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Power Distribution etc.

  1. Mar 16, 2014 #1
    Greetings all,

    This is my first post, and I preface by saying I attempted to search for a solution before posting. Accept my apologies if this topic has been covered in some way; I'll gladly move/repost.

    Anyhow, here is the situation: I am a teacher and my students are aged 9 - 12 (Mixed grade level class). We have a class pet, a chameleon. Being that chameleons are relatively exotic they have fairly demanding needs for a stable habitat. They require appropriate lighting for heat regulation and color/wavelength for proper metabolism. This particular species (Chameleo Clyptratus) also requires finite humidity regulation (between 70% and 80%). Consequently the process of plugging in all of the lamps, pumps and humidifiers makes me nervous, both with consideration to load and the presence of water.

    Now, I run four lights, an ultrasonic water atomizer (for humidity) and a water pump (to pump water from a larger reservoir to the humidifier.) All of these are plugged into various surge protected power strips with automatic timers to regulate the bunch.

    I've calculated the draw and I'm at 6.7 amperes for the circuit, so I feel like the amount of stuff I've got running is relatively safe. I would however, like to have things be both neater and safer.

    The problem:

    What I would like to do is set up a power regulation/distribution panel the provide as much protection against shorting, fires and shock as possible. I am, however, not exactly sure how to do it. What follows is the general idea I've concocted so far.

    I want to run the whole setup from one (or two) grounded plugs into the wall. The plug(s) go through one (or more) AFCIs to a distribution board which then power four GFCI outlets (8 total plugs). After adapting the cord length for each various component, I would then be able to plug in and run all of the components from the GFCI plugs.

    The whole setup would be built onto a board that hangs behind the chameleon's enclosure. My goals are to:

    1. Keep things as safe as possible
    2. Eliminate as much excess wiring as possible
    3. Have a single location for power distribution and regulation
    4. Keep the set-up such that I can easily disconnect and reconnect components
    5. Power the entire habitat from a single cord and outlet

    Bonus 6* wire everything up in a way that I can regulate the lamps, pump and humidifier through a program, likely run with my Raspberry Pi.

    My Questions:

    1. Is this reasonable?
    2. Does my design concept reflect what I want?
    3. What components would I need to build such a monstrosity? (The GFCIs seem easy enough, but I'm concerned about the 'distribution' point and how to hook up an AFCI to the whole kit.)
    4. Tips and tricks on the "how" to go about wiring everything up

    All that said, as I'm sure you have gathered, I have an elementary understanding of this stuff at best. I've made simple projects in my time, I can use a multi-meter, I know how to solder, and I can crunch the math for volts, watts and amps.

    Thank you kindly for taking the time to read, and I look forward to your responses!


    p.s. Please feel free to correct my nomenclature and usage.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2014 #2


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    These are two good reasons that you should NOT attempt this build. I would consult a local electrician who knows the "codes" for keeping you and the kids safe.
  4. Mar 16, 2014 #3

    I appreciate the criticism. You do bring up valid points.

    I do wish to continue this discussion, however, being that one of the mission goals of this site is to... "learn and discuss." I see room for improvement in my personal understanding, and the opportunity for a interesting public conversation.

    If nothing else, I would appreciate a chances to discuss my ideas with knowledgable experts. Any input is still greatly appreciated.
  5. Mar 16, 2014 #4


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  6. Mar 16, 2014 #5


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  7. Mar 16, 2014 #6
    The EcoZone controller is basically what I'm trying to mimic, with the goal being to stay under the $400 price point.

    That is quite similar to what I had in mind. Nice find!

    UPDATE: Just read the wikipedia article associated with the picture, took note of the UL and NEC violations. Looks like the EcoZone is the way I go!
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
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