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Author Topic: Whirlwind SKB power distro review  (Read 2340 times)

TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« on: February 08, 2018, 02:20:53 pm »

I was in the market for a camlok distro recently, and was looking at typical rack distros from the usual suspects.  These are expensive, and surprisingly heavy - 400lbs is not atypical.  As I am often running right on the edge of weight capacity of 26,000GVW trucks, 400lbs is not insignificant, and isn't "value-add" cargo - something that the client sees and likes to pay for, so doubly a bummer .

I then saw the Whirlwind PLR-SKB distros which looked like a good solution.  After inquiring about the price, it looked like a really good solution.

My distro has 4 Edison circuits, 5 L14-20 circuits, 1 L21-30 circuit, and two California connectors.  The L-14-20s and Californias break out to further distribution.  Total ampacity is just under 200A 3-phase.  The best part - it weights 47lbs, instead of 400lbs like a typical rack distro.

The main thing it lacks is a main breaker, which honestly is of limited value in most scenarios. 

The case is rainproof (when closed) and includes luggage wheels and a handle.  Did I mention that it weights 47lbs?

The process of specifying what I needed was pretty painless, and build time was about 4 weeks.

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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 02:28:35 pm »

Here is the L14-20 stringer.  I like L-14-20 as it doesn't require any downstream breakers to get to regular Edison receptacles. L14-20 also can be run on 12/4 wire.  Other configurations often require significantly upsizing conductor size due to number of current-carrying conductors. 12/4 is cheap, light weight, and small. 

L14-20 also can feed a L6-20 or a Powercon directly, which provides a lot of options for running amplifiers or moving lights at 208v, again without needing additional breakers or stringer boxes.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 10:51:07 am by TJ (Tom) Cornish »
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Ike Zimbel

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 11:35:51 pm »

I was in the market for a camlok distro recently, and was looking at typical rack distros from the usual suspects.  These are expensive, and surprisingly heavy - 400lbs is not atypical.  As I am often running right on the edge of weight capacity of 26,000GVW trucks, 400lbs is not insignificant, and isn't "value-add" cargo - something that the client sees and likes to pay for, so doubly a bummer .

I then saw the Whirlwind PLR-SKB distros which looked like a good solution.  After inquiring about the price, it looked like a really good solution.

My distro has 4 Edison circuits, 5 L14-20 circuits, 1 L21-30 circuit, and two California connectors.  The L-14-20s and Californias break out to further distribution.  Total ampacity is just under 200A 3-phase.  The best part - it weights 47lbs, instead of 400lbs like a typical rack distro.

The main thing it lacks is a main breaker, which honestly is of limited value in most scenarios. 

The case is rainproof (when closed) and includes luggage wheels and a handle.  Did I mention that it weights 47lbs?

The process of specifying what I needed was pretty painless, and build time was about 4 weeks.
That looks pretty sweet! You might want to invest in a 200A fused disconnect switch for the supply (tails) end of the cable. I'm pretty sure you'd need that anyway if the panel you're connecting to has higher amperage, say 400 amps. But, man, that is a fine looking distro!
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2018, 07:28:54 am »

That looks pretty sweet! You might want to invest in a 200A fused disconnect switch for the supply (tails) end of the cable. I'm pretty sure you'd need that anyway if the panel you're connecting to has higher amperage, say 400 amps. But, man, that is a fine looking distro!
You raise a good point.  A couple thoughts:

Even though this distro only has slightly less than 200A worth of receptacles on it, this distro is actually rated for 400A input, assuming the feeder cables used are rated for 400A.

Many distros have main breakers, and it would be conventional wisdom for this distro to have a 200A breaker built-in.  That doesnít hurt anything, however it doesnít actually help anything, either.  Over-current protection devices need to be upstream not just of the load, but of the wiring supplying the load, too.  Therefore, as you say, if 2/0 feeder is used from a 400A service, a 200A breaker is needed to protect the feeder; however this breaker needs to be UPSTREAM of the feeder wire (the tap rule allows 10í or 25í from the service depending on some math).   The reason for this is that the feeder cable itself could become damaged and short out, hypothetically drawing more than its rated 200A but less than the 400A that is required to trip the upstream breaker.

Saying this more concisely: the conventional setup of a 200A breaker in the distro itself is actually not adequate - even if I had a 200A breaker in the distro, I would technically need an additional 200A breaker upstream of my feeder to protect the feeder.

If you ever want to be shocked, pull out a Grainger catalog and look up the price of a 200A 3-phase breaker.  They cost as much as I paid for this entire distro. 

One other fun fact - if a breaker of this size is ever tripped due to overload, it essentially destroys itself due to the internal arc flash from breaking that much power (itís OK to turn the breaker off if the downstream load has been removed).

So, summarizing the reasons I was OK skipping the main breaker: It doesnít increase my ability (from a code standpoint) to directly use 400A services, it doubles the cost, size, and weight of the distro, and if it ever tripped, I would need to spend a couple thousand dollars to replace it.

I havenít yet run into a venue that only had a 400A service.  One venue I regularly use has a 400A but also has a 200A and a 100A.  If that situation ever arises I have access to a rental source for a 200A breakered disconnect.
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 07:57:10 am »

I think TJ is on the mark with this.
AFAIK...Even with the strict laws here in Ontario, if there is a breaker or fuse at the head end, suitable for the ampacity of the feeder cable to the distro, a main breaker in the distro is not required.
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 08:40:55 am »

I think TJ is on the mark with this.
AFAIK...Even with the strict laws here in Ontario, if there is a breaker or fuse at the head end, suitable for the ampacity of the feeder cable to the distro, a main breaker in the distro is not required.
UL agrees as well - note the mark on all of Whirlwind's equipment.  :)
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 08:45:09 am »

Here's my version of a 50A spider box.  California in/through, 4 5-20s, 2 L14-20s.  I like having just a little bit more oversubscription than the typical 6-circuit spider box.  As with the camlok distro, this is fine without having a 50A breaker onboard, as it is powered by a standard receptacle that per code must have no more than a 50A breaker upstream.

I regret getting the California through plug - I don't know that I will ever use it, and the alignment pin is pokey.  For future units I will probably omit that.

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Keith Broughton

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 09:53:38 am »

Just to confirm, the "California"  is a single phase, 50 amp TL connector?
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 10:45:32 am »

Just to confirm, the "California"  is a single phase, 50 amp TL connector?
The "California" connectors are a series of non-NEMA twist-lock connectors. The set useful in our industry is the CS6365/CS6364 plug and receptacle pair containing hot, hot, neutral, plus ground.

There is or at least was a NEMA equivalent L14-50, however for whatever reason, it was never adopted by the industry.  The two plugs relevant for us are the NEMA 14-50 straight blade (not twist-lock), and the California CS6365/CS6364 pair.  The Calis are more robust than the straight 14-50, and the CS6364 receptacle is available as a cord end, and the CS6365 is available as a flange inlet.  As far as I know, neither of those configurations are available with NEMA 14-50.  Other than form-factor issues, NEMA 14-50 and CS6365/CS6364 are functionally identical and interchangeable.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 10:59:58 pm by TJ (Tom) Cornish »
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Ken Miller

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Re: Whirlwind SKB power distro review
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2018, 01:50:31 am »

Here's my version of a 50A spider box.  California in/through, 4 5-20s, 2 L14-20s.  I like having just a little bit more oversubscription than the typical 6-circuit spider box.  As with the camlok distro, this is fine without having a 50A breaker onboard, as it is powered by a standard receptacle that per code must have no more than a 50A breaker upstream.

I regret getting the California through plug - I don't know that I will ever use it, and the alignment pin is pokey.  For future units I will probably omit that.

You can probably slap a cover on there fairly easily that should help cover it up. I didn't double check the depth (and they probably make grey/black ones as well), but here's a start in case you haven't thought of this yet:

https://www.amazon.com/Leviton-7788-CR-Weatherproof-Receptacle-Corrosion/dp/B003AUEJPE
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