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Author Topic: "All the other bands use it...."  (Read 7139 times)

Jamin Lynch

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"All the other bands use it...."
« on: July 17, 2016, 10:18:39 am »

Had a private party at an old dance hall last night. We were looking around checking out the power when the owner came up to the stage, who was at least 85, and said we can tie into their "power supply" if we want to, just let me know so he could turn off the power to it. I immediately said this is totally not safe and would not be using it. That's when I heard the all too common phrase, "All the other bands have been using it for years with no problem." Yikes.

There happened to be 4 outlets across the back of the stage and 4 across the front which appeared to be OK. I was then informed that the ones on the back wall are all on a 50amp breaker and the front outlets are all on a separate 50amp breaker...Yikes again. They tested out to have about 112volts. There were no other outlets anywhere close by.

After scratching our heads for several minutes trying to figure out what to do, we finally decided to downsize the sound system and lighting (all LED thank God) to the bare minimum and evenly separate the power between the to sets of 50amp breakers. I was able to locate one other outlet about 50ft away that was separate from the stage power that I used for all the lighting. We held our breath as we fired up everything. So far no issues.

As the band was playing you could see some decretive lights dim every kick drum hit. So we brought the levels down just below that margin and didn't increase the volume any.

Fortunately, everything went OK.  The band quit early so we shut it down and got the hell out of there. Whew I can breath again.

 
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2016, 11:53:39 am »

Had a private party at an old dance hall last night. We were looking around checking out the power when the owner came up to the stage, who was at least 85, and said we can tie into their "power supply" if we want to, just let me know so he could turn off the power to it. I immediately said this is totally not safe and would not be using it. That's when I heard the all too common phrase, "All the other bands have been using it for years with no problem." Yikes.

There happened to be 4 outlets across the back of the stage and 4 across the front which appeared to be OK. I was then informed that the ones on the back wall are all on a 50amp breaker and the front outlets are all on a separate 50amp breaker...Yikes again. They tested out to have about 112volts. There were no other outlets anywhere close by.

After scratching our heads for several minutes trying to figure out what to do, we finally decided to downsize the sound system and lighting (all LED thank God) to the bare minimum and evenly separate the power between the to sets of 50amp breakers. I was able to locate one other outlet about 50ft away that was separate from the stage power that I used for all the lighting. We held our breath as we fired up everything. So far no issues.

As the band was playing you could see some decretive lights dim every kick drum hit. So we brought the levels down just below that margin and didn't increase the volume any.

Fortunately, everything went OK.  The band quit early so we shut it down and got the hell out of there. Whew I can breath again.

If someone told me those outlets you mentioned where on 50amp breakers I would have had someone show me to the breaker panel and then turn them off and confirm where they go. I always like to know where the breakers are if I am plugging into the wall so if one pops I know how to get to it quickly and reset it. And just checking out the breaker panel will usually tell you a lot anyway.

It wouldnít hurt your equipment to plug into a 50amp breaker but if their wiring is anything like that picture they are probably not wired with heavy enough gauge so you might melt their wires if you were to draw too much current. I doubt that they were wired to 50amp breakers (and definitely) not properly if the power was sagging on your system. Unless your system is unbelievable power hungry.  Is that I typo and you meant to say they were 20amp breakers?
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Jamin Lynch

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2016, 12:07:21 pm »

If someone told me those outlets you mentioned where on 50amp breakers I would have had someone show me to the breaker panel and then turn them off and confirm where they go. I always like to know where the breakers are if I am plugging into the wall so if one pops I know how to get to it quickly and reset it. And just checking out the breaker panel will usually tell you a lot anyway.

It wouldnít hurt your equipment to plug into a 50amp breaker but if their wiring is anything like that picture they are probably not wired with heavy enough gauge so you might melt their wires if you were to draw too much current. I doubt that they were wired to 50amp breakers (and definitely) not properly if the power was sagging on your system. Unless your system is unbelievable power hungry.  Is that I typo and you meant to say they were 20amp breakers?

I probably should have checked out the breakers as you suggested, but the owner was already in a bad mood...didn't want to push my luck.

I was told by someone who knew the power situation that they kept tripping the breakers on the front and back stage outlets, so the "solution" was to change out the breakers to 50amp... :o

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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2016, 12:29:31 pm »

I probably should have checked out the breakers as you suggested, but the owner was already in a bad mood...didn't want to push my luck.

I was told by someone who knew the power situation that they kept tripping the breakers on the front and back stage outlets, so the "solution" was to change out the breakers to 50amp... :o

If you had some incandescent lights that drew a lot of power you could have just kept plugging enough of them in till it melt the wiring then they would have to have some electrical work done and maybe get it done properly. Are we afraid of reporting these obvious code violations? I used to get in trouble for pointing out violations and then learned to keep my mouth shut and just call the fire marshals office anonymously.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2016, 01:04:50 pm »

If you had some incandescent lights that drew a lot of power you could have just kept plugging enough of them in till it melt the wiring then they would have to have some electrical work done and maybe get it done properly.

Well, that old insulation would likely catch on fire, and then you have a fire inside the walls of the building. Of course that's why we don't oversize the breakers to begin with. Many years ago I did some playing gigs in a few old clubs like that, and I finally convinced them to let me install a 50-amp/240-volt "stove plug" for my band. That's when I started bringing my own 100-amp distro.
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2016, 02:25:27 pm »

Well, that old insulation would likely catch on fire, and then you have a fire inside the walls of the building. Of course that's why we don't oversize the breakers to begin with. Many years ago I did some playing gigs in a few old clubs like that, and I finally convinced them to let me install a 50-amp/240-volt "stove plug" for my band. That's when I started bringing my own 100-amp distro.

I probably should have put some sort of indication that I was being sarcastic. I was also going to say to do this before you loaded in your gear so when the place burst into flames you wouldnít also be sacrificing your gear. And I was trying to make a point with sarcasm, but that hardly ever works.

I stand by my suggestion of an anonymous call to the fire marshal. How would you feel if you knew that an overload of those outlets was dangerous and you ignored it and then down the line someone is hurt when the place burns down?
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2016, 02:34:32 pm »

If you had some incandescent lights that drew a lot of power you could have just kept plugging enough of them in till it melt the wiring then they would have to have some electrical work done and maybe get it done properly. Are we afraid of reporting these obvious code violations? I used to get in trouble for pointing out violations and then learned to keep my mouth shut and just call the fire marshals office anonymously.

The problem is, in many cases, the AHJ only has jurisdiction on new construction.  Minor violations won't be addressed-major ones might be if there is a clear danger to the public.  The government can't fix everything (whether or not it should try to is a political debate outside the scope and purpose of this forum)-as individuals and businesses we have to do the right thing-even if it means turning down an opportunity to make some cash.  Obviously "all the other bands" would rather live dangerously than make the owner mad.  The question is, do you want to be one of "all the other bands"?

If everyone refused to use the setup, it would get changed!
« Last Edit: July 17, 2016, 10:01:47 pm by Stephen Swaffer »
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Mike Sokol

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2016, 03:18:12 pm »

I probably should have put some sort of indication that I was being sarcastic.

Yes, I knew that. But I get to play the straight guy in the comedy team... ;)
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Mike Sokol
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2016, 03:23:32 pm »

Yes, I knew that. But I get to play the straight guy in the comedy team... ;)

When I nod my head you hit it.  ;D
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Mike Sokol

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2016, 04:22:23 pm »

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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2016, 01:26:55 am »

The panel pictured appears to have a 14- or 12-gauge wire feeding it. Since it would be highly unusual to see a 50A single pole breaker -- especially one recently added to a panel of this vintage (good luck finding a 50A single-pole Pushmatic as a replacement), I'm guessing the 50A was added on the upstream side of this panel. The amperages for these breakers is written on the side of the pushbutton, right next to the ON/OFF indicator.

If this is indeed the case, the damage wouldn't be downstream of this panel, it would be upstream.

If the backline power, the FOH power, your lighting, and those decorative lights were all fed from this panel, then you probably were overloading the wire feeding the panel (which probably was "protected" by a 50A breaker) -- risking a fire in spite of your efforts.

It would be unlikely that you'd melt the wire from overloading. What would happen is that you'd melt or burn the insulation from overheating due to overloading, then the wires would short out. If the breaker feeding the wires is oversized, the wires would arc and melt from the short circuit before the breaker trips.

If they ask you back, tell them not until their electrical system is upgraded by a licensed electrician and inspected by the local AHJ.

EDIT: On second look, it appears that this panel is fed by "parallel" small-gauge wires. Two problems with this: for parallel conductors, the conductors must be EXACTLY the same length, and it's only permitted in larger-gauge wires.

Also, it appears that only three of the breakers in the panel have connected loads. Two of them have no wires connected.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2016, 01:34:04 am by Jonathan Johnson »
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Stephen Kirby

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2016, 01:40:18 pm »

That looks like fairly new OSB around a fairly ancient panel.  Which implies that there has been some recent renovation, and some AHJ allowed the flammable material as a wall covering.  Or maybe some "handyperson" just did it.  Scary.
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2016, 04:20:39 pm »


Where'd you get the pictures of Bob?
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Jeff Bankston

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2016, 09:17:58 pm »

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Erik Jerde

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2016, 11:50:44 pm »

Those are bulldog pushmatic breakers.  I've a 100A panel with those in my home.  I installed a new 200A 60 ckt PON QO panel as well as meter base and mast a year ago to get away from it.  I've rewired about half the house to be on the new panel now.  There are questions about the reliability of the old pushmatic breakers.  I'll probably look for someone who tests old breakers and send them my panel when I finish getting off of it.  There is no way to separate the neutral bus from the chassis so I had to install a new isolated neutral bus bar in the panelbox when I made it a sub panel of my new one.

They did make 50A single pole pushmatic breakers so that bit of the story you were given could be correct.  All that said, even if it was legal to parallel conductors of that size there's no way the lines feeding that panel are up to the job of feeding one 50A circuit.

You should report this to the fire marshal, at least then you'll have a clean conscience should something bad happen there down the road.
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John Escallier

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2016, 12:53:36 pm »


The problem is, in many cases, the AHJ only has jurisdiction on new construction.  Minor violations won't be addressed-major ones might be if there is a clear danger to the public.

One need only remind the AHJ about the Station club in West Warwick Rhode Island.  Yes, it was a pyro incident, but imagine being the person who knew the soundproofing was flammable yet did not notify someone?

The government can't fix everything (whether or not it should try to is a political debate outside the scope and purpose of this forum)-as individuals and businesses we have to do the right thing-even if it means turning down an opportunity to make some cash.  Obviously "all the other bands" would rather live dangerously than make the owner mad.  The question is, do you want to be one of "all the other bands"?

If everyone refused to use the setup, it would get changed!

I live by the mantra "see something, say something".  I refuse to put myself in the position of knowing that my actions could have saved lives had I spoken up.

I understand the desire to not rock the boat.  That however, pales in comparison to "I should have spoken up".

I recommend detailing to the owner exactly what is wrong, why it is wrong, what can happen.   AND, how to fix it.

John

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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2016, 02:42:39 pm »

I understand the desire to not rock the boat.  That however, pales in comparison to "I should have spoken up".

I'm reminded of this poem by Don Merrell; I've seen it on safety posters in industrial sites.

I Chose to Look The Other Way

I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

It wasnít that I didnít care,
I had the time, and I was there.

But I didnít want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.

I knew heíd done the job before,
If I spoke up, he might get sore.

The chances didnít seem that bad,
Iíd done the same, He knew I had.

So I shook my head and walked on by,
He knew the risks as well as I.

He took the chance, I closed an eye,
And with that act, I let him die.

I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

Now every time I see his wife,
Iíll know, I should have saved his life.

That guilt is something I must bear,
But it isnít something you need share.

If you see a risk that others take,
That puts their health or life at stake.

The question asked, or thing you say,
Could help them live another day.

If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,

"I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose, to look the other way."

Don Merrell
donmerrell@hotmail.com

More safety poems by Don Merrell
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 02:45:28 pm by Jonathan Johnson »
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Ned Ward

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2016, 05:24:51 pm »


I recommend detailing to the owner exactly what is wrong, why it is wrong, what can happen.   AND, how to fix it.

John
Agree all except detailing how to fix it, unless the answer is "have a licensed/bonded electrician repair this."
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John Escallier

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2016, 02:48:22 pm »

Agree all except detailing how to fix it, unless the answer is "have a licensed/bonded electrician repair this."
No, we are in violent agreement.  I meant general things to fix it.  And one of those is to have qualified people do the work. You are correct to point that out.

It may be possible to do the work in stages to lessen the financial hit on the venue.  Course, it could also close the joint should the problems come to light.

John
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2016, 10:56:54 pm »

Unfortunately, the cost to make this right plus the cost of doing it wrong the first time will probably be more than double what it should have cost to do it right the first time.  And yet people complain that sparkies are too expensive.
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Jamin Lynch

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Re: "All the other bands use it...."
« Reply #20 on: August 08, 2016, 11:12:23 pm »

Unfortunately, the cost to make this right plus the cost of doing it wrong the first time will probably be more than double what it should have cost to do it right the first time.  And yet people complain that sparkies are too expensive.

The biggest problem is that the owner sees no problem with the way it is. Getting him to spend money to correct a problem that he cannot see ain't gonna happen.
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