Electrician Coming Over What to Do?

OK, the electrician is coming over to put in more cable and a sub panel. Do I install a home surge protector, dedicated lines at what amperage? DO I use standard cable or JPS Labs wire? Help, one more week to go.

You want dedicated 20 amp circuit(s) with only one hospital grade receptacle per circuit. Think about having separate circuits for amplification, analog and digital components. You'll save money if you have them do it all at once. If funds and local electrical code will allow, having an isolated ground for each dedicated circuit would be ideal. I don't have any experience with the JPS cabling, and I'm skeptical that it is worth the expense. However, I've had excellent results with 10 gauge Romex. Have the electrician use high quality, high purity name brand Romex. They'll want to use the least expensive cable they can find if you don't specify. Let me know how it turns out. Dedicated circuits do far more than any power conditioner that I've encountered, and your amp will never be starved for current!
I suggest considering a home surge protector, standard cable in the walls, 30 amp circuits, and hi grade sockets, to be followed by audiophile power cords and a hi end power conditioner.
Jameswei. Once you have dedicated lines, a Hi end power conditioner is a huge waste of money.
A dedicated line for every component is a must. JPS is a waste of cash. Its good stuff but not enough to warrant the expense over the 10 AWG Romex.
Hi end cxonditioners are used when you cant adress the power problem. Dedicated lines does that.
Good outlest Like spec grade Pas And Seymour are a good choice. If you have money to burn you can put in more expensive one's. Good start.
1. Never ask your electrician for his advice unless it's for purely safety reasons that will keep your house from burning to the ground. More than likely, he will laugh when you tell him what your goals are here.

2. Order your own 10 gauge 99.95% OFC romex from JPS or where ever and have it ready. Otherwise you'll get his cheap stuff and thereby defeating some of your purpose right off the bat.

3. Order some FIM or similar audio grade outlets now (all 20 amp).

4. 15 amp circuits should be more than sufficient for your source and pre.

5. Your amplifier is not a monster amp. 20 amps should be more than enough for this circuit. If you install a 30 amp circuit, it is entirely possible that your house will burn to the ground before the 30 amp circuit breaker ever trips.

6. Have your electrician install the grounds (isolated preferably). Then later you can go around to each plug and disconnect/float the grounds to determine sonic differences.

7. You might consider an industrial grade sub-panel (still cheap) rather than the cheap off-the-shelf sub-panel.

8. Anybody who tells you that a line conditioner is no longer needed once you have dedicated lines: A. Does not know what they are talking about. AND/OR B. Does not own equipment good enough to tell the difference.

My guess is both.

9. Observe your electrician to ensure that he does not accidentally mis-wire circuits and reverse polarity (hot to hot, neutral to neautral). My electrician did mis-wire my 15 amp and 20 amp circuits several years ago and I almost caught my toes on fire had I not double checked the circuit before playing with it.

10. If you think you may be adding a subwoofer or another component in the near future, have him wire a 4th circuit now.


Stehno, If you feel a power conditioner is still needed then your Electricain did not do a good job.
The point of an dedicated line is to have power with no noise on the circuit from other gear. So once this is done. What will the conditioner do. Make the power 1% better Maybe.
I have heard many a great system without the aid Of Power Conditioning. If your gear needs it to sound good I would suggest Better made Gear.
All the above advice is great. I only have one thing to add. PULL A PERMIT! Have the Licensed Electrician get an Electrical Permit from the local Building Department.

Senior Building Inspector
Clark County, Nevada
Stehno makes some very excellent points. However, i personally would not spend the money on the JPS cabling. While i do believe that AC cabling and geometry of said cabling can make a difference, i just don't think that it is an $18 per foot difference. I am currently looking for cabling that will perform optimally and not cost a fortune i.e. "the most bang for the buck". Along the same lines, i would look at the availability of various outlets. If you do go the dedicated ground routine, you may have to buy specialty outlets that float the ground connection separately from the conduit.

Obviously, the AC wiring and outlets are a matter of personal preferences / budget, so do what you think is best suited for your situation. I would stick with at least 10 gauge wire and nothing lighter though. You could use either 15 or 20 amp breakers using this approach, sizing them according to draw. This also takes into account safety precautions in terms of having a breaker so big that even "flaming" components would not trip it. Should you increase the load on a circuit that you originally install a 15 amp breaker on, you can always replace the breaker with a 20 amp and never be concerned about the wiring.

I would also add that you should remind the electrician that all of the circuits need to come off the same leg / phase of the circuit. In order to even out the load in the house, he may have to make some changes in your main breaker box.

Other than that, my experience is that dedicated lines do nothing to fight the noise that is already present coming in from the pole transformer. Such a set-up does offer an increased amount of isolation from other circuits within the building though. This can be further increased by running isolated grounds.

If you do go the isolated ground routine, you CAN NOT connect anything else to your audio system that is not plugged into your "standard" non-dedicated circuitry other than battery powered devices. Doing so would tie the two different grounds together, which could result in a lot of noise and what is even more important, a safety issue. As such, have all the lines put in now that you think you will ever need in the future.

I have never checked into "whole house surge supression", so i can't comment on that aspect of your question. I do not think it is a "bad idea", only that i'm sure that there are several different ways and products to achieve this. If you are interested in such an item, i would start researching it as soon as possible. The electrician may not be able to install such a device now, but he can do all of the necessary prep so that he would not have to "undo" all that he dows now to install such a device at a later date. Sean
I'm an Electrician by trade and basically I agree with everything Natalie said.

I sold a couple pricey power conditioners after putting in six dedicated I.G. 20 amp circuits in my home.

If you want to know what else I think on this subject matter do a search on some of my "tech talk" threads.

Be forewarned I only have 20+ years of experience and can't compete with others having infinite knowledge of this subject matter.

Hey Natalie how long have you been an electrician?
Glen I am Not. I am a Technical Sales Rep Selling goods that need clean power to operate properly. Mostly common sense.
Natalie, I was the electrician for most of the work done. I noticed vast improvements with each incremental step. More than I thought possible.

So what did I do wrong?

Several weeks ago, I removed my amplifier's passive in-line power conditioner (an LC-2 by Foundation Research which retails for $900) from the mix. In place, I removed the outlet pulled my 10 gauge 99.95% OFC romex about 3 feet out of the wall and attached a cryo dipped Hubbell 20 amp IEC to the end and plugged it directly into the amp. Service Panel, 10gauge romex, hubbell audio grade IEC, amp. It doesn't get much more streamlined than that.

Immediately, I noticed an increase in sibilance, a raised noise floor, and slightly less purity to the higher frequencies. I undid the mod and put the Foundation Research LC-2 back into place between the outlet and the amp. Everything was better.

So tell me: What did I do wrong? I'm all ears.

Unless somebody is getting extremely clean AC from the pole(which is almost nobody), a GOOD power conditioner will always benefit.

Now, to give you a little credit: If one does not have dedicated lines, then it is easier to compare the difference between conditioned and non-conditioned AC. The dedicated lines do help minimize noise from appliances, dimmers, and digital sources, etc..

You may have heard 'many a great system without the aid of Power Conditioning', but I am confident in saying that without power conditioning alls you were hearing was a decent sound coming from a great system. Now to your ears maybe they sounded great too. But without proper AC conditioning, you were not hearing all that they had to offer.

But I still go back to my earlier statement about those who claim power conditioners do nothing for dedicated lines. 1. They either don't know what they are talking about. AND/OR 2. Their equipment is such that they really cannot tell the difference. Okay maybe a 3rd item. Perhaps their power conditioner isn't all that it was cracked up to be.

Can you guess which one I think you qualify for?

I don't know how I missed Sean's post? Perhaps we were typing at the same time? Anyway I agree with a lot of what Sean has to say except for the one paragraph about putting all the audio gear on one phase and re-arranging the panel to suit.

Re-arrange breakers in a panel can create an unbalanced load on the neutral. This is a known cause of electrical fires. Many times circuits are brought out of a panel in pairs utilizing one neutral (i.e. 12/3 romex)

When you start swapping things around in a panel it is easy to accidentally put two circuits that are sharing one neutral on the same phase. A neutral that was once engineered to carry the unbalanced load of two circuits is now carry the full load of the same two circuits (this is pretty basic theory) and can easily exceed it's ampere rating.

Most thorough electricians will run a dedicated neutral with each hot eliminating the need to gang all circuits on one phase or juggle circuits in the panel. I personally always pull two grounds in order to maintain the integrity of the I.G. system too.

Other than that I think Sean makes some good suggestions.

Hey where's Bob and Albert this threads starting to heat up :^)
Sean's comment about the isolated grounds has scared me (I'm about to have this work done at my house too). I don't want to have to think about this stuff down the line, whether or not it's safe to puta compoent in the system that may be plugged into some other outlet. Better to not go with isolated grounds, then?

Another question: if you are running multiple lines, do you usually run each to a single duplex and leave the jumpers in place, or do you break the jumpers and run a separate line to each individual outlet? Dan.
Glen, you're getting a little flippant in your earlier post regarding your 20+ years in this trade, other's infinite wisdom, etc.. I assume you directed at least part of that in my direction as a result of one or more of my post(s).

Regardless of your trade, I'll direct the same questions and statements to you as I did to Natalie a few posts above. (Please see my previous post.)

But bottom line is: I have 3 passive in-line power conditioners and 3 dedicated circuits/lines. One for each component. Several weeks ago, I removed one of my in-line power conditioners from my dedicated 20amp amplifier line and ran straight from the service panel to the amp via a 20 amp IEC plug at the end of the romex and it sounded distinctively worse.

I ran this test because if I could sell $2k worth of line conditioners and not have extra little boxes hanging around, and perhaps upgrade my IC's and speaker cables with the money saved, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Assuming I really did the above and the results were as I described, then it seems to me that two of us are wrong and one of us is right.

Now it's entirely possible that I have the noisiest AC this side of the Mississipi River, and perhaps that makes me the exception. And perhaps you and Natalie have some of the cleanest AC making you two the exception. But I wouldn't bank on it.

You said earlier that after you installed your dedicated lines, you pulled your line conditioners and you did not notice any difference.

Great. What brand and model line conditioner(s)?
And what components were in your system at the time you made this change?

There are certainly other questions to be asked to help qualify your statement above. But I would think your answers to the above would at least provide better idea where you are coming from regarding the subject matter of this post than simply stating your qualifications as being an electrician by trade for 20+ years.

Glen: As you know, i'm not an electrician, nor do i play one on TV or Audiogon : )

I guess i should have clarified that each circuit should have its' own hot, neutral and ground to minimize series resistance and negate any possibility of wire saturation. Sharing neutrals would increase cross-talk between circuits and could result in the situation that you described. This would also cut down on the noise isolation characteristics that we are trying to achieve by going to dedicated / isolated lines. I guess that i took for granted that one would know enough to do make sure that this was done, but i guess i took too much for granted. Thank you for bringing this up.

As to your comments about common neutrals and electrical fires, i just read an article about this. It seems that the massive influx of switching power supplies, digital gear, etc... is playing major havoc with house wiring and the power companies nowadays. I am thinking that there will have to be some major changes to the various local and national power and wiring codes in the near future to try and alleviate these and other potential problems. Have you seen / read / experienced any problems with this type of situation ?

Natalie / Glen: I think that your experiences are more the exception than the norm when it comes to dedicated lines and noise reduction. While i do agree that dedicated lines will lower the noise being fed into the system, i still think / have experienced major amounts of noise being pumped in on dedicated lines. If one is in a heavily populated area and / or has any type of industry nearby, there is nothing short of heavy filtering that will remove / negate the noise that is coming down the line. With that in mind, I have to ask: "what makes you think that running separate breakers / lines from the other circuits in your house would remove all of the other outside interference that is already present on the mains" ?

No matter how many lines you have hooked up or parallel paths the noise can take, it will go wherever the current is drawn. If your system is drawing current, i'll bet that there is noise on the line feeding it. That is, unless you are operating from a bank of batteries and a high powered inverter ( i need not mention names here : )

As mentioned in another current AC noise thread here on Agon, one could / should check into just how "quiet" their AC is by using a "Noise Sniffer". I have actually witnessed a name brand "Power Line Conditioner" / "Noise Filter" introduce MORE noise into the system than if a device was plugged directly into the wall. The "Noise Sniffer" can actually help you to track down sources of noise within your own house. It helped me to identify what was "sneaking through" an otherwise "excellent" PLC.

Drubin: My comments are based on the fact that many "isolated grounds" are installed in areas far away from where the ground that is connected to the main breaker box is installed. As such, there is the potential for a vast difference in ground conductivity to exist. In such a case, the difference in conductivity will result in a voltage potential being placed on the chassis of anything that is connected to either ground IF there is a connection made between the two grounds. These voltages can be quite high, resulting in noise being generated, ground loops, hum, etc... Under specific conditions, such a combo could become lethal. THAT is why it is "illegal" in most places to have multiple grounds.

To reduce the potential for such a situation to exist AND keep your dedicated / isolated ground, one should install a ground rod as close as possible to where the mains are grounded. While this may raise series resistance to ground a little bit in terms of the distance that it must travel from your audio system, one can get around this by running a heavier gauge wire. What this accomplishes is that both grounds ( the mains and the dedicated outlets ) share common ground conductivity. This minimizes the difference in ground potential between the two, yet allows you to keep them separate. If a building inspector "wanders by", he would probably throw a fit and tell you that the two grounds need to be tied together, which really isn't a big deal either. Since they would be joined right at the point of Earth entry, cross-talk from the mains and dedicated lines should be shunted anyhow. It is only when circuits share a common ground that is long in length or resistive before being shunted to Earth that noise becomes a problem in most cases.

While i'm on the subject of grounding, i would suggest that once everything is installed and verified to be working properly, i would take steps to waterproof / insulate your ground rod / wire termination. Since this is going to take place at ground level and probably outdoors, it will be exposed to all of the elements i.e. rain, dew, possibly snow, etc... As such, a corroded ground is just as bad as no ground in my book. Just remember that whatever you use to seal up this connection should be easily removable as it might have to be taken off for system maintenance, etc...

Also, you might have gathered that one should install good sized conduit if doing this from scratch. This would allow you to pull as much wire as needed now and leave room to move in terms of "wiring upgrades" or additional circuits in the future. Better and cheaper to do it "right" the first time than to have regrets later.

If i have made any mistakes in this, PLEASE take the time to correct me. As i stated, i'm not an electrician and as we all know, AC can be extremely dangerous. Not only do i want to learn what will work "best", i want it to be done in what is the safest and ( hopefully ) most legal manner possible. Hope this clarifies a few things and helps some of you out. Sean
Great and timely (for me) thread. While the discussion moved past it unnoticed, I just want to question Stehno's point no. 6 about experimenting with floating the grounds for sonic differences. I would not recomend lifting/floating/disconnecting grounds - they are there for a reason. There are no sonic differences at all when you are dead. Thanks to everyone for all the other great info!
Sean's comment about the isolated grounds has scared me (I'm about to have this work done at my house too). I don't want to have to think about this stuff down the line, whether or not it's safe to puta compoent in the system that may be plugged into some other outlet. Better to not go with isolated grounds, then?

Another question: if you are running multiple lines, do you usually run each to a single duplex and leave the jumpers in place, or do you break the jumpers and run a separate line to each individual outlet? Dan.
Hi again, Sean brings up a good point when he said there is a lot of noise being transmitted in the big city areas via the power lines and that some of it is coming through to your system. I happen to live in a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains where everything is fresh and clean including the power.

I honestly don't believe I can get the noise floor any lower except maybe by stuffing a sock in my kids mouths ;^).

I would however like to purchase one of those sniffers. It might help when trouble shooting friends systems.

Drubin, fear not the isolated ground, it's the best way to go in my opinion. Even if you can only isolate back to your service (meter) it will work wonders. Just make sure your receptacles are I.G. rated.

Sean makes another good point on conduit size. Hindsight tells me I should have run 1" to my two systems. I ran 3/4 and now the conduit is getting pretty full. I'd like to add four more circuits since I've added more stuff into my system. I guess I'll make due with what I have for now.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on wire type and size. If anyone ever asked me to run #10 solid to there gear which was less than 200' from the source I'd tell them to stuff it. Unless they were paying cash of course :^)

Did I mention how long I've been doing this? 20+ years!!!
I put wire in pvc or emt so that I can pull future wire if I want to revise later on. I use big J boxes or LB at the bends instead of a bender. I forgo using romex and prefer wire in pipe. It might be a good idea to use a larger than “code minimum” size pipe so that you can pull more circuits later on or replace what is in the pipe easily. I use at least a 1”. If you need to modify later on or add more circuits, this would save some money.

I have a journeyman electrician with a good attitude about my hobby. I recommend you find someone with a good attitude too. That can make all the difference in the world. Not all electricians will hate you because you have the inclination to spend on this hobby. They will not like you if you are an ass.

Most electricians do service work by the hour, instead of by bid, so they really should not mind a little extra wire or grounding in their circuit if they know in advance what the job is about. If you know your electrician, you might be able to get away with just asking him to exceed code and use better products ( wirenuts, panels) etc., otherwise an electrical permit for your locale is in order.

I like the after market line conditioners I have used. I may not need them, but I prefer how any I have used have shaped the sound a little more to my liking. Usually dropping the noise floor and increasing detail is what they do for me. This after-market stuff would not work well if the wiring is not in place. Good luck!

I put two pairs of rg6 and two pairs of cat 5 near every location I have a stereo. They end near the cable or phone enters your building. I put them in a separate pipe.
Glen / Drubin: I ran into a situation where a gentleman had two separate grounds that were no more than about 10 feet apart from each other. The way that things were set up electrically, he had items from both grounds tied into the same system. He had mentioned to me that he was getting "whacked" when touching specific items within the system. I stopped by and took a look at what was going on. I was able to measure 40 volts on the chassis of some of his components due to the ground situation.

Once we tied the two ground rods together, the voltage dropped down to zero as we had minimized the differences in potential between the two grounds. The reason why he was only getting "whacked" on specific components had to do with how they were wired internally or the fact that he had a couple of pieces that were not oriented in the outlet for the proper AC polarity. Once we had gotten all of this straightened out, his components were no longer "hot" and the noise floor had dropped quite a bit.

I have run into other situations that were of similar nature, so i know this to be a somewhat "normal" situation. That is why i suggested keeping the ground rods as close together as is possible. So long as they are within a foot or so, i don't see a problem developing. If it does, one can simply strap the two together and be done with it. Sean

There seems to be some confusion on isolated ground circuits. I am not implying you should add a second ground rod to obtain an I.G. circuit. Just tie your isolated ground to the ground bar at the meter if possible or to the ground rod itself. Rarly do I add a second ground rod and 99 times out of 100 I bond the two rods together when I do.
Glen: a TRUE "isolated" ground is just that, "isolated" from all other grounds. Having a ground path that runs directly back to the earth ground from the audio circuitry without tying into any other circuits would be called a "dedicated" ground. Obviously, this wording could still get us into trouble and keep us confused. While all of this boils down to a matter of wording and semantics, i think that we are standing on the same basic "ground" and have "common" thoughts about the subject : ) Sean
I agree Sean but let's not get to carried away. We still need to tie them together at ground level or under the earth. We wouldn't want to go outside the N.E.C. requirments just to make are music sound a little better, Or would we?