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Author Topic: Building distro  (Read 2270 times)

Sam Saponaro Jr

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Building distro
« on: October 06, 2021, 02:06:51 PM »

Ok so awhile back I asked about building a small distro for my rig. And in short I was told now distros have to be UL listed as a unit....or at least I understood it this way.
Now I was talking with an ibew electrician recently and he basically argued that building temporary distros are fine,stating there is a whole section on temporary distros in the nec. I remember that from last time I looked at a NEC book circa 1996 lol
Anyhow what is the deal here?? I really only wanted a small little distro to eliminate the wall power headaches in clubs and bars for the small jobs I do. Allot of which have a 4pole 50a 240v outlet at stage setup for this purpose.
Edit.. And just to be clear I'm not talking a big distro with 240v outlets or anything. Just a small job with just 4x 20a 120v circuits...all gfci.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2021, 02:25:43 PM by Sam Saponaro Jr »
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Nathan Riddle

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2021, 02:50:38 PM »

Ok so awhile back I asked about building a small distro for my rig. And in short I was told now distros have to be UL listed as a unit....or at least I understood it this way.
Now I was talking with an ibew electrician recently and he basically argued that building temporary distros are fine,stating there is a whole section on temporary distros in the nec. I remember that from last time I looked at a NEC book circa 1996 lol
Anyhow what is the deal here?? I really only wanted a small little distro to eliminate the wall power headaches in clubs and bars for the small jobs I do. Allot of which have a 4pole 50a 240v outlet at stage setup for this purpose.
Edit.. And just to be clear I'm not talking a big distro with 240v outlets or anything. Just a small job with just 4x 20a 120v circuits...all gfci.

I'd lean towards it is okay.

That said, I really like my Split Hughston box and a Motion Labs Rac Pac isn't very expensive used ~$500 check facebook. I have the 1103-3-KK-152-0005 model (4x L5-30r, 2x 5-20r).

I doubt you'd save much building your own vs finding a used distro.
(Unless you have the parts already or find them for free like I did).
« Last Edit: October 06, 2021, 02:53:49 PM by Nathan Riddle »
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Sam Saponaro Jr

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2021, 09:04:34 PM »

Well I have some stuff sitting around 4x4 boxes outlets etc....its the 4 wire range cable that would get expensive.
I went to Lowe's to grab 80ft of 12/3 the other day and almost choked. It's been awhile but it's about double per foot. For 2x40ft 12 gauge feeders ends and two flanges twist locks I was in 170 bucks plus.
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2021, 03:30:34 AM »

Ok so awhile back I asked about building a small distro for my rig. And in short I was told now distros have to be UL listed as a unit....or at least I understood it this way.
Now I was talking with an ibew electrician recently and he basically argued that building temporary distros are fine,stating there is a whole section on temporary distros in the nec. I remember that from last time I looked at a NEC book circa 1996 lol
Anyhow what is the deal here?? I really only wanted a small little distro to eliminate the wall power headaches in clubs and bars for the small jobs I do. Allot of which have a 4pole 50a 240v outlet at stage setup for this purpose.
Edit.. And just to be clear I'm not talking a big distro with 240v outlets or anything. Just a small job with just 4x 20a 120v circuits...all gfci.


Here is my favorite little secret weapon.  These are made by one of the best known companies in power distribution, no inspector is going to think twice about it.  Change the outlets out for the combo 15/20 models and put whatever input you want on it.  They are compact, the breakers are very high quality and they hold up to road duty rigors.


https://www.ebay.com/itm/113721303223

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Brian Jojade

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2021, 09:13:56 PM »

An electrician is NOT the same as an inspector.  The rules for temporary power in a construction environment is very different than temporary power where the general public may roam.  In an active construction site, there are often things that may present safety hazards for the non aware.

Now, some inspectors may be ok with home built units. Others, not so much.  I had one inspector that had a problem with a home-made distro once, with the rationale that it was 'too home made' looking.  This was one of those breaker box on a piece of plywood with outlets attached setups.  Nothing inherently wrong with it.  Now, the same inspector had NO problem with the distros I provided, but my distros were built into nice 19 inch rack cases, and finished to look professional. No UL listing, obviously, but the inspector wasn't looking for that specifically.  Not sure if the inspector would have known if there was an actual problem, just looking for hacky stuff, I guess.
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Brian Jojade

brian maddox

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2021, 01:05:58 PM »

This may be an unpopular opinion but...

I feel like the days where building your own Power Distro made sense have passed, at least at all but the most basic entry level in our industry.

When I started in the business there were almost no off the shelf solutions for Power Distro and the few that there were were pretty expensive since they were pretty much custom made to order. And it was basically Motion Labs and a couple small mom and pop shops building them, so a lot of larger companies were still rolling with the systems they had custom built a decade or more before. There was also little if any connector standards between different companies which again made any commercial solution expensive since again, you were basically paying someone else to make a custom thing for you.

But now things have largely standardized around a few common connectors and there are a number of companies building Pro Level distro solutions using modular components. This has driven the price down on these units considerably and made "home brew" solutions less and less economically advantageous. Combine this with a higher level of oversight of our industry from the various safety agencies and it just makes less and less sense to "roll your own".

This was really brought home to me a couple years ago when I was helping a company I worked with spec out a Motion Labs solution for their Video truck. I went through the Motion Labs catalog and listed off what they needed expecting the price tag to come back in the multiple thousands and the quote came back in under a grand. Compared to what we pay routinely for consoles and speakers and microphones [and freaking plugins which aren't even actual "things"] and all the rest, the cost of a Professional Power Distro is now well within the reach of most people in the industry.

Now I'm not saying you can't roll your own and end up with a very good, safe solution. And I'm not saying you can't do it and save a few dollars. But I am saying that the cost gap between doing that and just calling up one of the existing companies to sell you what you need turnkey is pretty narrow and I for one wouldn't even bother.

YMMV, etc.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2021, 10:22:37 PM by brian maddox »
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Steve-White

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2021, 01:25:10 PM »

^^^  Brian I'd have to agree with you.  My stuff is a combination both commercial and custom.  This includes the speakon stuff as well - some cables are made up by me and some are commercially manufactured.  Distribution system is COTS and a few custom cords and adapters.

Manufacturers buy components cheaper than I can, due to bulk purchasing power.  That's where things swing that direction.

I learned that in a similar way some years ago when I put UPS's on electronics at home.  Buying good condition used APC rigs, then came batteries.  Shipping battery weight from a UPS seller at their rates for used batteries or even new -vs- the shipping rates a battery resale firm gets just make it stupid to pay shipping on used batteries or new batteries from the wrong source.

I do custom work on rack panels and rack power distribution and go with commercial made for the system distribution spider.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2021, 07:05:26 PM by Steve-White »
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2021, 06:36:45 PM »

Rolling your own distro if you have to buy all of  the parts new is certainly not going to be economical if you factor any value in your labor.

But, if you have a pile of old but good parts, you can easily build your own. Unfortunately, you aren't going to get a UL listing on what you built, so even though you may have built something perfectly safe, an inspector could pull the plug - literally.

So I agree with Brian that for most businesses, it doesn't make sense to build.  The small players that are playing in areas that don't have inspectors, and the hobbyist that just does this for fun and doesn't value their time can build if they want to. Just be aware that some places may not allow you to use it which could cause the show to suffer unexpectedly.

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Brian Jojade

Sam Saponaro Jr

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2021, 12:14:42 AM »

I hear ya on labor to build one but I like doing electrical work so I really don't mind and really just getting restarted doing sound jobs and having spent my cash flow on new( ok good used) gear saving any buck I can is good....im just sick of hunting for circuits and running extra cables and popping breakers.
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Paul Johnson

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Re: Building distro
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2021, 03:12:38 PM »

I've always built my own, and they got cleverer and cleverer as new internals came on the market. I also got safer and safer creating them, and in my later ones, they were tough as well as functional. The UK electrical Regs are followed pretty accurately and oddly, anyone can produce a distro - even if a hobby electrician, but it will need to be testable and inspectable. That all said, I now buy them - we have a manufacturer here call rubber box - and they build the connectors, circuit protection, isolation and monitoring components into things that can be used indoors or out. Even worse we now have a spec for temporary electrical installations so it's just easier to buy or rent something somebody else takes the responsibility for.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Building distro
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2021, 03:12:38 PM »


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