ProSoundWeb Community

Sound Reinforcement - Forums for Live Sound Professionals - Your Displayed Name Must Be Your Real Full Name To Post In The Live Sound Forums => SR Forum Archives => LAB Lounge FUD Forum Archive => Topic started by: Gerry Seymour on April 14, 2010, 06:39:49 PM

Title: Specifying power requirements
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 14, 2010, 06:39:49 PM
I've run into the first hotel that hasn't just made their distro available, so they're charging us for it and need to know the wattage requirements.

From the lighting side, this is pretty simple - max draw is all lamps at full (12 kW). Of course, I'll also have to toss in some nominal amount to cover the computers and such, which is easy enough to estimate.

What wattage should I specify for my audio rig, though? Should I quote maximum amperage for my amplifiers?
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 14, 2010, 09:20:45 PM
Gerry Seymour wrote on Wed, 14 April 2010 17:39

I've run into the first hotel that hasn't just made their distro available, so they're charging us for it and need to know the wattage requirements.

From the lighting side, this is pretty simple - max draw is all lamps at full (12 kW). Of course, I'll also have to toss in some nominal amount to cover the computers and such, which is easy enough to estimate.

What wattage should I specify for my audio rig, though? Should I quote maximum amperage for my amplifiers?


Hi Gerry-

Welcome to the "hospitality" industry.

They will charge you by rating of the service.  Over-specifying will cost you more.  Without knowing what you're running, how loud you get, or what tiers of services the hotel offers it's hard to make a suggestion.

I've seen hotels that come in and count the number of regular Edison outlets in use and multiply by $20.  For service that requires a little plug-in distro our local Hyatt Regency gets $75 for 4 20 amp circuits.  If you need more, the 100 amp 3 phase 120/208v. service is $200/day.  That's CHEAP in the "real world."

That's hospitality electricity in a nutshell.  There are many many horror stories from clients and providers that just presumed that electricity came with the rental fee.

Have fun, good luck.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: TJ (Tom) Cornish on April 14, 2010, 09:36:10 PM
To underscore what Tim said, the standard for hotel power is that there is no standard.  The hotel I do the most work in doesn't charge for use of the high-current outlets, but charges for using their distro.  This was pretty easy to get around - I just bought a couple of the goofy plugs they use (NEMA 14-60) and I'm good to go.  I've paid for most of my distro equipment over the years by not paying their rental, which I think is $375 for a weekend.
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 14, 2010, 09:58:12 PM
Up to now, I've managed to only work in places where they threw in the "spider box" (what they called their lame-ass distro) for free. The one I'm in this time will let us use wall power free, but I want the distro to reduce ground loop issues. They'll probably rape us for that use, but that's how it goes.

I'm just trying to figure out how much power I need for my audio. I'm running two amps (Behringer EP1500 and EP2000) - total 3500 W nominal. Most of what we do will be spoken word, but I push the system pretty hard during the walk-up music, so those short times are my peak usage. I'm pushing the amps pretty close to clip - momentary clipping on the kick drum is normal in these times.

Do I need to leave room for the entire 3500 W, or am I safe specifying less - maybe even running both off a single 20A circuit?
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 14, 2010, 10:01:11 PM
That's about what I think they're going to charge. However, I don't have a distro of my own, so I'm kinda stuck using theirs this time. I'm just trying to specify the smallest distro possible, because they apparently have more than one they could charge me for.
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: TJ (Tom) Cornish on April 14, 2010, 10:01:16 PM
If quantity of circuits is a problem, you can run your system on one 20A circuit.  If you are given more then splitting them up is good.
Title: Re: Specifying power requirements
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 14, 2010, 10:04:11 PM
Thanks. If it saves some money, I'll go with a single circuit for the audio. If not, so much the easier.
Title: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 15, 2010, 11:01:37 AM
I'm considering getting a distro in the immediate future. Nothing big - probably just 6-8 20A circuits of 2x Edison. That's way more than enough room for my entire rig, even when I do bigger events and add rental lighting to what I have.

This is all prompted by the $250/day charge by a hotel for their 10-circuit distro. I'm pretty sure I can get a basic distro for less than the 2-day rental cost.

But I'm wondering what the complications are, and hoping for some input.

1. How routine is the connection in most hotels for a distro? Will I be able to get by with the same connection in most places?

2. Are there code requirements for these connections that I might screw up? I've done some wiring, but I'm definitely NOT an electrician.

3. In a separate thread, someone mentioned that they'd bypassed this cost from the hotel by using their own distro. Has anyone had a problem with a hotel still trying to charge for power usage, when they originally were charging for a distro. Is there any problem getting to the connection?

Anything else I should be considering in this? This will be a new step for me, but one I eventually have to take.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: TJ (Tom) Cornish on April 15, 2010, 11:24:45 AM
As I mentioned earlier, the only standard is there is no standard.

I work in the Midwest where rules are apparently less stringent than in other places (Chicago, East Coast, etc.) so I can't speak to other experiences.  

Generally if there is a receptacle of some kind (Edison, NEMA outlet of various kind, twist lock) you can legally make connections to this yourself without calling an electrician.  Tying into a disconnect requires an electrician.  Cam Loks in my experience can be looked at both ways, depending on the venue.

The venue may keep the breaker powering the high-current outlet powered down and may charge to power it up.  If so, you're stuck.

Assuming the power is on and the plug to your distro fits, you're usually OK.  If the venue has a different plug, you can probably make an adapter tail to connect it to your distro.

The dangerous reality is many high-current receptacles are incorrectly wired or not suitable for the purpose at hand, and put you in danger of nuking your stuff and/or hurting yourself or someone else.  Unless you are very comfortable with electrical testing procedures, I would strongly suggest not getting into the distro side of things.  I NEVER, EVER plug into an unknown supply without testing first.  This is doubly true for non-Edison circuits.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 15, 2010, 11:55:34 AM
Gerry Seymour wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 10:01

I'm considering getting a distro in the immediate future. Nothing big - probably just 6-8 20A circuits of 2x Edison. That's way more than enough room for my entire rig, even when I do bigger events and add rental lighting to what I have.

This is all prompted by the $250/day charge by a hotel for their 10-circuit distro. I'm pretty sure I can get a basic distro for less than the 2-day rental cost.

But I'm wondering what the complications are, and hoping for some input.

1. How routine is the connection in most hotels for a distro? Will I be able to get by with the same connection in most places?

2. Are there code requirements for these connections that I might screw up? I've done some wiring, but I'm definitely NOT an electrician.

3. In a separate thread, someone mentioned that they'd bypassed this cost from the hotel by using their own distro. Has anyone had a problem with a hotel still trying to charge for power usage, when they originally were charging for a distro. Is there any problem getting to the connection?

Anything else I should be considering in this? This will be a new step for me, but one I eventually have to take.


In order:

1.  Routine is a matter of what kind of business the hotel normally does.  Some do "events" and others host wedding receptions and simple business meetings.  They are the least likely to "get it."  I was in one of those places last week, but the house electrician found 60 amp service in the kitchen he could tie into; and the second answer is "probably NOT."  High current distros in the USA are typically connected by bare tails into lugs of a safety disconnect switch.  Hotels typically use the oddest connectors that Might Meet Code so the chances of someone having it low.  It's revenue preservation.  Back when I did a lot of ballroom work I carried 4 or 5 oddball connectors just so I'd know the quality of the connector (had a few hotel-provided distros with partially melted connectors).

2.  Yes.  You lack the knowledge and experience and publically state that on the internet.  Honesty is fine but if you ever have an electrical failure (fire, electrocution, etc) problem Google will come back to haunt you.

3.  Yes.  They lock up the access to the disconnect switch or the cover to the 50 amp outlet.  Or they turn it off upstream and when you call to get it turned on, they send an "event coordinator" over to the room with a form to sign, authorizing the charges for power.  While the hotel says they charge for the distro, they are really charging to make a profit.  That's why many hotels charge for regular Edison outlets, too.  Someone from the banquet/sales dept walks through the room and counts the use.

You won't escape paying for power.  You seem to have this cozy relationship with your client that is incredibly price sensitive (IIRC).  I'm not sure if you have some spiritual or financial involvement with the client, but if yes or not, the client needs to understand that *everything* has a cost and a price (they aren't the same thing).  In our contracts we specifically make the client responsible for power hook up fees, electricians, generator parking permits (bring your own power and the facility charges you a fee to park the gennie and run cable through their hallways) and everything else that results in additional expense beyond our contracted fee.  We'll make the arrangements but the client puts up the credit card to pay for stuff; or we'll handle those expenses on their behalf for an additional 20% markup and we require advance payment based on estimates.

HTH.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 15, 2010, 11:56:58 AM
TJ (Tom) Cornish wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 10:24

As I mentioned earlier, the only standard is there is no standard.

{snip}

The dangerous reality is many high-current receptacles are incorrectly wired or not suitable for the purpose at hand, and put you in danger of nuking your stuff and/or hurting yourself or someone else.  Unless you are very comfortable with electrical testing procedures, I would strongly suggest not getting into the distro side of things.  I NEVER, EVER plug into an unknown supply without testing first.  This is doubly true for non-Edison circuits.


Word.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Jeff Wheeler on April 15, 2010, 01:02:30 PM
TJ (Tom) Cornish wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 10:24

Tying into a disconnect requires an electrician.  Cam Loks in my experience can be looked at both ways, depending on the venue.

My understanding is you must be "qualified personnel" to connect to cam-lok because it's not a combination outlet that prevents the conductors from being reversed or the phase legs being connected without the ground or neutral conductors; and also because the cam-lok connectors are not keyed to a specific amp rating, unlike a NEMA receptacle and plug.  I did not realize there was ambiguity in this area.

IIRC Gerry is the in-house guy for his company's events, so the "cozy relationship" is obviously the product of his employer judging the quality of production as adequate for their events given the budget (or lack of budget) that he is allocated.  He said they won't even buy him cases for his gear, so a power distro seems like a hard purchase to justify!
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 15, 2010, 01:17:11 PM
Jeff Wheeler wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 12:02

TJ (Tom) Cornish wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 10:24

Tying into a disconnect requires an electrician.  Cam Loks in my experience can be looked at both ways, depending on the venue.

My understanding is you must be "qualified personnel" to connect to cam-lok because it's not a combination outlet that prevents the conductors from being reversed or the phase legs being connected without the ground or neutral conductors; and also because the cam-lok connectors are not keyed to a specific amp rating, unlike a NEMA receptacle and plug.  I did not realize there was ambiguity in this area.

IIRC Gerry is the in-house guy for his company's events, so the "cozy relationship" is obviously the product of his employer judging the quality of production as adequate for their events given the budget (or lack of budget) that he is allocated.  He said they won't even buy him cases for his gear, so a power distro seems like a hard purchase to justify!


Mostly correct, Jeff. They did finally cough up for cases this year, after I showed them the damage (mostly physical) that some of the equipment had taken.

As for the distro cost, if it can offset other costs (such as rental) quickly, then I can get the budget for it. In this case, it looks like budget's not the constraint. I'm not really interested in dealing with the issues already noted, so I'll likely just let the hotel charge their ridiculous fee.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 15, 2010, 01:24:56 PM
Owning a distro won't save money when the facility is actually charging for the power.  Back when hotels made their money from sleeping rooms they gaged revenue in dollars per guest night.  Now they gage revenue in dollars per guest as sleeping room bookings dropped off but meeting & ballroom use continued.  The money had to come from somewhere, and that's when they began to charge for every conceivable thing.

And I feel for you, working for folks that are penny-wise but pound-foolish.

Have fun, good luck.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 15, 2010, 01:37:16 PM
Tim McCulloch wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 10:55


In order:

1.  Routine is a matter of what kind of business the hotel normally does.  Some do "events" and others host wedding receptions and simple business meetings.  They are the least likely to "get it."  I was in one of those places last week, but the house electrician found 60 amp service in the kitchen he could tie into; and the second answer is "probably NOT."  High current distros in the USA are typically connected by bare tails into lugs of a safety disconnect switch.  Hotels typically use the oddest connectors that Might Meet Code so the chances of someone having it low.  It's revenue preservation.  Back when I did a lot of ballroom work I carried 4 or 5 oddball connectors just so I'd know the quality of the connector (had a few hotel-provided distros with partially melted connectors).

2.  Yes.  You lack the knowledge and experience and publically state that on the internet.  Honesty is fine but if you ever have an electrical failure (fire, electrocution, etc) problem Google will come back to haunt you.

3.  Yes.  They lock up the access to the disconnect switch or the cover to the 50 amp outlet.  Or they turn it off upstream and when you call to get it turned on, they send an "event coordinator" over to the room with a form to sign, authorizing the charges for power.  While the hotel says they charge for the distro, they are really charging to make a profit.  That's why many hotels charge for regular Edison outlets, too.  Someone from the banquet/sales dept walks through the room and counts the use.

You won't escape paying for power.  You seem to have this cozy relationship with your client that is incredibly price sensitive (IIRC).  I'm not sure if you have some spiritual or financial involvement with the client, but if yes or not, the client needs to understand that *everything* has a cost and a price (they aren't the same thing).  In our contracts we specifically make the client responsible for power hook up fees, electricians, generator parking permits (bring your own power and the facility charges you a fee to park the gennie and run cable through their hallways) and everything else that results in additional expense beyond our contracted fee.  We'll make the arrangements but the client puts up the credit card to pay for stuff; or we'll handle those expenses on their behalf for an additional 20% markup and we require advance payment based on estimates.

HTH.

Tim Mc


Tim - thanks for the reality check on this. Liability and cost aside, it just sound like more complication than I'd care to deal with, in any case.

I've used some really scary "distro's" in hotels, which was my main reason for considering this route. I've been presented with un-protected tie-ins that led to exposed breakers on the "distro", with shoddy wiring to the 4-gang boxes. Reminds me of the wiring in this house before we had it all replaced. Shocked
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 15, 2010, 01:41:01 PM
Tim McCulloch wrote on Thu, 15 April 2010 12:24

And I feel for you, working for folks that are penny-wise but pound-foolish.


They're learning. Their expectations were improperly set by the guy who originally built the rig. He just kept piecing it together from mis-matched (and cheap) components. The folks here in the Lounge have helped me make some key, low-cost purchases of pro-grade bits to fill gaps in the rig. As I do that, the powers-that-be are starting to understand the problems with the original approach.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Jeff Wheeler on April 15, 2010, 01:49:56 PM
If I were you, I would choose not to own a distro until you can't avoid it.  At least any power problems you have are easily and correctly blamed on venues right now.  But if you have them buy a distro and then the hotel promised there would be a 14-50R outlet but it's wired wrong or they hit you with a hidden fee to turn on the circuit breaker, or what the hotel event person thought was a 14-50R is really something else ... it will be hard to explain that to your bosses.  It's really easy to explain to them that you asked for X number of 20A Edison circuits and they were not supplied as promised.
Title: Re: Time for my own distro?
Post by: Gerry Seymour on April 15, 2010, 01:55:53 PM
Blame always falls on the venue, unless I claim it. The folks I work with know my attention to detail, and know that I claim all faults that are mine. It's an odd relationship, but I never have to worry about that sort of thing.

Nonetheless, the other side of your statement is probably more pertinent: any power issues become the hotel's problem to solve for us. If the distro were mine, they can clain the issue isn't their power, but my distro. Simpler if it's all theirs.