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 03-07-2000, 00:00 Post: 13549
Mike



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 Electric Wire Trenching Safety

I am having some 120 volt Landscape Lighting put in on my property. The contractor's crew is installing most of the wire by using straight hand shovel to put the wire in the ground under the sod grass to a max depth of about 5" to 7". He is using outdoor rated wire, and says that I don't need conduit. He has told me that I if I want to pull a building permit the inspector will insist on the wire being buried about 24" and based on the ordinances it may have to go in conduit as well. This will cost me $4 per foot extra, he says the choice is mine. The contractor says that burying the wire 24" is really over kill, and that since the wire is grounded I really have nothing to worry about, in terms of electrocution risk with the shallow install he is doing. He is using one of those plug in the wall light timer control units to turn the lights on from my kitchen. He says that I don't have to worry about shock because the lights will be off during the day when people are in the yard.I know there are a lot of electricity smart people on the board, so please help me understand the risks I am taking before I continue this project






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 03-07-2000, 00:00 Post: 13551
Murf

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Mike, first of all I don't understand why you are not using 12 volts d.c. for your landscape lighting, it is easier, cheaper and MUCH safer. As for the regulations, they exist for a reason, SAFETY, your tractor would probably be a little cheaper if not for the seat-belt and ROPS bar.... As for your 'contractor', if he is ADVISING you to do it this way (let alone even considering doing it) you don't want ANYTHING to do with him. If, God forbid, anyone ever got hurt I doubt your insurance company would be very happy about covering you when you INTENTIONALLY created the hazard. Think twice, do it once... Best of luck.






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 03-07-2000, 00:00 Post: 13552
MichaelSnyder

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Mike,
I have to agree with most of what Murf has posted. Personally I'm more familiar with 12VDC landscape lighting, but know the 120vac animals exist. I would not be a fan of placing 120 VAC wire only a couple of inches below the sod. I aireate our lawn, which penetrates 4"-6". Next, Lets say these lights are on a 10A or 15A breaker. I think it only takes 1/4 or 1/2 Amp across the human heart to be fatal. Add a little moisture, and the soil around the wire just turned into a bathtub with a hairdryer in it... For lack of a better example. Next, Let me present things from a different angle. If your son/daughter/wife died from electrocution, and the next day I asked you if conduit would have been worth the extra money...I'd be willing to bet you would say "It would have been worth every penny". But instead we all are generally guilty of waiting till something happens...because after all..it couldn't happen to me!! How many teen mother examples do we need.
As for the electrician, He's probably a nice local quy who's just trying to save you a few bucks, and has been "lucky" up to this point. Do as you wish, but like Murf said, electrical codes exist for a reason. If the extra money for conduit is a problem, look into 12VDC lighting.






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 03-07-2000, 00:00 Post: 13558
Walt



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Mike, The National Electric Code requires a minimum depth of 24" for type "UF" cable which is what your contractor, (I use this term loosely),is probably using. If you enclose type "THHN" or "THWN" in conduit you can bury at a depth of 18". Before I would allow a 120V circuit to be burried to a depth of 5-6 inches I would dig the trench myself.
If this guy's other work is on a par with the underground cable advise I would have no confidence in anything he does.






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 03-07-2000, 00:00 Post: 13561
JJT



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I agree with everything posted here, esp. Walt's reply. I strongly recommend running the wire in either conduit or simply 1" black plastic, (buried at least 18" deep). If you ever have an electrical issue you don't have to dig a new trench, pull new wire through the conduit with the existing wire). DO NOT DIRECT BURY LESS THAN 24 INCHES and always use conduit. A kid with a shovel can dig a big hole in a hurry!






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 03-08-2000, 00:00 Post: 13569
TomG

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Sound like strong agreement here. Me too. I'll add that 120V outdoors probably should be GFI protected. Most places require GFI for outdoor outlets, but it's a good idea for lighting as well. Murf's 12V suggestion sounds very good.

You do have to watch these contractors. A neighbour back in the city got a cheap estimate for upgrading to 200A. The contractor came out, put in a 200A panel and split several existing branch circuits. The inspector showed up and said 'You can't put a 200A panel on 100A service line.' The contractor said 'That wasn't part of the job.' The inspector said 'shut it down.'

The inspector relented and allowed 100A mains to be put in. The neighbour spent the next few months trying to get the contractor to install 200A service entrance, meter base and line.

Much much aggrevation. Agree with Murf. A contractor that doesn't know what they're doing or is willing to cut corners can get a person into a lot of difficulty. Basically, homeowners are responsible for the condition of their property. If a contractor does sub-standard work, the homeowner may have to straighten it out at their own expense. The only recourse may be to sue the contractor.






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 03-08-2000, 00:00 Post: 13570
Jon Eich



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Your main problem with burrying so shallow will be destroying the cable inadvertantly. So from this point of view, the conduit and extra trench depth makes a lot of sense. You don't want to have to dig up your yard again if you can help it. Electrocution will not really be a factor. If, for example, you decide to dig a hole for a tree on the very same spot you have your wire burried, you'll end up grounding the wire and blowing the breaker. The only thing you'll notice is that the lights no longer work and you'll have to dig another trench and lay new wire again. Do yourself a favor and rent a trencher and dig it 24" and lay down drain tile for conduit. Overkill? Yes! but a job well done.






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 03-08-2000, 00:00 Post: 13581
Larry in MI.



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I strongly disagree with Jon's post. Electrocution is a factor and is likely to happen if you cut into a buried 120 vac line. If you are lucky and are using an insulated tool when you cut into the wire you will probably not experience any harm. If you are unlucky and connect with the hot (non-earth ground) side of the line you may look like the path of least resistance to the current.... e.g. you die. Bury the wire at least 24".






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 03-08-2000, 00:00 Post: 13585
Mike



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Get rid of that contractor! Here in Montana, where I am an electrician we are required to be licensed. Many states don't and I'm not sure what state you are in, but if your state does require a license make sure your contractor has one. Your 120v lighting installation IS governed by the National Electrical Code. If you don't use rigid nonmetallic (PVC)conduit or galvanized rigid conduit, at least use UF wire burried 24". A licensed electrical contractor who has studied the NEC would not think of doing what you have described. Like the other guys have mentioned you will be ultimately responsible for your own safety. Also, make sure the timer is rated for switching the amperage load you will have on it, and make sure you will not be exceeding the ampacity of the branch circuit you will plug the timer into. A safe and efficient electrical installation is not rocket science, but is quite more involved than stringing a few wires and plugging in a cord. It takes 2000 hours of school and 8000 hours of on-the-job training, and passage a comprehensive exam to be licensed in most states.






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 03-09-2000, 00:00 Post: 13588
droz



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Electrocution is always a potential factor but remember that the current will try to flow to earth ground first (which is where all your grounds go anyway), rather than trying to go through the much higher resistance of your body. This is not to minimize the risk of course but to clarify it. I have an electrical engineering degree.






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Discussion Boards > Active Subjects > Messages as Posted > Trenchers Forum

Thread 13549 Filter by Poster:
Billy 1 | Bruce Pirger 1 | droz 1 | gerard 2 | Jim White 1 | JJT 1 | Jon Eich 1 | Larry in MI. 1 | MichaelSnyder 2 | Mike 2 | Murf 3 | Paul 1 | RCA_TX 1 | TomG 7 | Walt 1 |




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