a rider if I go out of the country, even to Canada.   

Scott Holtzman

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #23 on: August 29, 2014, 03:31:30 am »

Did you already tell us how long of a run this would be from these "home" outlets to the stage? If not, please walk it off and let us know. I typically rent something called Yellow Jacket cable ramps for gigs where the power wires cross paths with pedestrians or cars. Maybe you have a local sound company that will donate some Yellow Jacket rentals for the good of the neighborhood. Or at least they can give you a cheap deal. They're typically 3 ft in length and heavy as all get out, but you can drive a truck over them while protecting any power cables.   

Secondly, any extension cord recommendations even from a distro or generator to the stage and speakers will need to include wire gauge, at the very least. Do you already have extension cords? If so, exactly what are they?

For liability, my home insurance agent was able to provide me with a rider for sound gear and liability coverage for my little gigs many years ago. This was a yearly policy and wrapped up into my homeowners liability policy. Essentially, you don't want to be the fall guy if some guy falls (or something like that). My current business liability policy isn't really cheap, but it covers me no matter what sort of gig I'm doing anywhere in the country (USA). But I need a rider if I go out of the country, even to Canada.

Good extensions cords are not cheap either.  If it's 300' you are going to spend $500.00  I presume we are talking well over 100' or we would not be having the discussion.  As stated please walk off the distance so we can give you the numbers and let you make an informed decision.

Also, if you are a homeowner the rider for the gear is a super suggestion.  Additionally if you are a good risk I also highly recommend an umbrella policy.  Personal liability.  I volunteer so much that it lets me sleep at night knowing that I am covered if I do something stupid etc.

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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #24 on: August 29, 2014, 12:06:16 pm »

This is a bit off topic from the general discussion of the thread, but I wanted to address something else I picked up on in your original post.

Mackie mixer with 6 mic inputs and 2 stereo channels. Hoping to use the PA just for 2 or 3 vocal mics (but may also run an acoustic guitar into the Hi-Z input for some songs instead of a second electric guitar) but would consider miking guitar amps or running bass direct if needed.

Unless you are plugging the acoustic guitar directly into the mixer with a cord no longer than the typical length of a "guitar cord" -- that is, if you are plugging into a snake that goes to the mixer some distance away -- you'll want to use a DI box. If it's a passive pickup, use an active DI box (or a Hi-Z to Low-Z microphone balun, BUT you might not get a hot enough signal at the mixer). If it's an active pickup (there's a battery in the guitar), you can use a passive or an active DI box. The other end of the DI box plugs into the XLR microphone input of the mixer channel.

You can connect a guitar amp's line or speaker output to the mic input of a mixer using a DI box. If using the speaker output, you'll need to use the DI boxes attenuation switch.

Trying to feed a mixer through a hundred feet of unbalanced cable without converting from Hi-Z unbalanced to Low-Z balanced can result in degradation of the sound quality.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #25 on: August 29, 2014, 01:15:25 pm »

Trying to feed a mixer through a hundred feet of unbalanced cable without converting from Hi-Z unbalanced to Low-Z balanced can result in degradation of the sound quality.

It also makes a great antenna for any AM radio stations in your area. And you can tune to different radio stations in your area by selecting different length mic cables. I'm NOT making this up.

But that's all OT and belongs on another forum here. However, I just can't resist a good Hi-Z story.

Justin Schack

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2014, 02:39:53 pm »

Thanks for the advice about the homeowner's insurance rider and umbrella policy. I'm going to look into both of those.

Regarding the length of the run, I don't know exactly and don't live in the neighborhood (it's a friend's party) but I have asked them to estimate. This is in a fairly densely populated suburb, with lots that are generally no more than 1,500-1,750 sq ft, so my guess is the run will be somewhere around 100-200 feet.

I personally don't know what extension cords are contemplated here. My guess is they're the run-of-the-mill orange jobs a homeowner would use to power holiday lights. But I don't know, and don't intend on supplying them myself unless I absolutely have to. The point about buying high-quality extension cords at the length required (and cost of same) is well taken. I continue to think a generator is the best option but it also would be good to know if we could get away with just accessing one or more wall/outdoor GFCI outlets using extension cords.

Thanks for the advice about the Hi-Z input. The mixer would be close to the stage (unfortunately I'll be running it myself and relying on bandmates/friends to listen and provide input when soundchecking rather than having a dedicated desk location somewhere out in the audience area) so it won't be a long cable run from the acoustic guitar (it's a passive under-saddle Baggs pickup in a Gibson J-45).
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Mike Sokol

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #27 on: August 29, 2014, 03:52:45 pm »

I personally don't know what extension cords are contemplated here. My guess is they're the run-of-the-mill orange jobs a homeowner would use to power holiday lights.

And that's a recipe for disaster. You'll note there's a new thread on this forum about getting a serious shock and damaging gear from a bass amp with a broken power cord of some type. See http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,151222.0.html

You'll be much happier and safer if you can get someone to supply a Honda inverter generator as mentioned above. And many RV owners have a pair of the Honda EU2000 generators linked together with a special cable that makes it into a very nice 4,000 watt genny. Ask your neighborhood contact to find out if anyone has an RV in the area. They'll be proud to loan you their Honda generator for the good of the neighborhood party, especially if it helps stop everyone from complaining about their big RV parked in the driveway.  ;D 

dick rees

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #28 on: August 29, 2014, 04:00:08 pm »

That's Honda EU Inverter series.  Don't try to get by with anything else.  A "generator" is not a Honda.  Even the non-inverter Hondas won't do.

100' is no good.  Besides dealing with proper cabling, you have a 100' tripping hazard.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: AC Power for small outdoor event
« Reply #29 on: August 29, 2014, 04:42:54 pm »

100' is no good.  Besides dealing with proper cabling, you have a 100' tripping hazard.

I once did a festival gig down in Annapolis where we had to run a snake and power 60' across a parking lot from the stage to my FOH mix position. So we put down a bunch of Yellow Jacket cable ramps and set orange traffic cones every 10 ft or so. Now this was a black and yellow striped ramp with bright orange cones you probably could have seen from space. But even before the concert began and with nobody else in the parking lot, one lady walked right up to the cable ramps, tripped over a traffic cone, and fell flat on her face. She was walking and talking to her friend and never looked down. Ouch! :o
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