Notice anything wrong with this picture?
Correct! That wire is completely unprotected! One wrong move with a lawn mover, weed wacker, chainsaw (?!), kids playing with scissors (!!?!), etc and you’re toast, if not the whole neighborhood (again).
Bonus points for noticing an additional hazard – the connection with a wire nut and electrical tape. Although both of those things are helpful and correct, the connection is out in the open and wouldn’t take much more than a kid’s curiosity or a hungry squirrel to peel back enough to expose live wires (and burn down the neighborhood for a third time, poor thing).
This is a perfect example of how NOT to run an electrical wire to your shed.
Now let’s talk about the correct way. It has a few more steps than what was done in the picture, but I think safety is generally worth the extra effort.
First, check with local laws to see if you need an electrical permit and obtain one if necessary.
Next, pick from the options that you have: rigid metal conduit, PVC, or just the wire (UF cable – underground feeder cable, specifically designed for being buried). The UF cable must be buried at least 24 inches deep. PVC must be buried 18 inches or deeper. Rigid metal conduit can be at a depth of 6 inches or deeper. These are the National Electric Code requirements but it is best to double-check these numbers with local laws / codes in case they happen to be more strict in your area.
Plan the path from your house to your shed including where it will connect to each. Code allows 360 degrees of bend in conduit, and since there will be a 90 degree bend upwards for both the house connection and the shed connection, you have 180 degrees left, so don’t try to zigzag this thing all over your yard. Simple is best.
Call 811 to have your underground utilities marked so that you don’t end up hitting a water main or gas line as you dig.
Dig the appropriate trench and put the wire (with or without the conduit, depending on your choice) into the trench.
Even if you choose to bury the wire without the conduit, the upwards segments need to be protected with conduit. Ensure that the wire is protected from the moment it leaves its required depth until it is safely connected to your structure. Then your kids can run with scissors all they want and you don’t have to worry (about your shed’s electricity).
Fill in the trench and replant your lawn’s new bald spot.
Finally, attach the circuit to the electrical box, but preferably have a pro do this part if you’re uncomfortable with electricity. Do this last so that the rest of the time you are not working with a live wire flailing about.
And you’re done!
To be completely honest, I can’t think of a reason that I will need to use electricity in my shed. It is mainly full of gardening paraphernalia and black widows, so I may just save some effort and remove the electrical altogether. But at least we’ve learned something in the process!
*This post is part of HFTH’s Energy Week 2017! Stay tuned for more energy-related topics!*