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Author Topic: Power for audio in a church  (Read 3203 times)

Jason Lucas

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Power for audio in a church
« on: September 01, 2014, 01:25:18 pm »

I'm trying to figure out what we should do to power all of our equipment in a way that's safe and effective. Something user-friendly.

I don't know much about power and I'm trying to get an idea of how this would all work.

As far as I understand, best practice is to have a subpanel for the audio (with however many circuits and amps you need for the equipment you have) and then that goes out to all the outlets you'll use for said equipment? Am I on the right track?

We're in an already established building and I want to improve things, get us up to code (Stop using so many power strips) but I don't know how much we can afford to do or how much we'll be able to change in the current building. We would have a licensed professional do the actual install and help us calculate the amount of pop we actually need and how much we can get out of the current system.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2014, 02:12:22 pm »

I'm trying to figure out what we should do to power all of our equipment in a way that's safe and effective. Something user-friendly.

I don't know much about power and I'm trying to get an idea of how this would all work.

As far as I understand, best practice is to have a subpanel for the audio (with however many circuits and amps you need for the equipment you have) and then that goes out to all the outlets you'll use for said equipment? Am I on the right track?

We're in an already established building and I want to improve things, get us up to code (Stop using so many power strips) but I don't know how much we can afford to do or how much we'll be able to change in the current building. We would have a licensed professional do the actual install and help us calculate the amount of pop we actually need and how much we can get out of the current system.

Jason,

Please give us a list of the type of equipment you're currently using and/or want to use. How big is the PA system (number and wattage of amplifiers)? Digital or Analog mixing console? How much and what kind of stage instruments and amps? That will give us a hint as to where to begin. 
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Jason Lucas

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2014, 02:15:07 pm »

Ok sorry if that was confusing I was having trouble putting the question into words. What I'm really getting it is a few questions:

One is whether or not there's a way to run power under the stage to each device and possibly set up an on/off switch on each circuit? That way I can turn the snakes on before the powered speakers?
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Jason Lucas

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2014, 02:23:08 pm »

Jason,

Please give us a list of the type of equipment you're currently using and/or want to use. How big is the PA system (number and wattage of amplifiers)? Digital or Analog mixing console? How much and what kind of stage instruments and amps? That will give us a hint as to where to begin.

Behringer X32 mixer with S16s on stage, plus a P16-D

JBL PRX 535 powered speakers
QSC HPR181i powered sub
Two 1400 watt power amps (300 watts into 8 ohms)
Two electronic keyboards
Two guitar pedal boards
A bunch of small LED fixtures
Two computers (one on stage one in the booth)
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Ray Aberle

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2014, 02:36:33 pm »

Ok sorry if that was confusing I was having trouble putting the question into words. What I'm really getting it is a few questions:

One is whether or not there's a way to run power under the stage to each device and possibly set up an on/off switch on each circuit? That way I can turn the snakes on before the powered speakers?
Yes-- well, you could easily put a bunch of wall switches somewhere (they do sell 20A switches at the big box stores) all running to dedicated outlets for your gear. Will take a bit of wiring/cabling, but can be done. If there's a wall area for all of the switches you can then number/letter them in order of powering on (and reverse for shut down). [Resist the urge to do this with the circuit breakers as opposed to a regular switch that's designed to be turned on-off regularly!]

Power strips are definitely bad. First and easy thing you can do is expand your wall junctions from 1gang to 2gang. I did that when I redid the wiring on my house... all three bedrooms have 4-outlets on opposite walls of the bedroom. You never have enough outlets in a bedroom... (Looking back, I sorta wish I had pulled two circuits through the bedrooms and did one on each side of the 2gang box, but alas, next time!) With that said-- you could do this for your church-- pull second circuits into the same 2gang box, so there's 2-20A circuits available there. That would help make stage power concerns roll alot easier.

-Ray "who would take a picture of his bedroom outlets but can't since the iPhone is out of battery power" Aberle
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2014, 03:31:10 pm »

Ok sorry if that was confusing I was having trouble putting the question into words. What I'm really getting it is a few questions:

One is whether or not there's a way to run power under the stage to each device and possibly set up an on/off switch on each circuit? That way I can turn the snakes on before the powered speakers?
What problems are you currently having? Some reasonable number of power strips is inevitable, and I would argue preferable than a zillion built-in receptacles.

There are a number of power sequencing devices from Furman, Middle Atlantic, Surgex, and others. They are convenient in some situations, but since your system appears to be portable, would likely mean more wire, rather than less.

Answering your question directly, there isn't automatically a significant benefit from sourcing all audio from a dedicated panel. Depending on distances and the size and type of ground conductors. You may actually have a more similar ground potential between circuits from two different panels compared to remoting one circuit 300' with a #12 ground wire.

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Mike Sokol

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2014, 04:27:07 pm »

Answering your question directly, there isn't automatically a significant benefit from sourcing all audio from a dedicated panel. Depending on distances and the size and type of ground conductors. You may actually have a more similar ground potential between circuits from two different panels compared to remoting one circuit 300' with a #12 ground wire.

However, have all circuit breakers in one panel is certainly nice from a logistics viewpoint. That is, when a circuit breaker trips you'll only have to go to one panel. And you can secure that panel with a lock, if need be. And (hopefully) you can keep the nice church ladies in the food services ministry from plugging an enormous 1,800 watt coffee urn into your stage power system and tripping a breaker during a worship service (I've actually had that happen to me).

However, if the main problem is that you are experiencing hum problems from ground loops, it's surprising how well a few properly placed audio isolation transformers can help stop hum. Whirlwind and others make them starting at around $40 per channel depending on how much money you want to spend on the transformers. And don't forget to use properly designed DI boxes with ground lifts between any stage amps or instruments and the digital stage box. That's going to be a LOT cheaper then putting in a dedicated panel if all you're trying to do is stop hum. And certainly if you're experiencing any mixer lock-up problems I would recommend a basic UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for your X32 plus one to power your digital stage boxes. We've not done a real review of UPS's for digital mixers on this forum yet, but remember you only need a few minutes of backup power since if the incoming power goes off for 5 minutes I would guess that your service will be shut down anyways.

But it's great that you're asking your questions here. I really don't think there's a forum quite like this anywhere else, and there's a lot of experienced technicians, electricians and engineers here you can learn from. We'll keep asking you questions about what you're doing until we figure it out.
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Jason Lucas

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2014, 04:31:44 pm »

We have three powered speakers on stage, plus a couple of power amps, and none of them are all that close together. So I'd need extension cords or power strips to get them all plugged into the same device (like a power sequencer). A sequencer is convenient, but for our purposes a set of switches all next to each other would work just as well.

One problem is how spread out everything is. The subwoofer is in the center of the stage, and each top is about 25 feet away from it. To power on the stage I have to walk to one corner, then to the opposite corner, then back over to the other side, and the only reason it takes less than 5 switches to turn everything on is because we have a few cases where power strips are plugged into other power strips, which I want to eliminate.

We also have a number of LED fixtures spread out across the stage, and each one has a short wall wart for power. So they're all plugged into power strips or extension cords.

The goals I'm looking to accomplish here are to consolidate things (want it to take less effort to turn everything on), I want to clean things up (there's wires everywhere) and I want to be in line with the fire code (pretty sure we're not currently).

We've actually had few issues with ground loops or hum, I was just under the impression that putting everything on the same source was a best practice for pro audio.

The sound booth is on totally separate power (as far as I'm aware) than the stage. I have the board and the recording computer on a UPS, I think it's line-interactive (as opposed to "online") but it appears to be working just fine, recently did a self test with no issues.

Also: I believe (but cannot confirm at the moment) that there are two circuits on stage, one on either side. Each circuit has two duplex outputs on the walls, as well as a single outlet in the floor.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2014, 04:51:50 pm by Jason Lucas »
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2014, 04:54:23 pm »

Various manufacturers make switch controlled AC boxes and sequencers.

There are expensive and not as expensive ways of doing this.  But in most cases will involve an electrician to get power to where it needs to be.

The cleanest way is to put all of the "controlled boxes" in one location and then run circuits out to where they need to go.

Or sometimes you want to put some individual boxes where they are closer (such as at FOH position)

You can also get sequenced outlet strips from various manufacturers.  Then you can run your own extension cables (which it sounds like you are doing now.

Installing outlets in the floor should be done by an electrician.  There are all sorts of "floor boxes" that can contain AC power and mic and signal lines as needed.

This requires some thought as to what should be available where.

It might be overall easier if you contacted a local installer who can help advise you.
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2014, 09:05:26 pm »

 Depending on the building layout, you could do either a subpanel or bank switches in your desired location-you can get breakers rated for switching duty if you are concerned about that aspect.

Due to code requirements, I find the most economical method if running conduit or flex, is to limit each run to a maimum of 4 circuits-although multiple switch legs on each circuit could be used. 

Speaking from an electrician's POV take your loads and desired switching scheme and layout the platform.  If you need 4 or fewer circuits, he can plan on one run from booth to platform otherwise maybe one to each side makes sense. Installing the switching scheme should be pretty straight forward IF you know what you want, just figure out how you want it to be so he doesn't have to rewire it a bunch of times.  From a grounding standpoint, it would be fairly easy to have a single ground bonding point in the sound/media booth if you find that that is necessary.

Make sure you do the simple things-label each switched circuit-or even color code recepts if they are hidden. Your switch scheme may be obvious today-but not so much in 5 years.
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Steve Swaffer

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Re: Power for audio in a church
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2014, 09:05:26 pm »


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