How I made a portable electric switchable outlet (PESO)
Once start reading, all must be read.
The benefits of having one of these devices are enormous in terms of tool safety. It is essentially the same as an outlet strip but made out of metal not plastic and it doesn’t have surge protection. For instance you can turn all devices off at once such as dust collector and table saw. In some situations you cannot reach the plug at the wall outlet before havoc has gone too far. Also in the case of electric motor failure of your tool device you do not want to take the time to get electrocuted to turn it off at the machine itself. Commercial outlet strips have a high plastic content prone to failure and work down time. And the switches on these are hard to access and turn on and off. I don’t know if you ever noticed but turning off a table saw requires you to lean or orientate your body more so in the direction of that spinning blade. This read like a when we last left Batman and Robin they were…..episode. As far as whether these are up to code, I feel they are safer because they are more reliable, reduce down time because the more durable parts are stocked at local hardware store. And the switch is a little less ambiguous.
None of these problems come with PESO.
I used the proper screw in box wire clamp for the one with the orange cord. I also added a GCFI outlet protection to the one on the right because I had an extra one; it may not protect against a frayed extension cord to the unit but may provide added protection if you have not gone to the code required GFCI outlets in your garage.
I used matched components and wire to 15 amps but if my breaker was 20 amps I would have bought that switch, outlet and wire. I followed the wiring directions and diagrams of the outlet and switch. And made a picture of how it would all be connected first. This was helpful to me. The outlet I bought with a switch in an outlet position or as the other outlet it is a needed a careful break of the tab that connects the outlet to the incorporated switch before I ran the hot from switch to GFCI outlet to switch outlet. This GFCI was by no means a substitute for GFCI outlets in my building structures. And I do not rely on it as such because the wire to the line from here will always remain a source of concern. Does the one with the GFCI outlet in this position look safer to you? There is still current to the box, if you used this in standing water YOU WOULD STILL GET ELECTROCUTED. However if your power drill or tool overheated and there was a “BURNOUT SHORT” in the tool you would be protected.
I used a deep square box because it sits more balanced and stout and checked the contraption with a GFCI outlet tester before committing to use.
A word about electrical wiring: Wires come in different gauges. Common household gauges are 10 gauge, 12gauge and 14 gauge. Always match grade and size to components and end use or load. The lower number the thicker the gauge and the safer the wire. To thick a gauge is hard to bend and screw onto some terminals without stripping them. But it is better to go thicker. When using wiring terminals “candy cane” your wiring ends so that the end of the wire flows clockwise or the same way you tighten the wire. When I was a boy I watched an electrician in our house and when using wire twist on connecters he would use electrical tape over the connector to wire in the same direction the connector was tightened in. I have found this a good procedure to follow. When you work on a house circuit to replace an outlet always turn off the circuit breaker to the circuit the outlet is on and use an electric current detector to see if current is still present. You may also use the inexpensive connector to determine which of two wires are live. When fixing an extension cord end the white wire goes to the silver screw, the black to the brass colored screw and the green or bare copper wire in outlets to the green colored screw. Always make sure and take special effort that your ground connection is the best connection i.e. won’t loosen up easy or capable of being jarred loose. In terms of GFCI outlets they are now required by code in many parts of your house. Terms relevant to them are line and load. Line is the source of power your i.e. both your circuit panel box, and the line to the electric wire on the telephone pole in your backyard. Load is the where the power is consumed i.e. power drill, your furnace, toaster. When putting in GFCI outlets you only need to put one in a circuit before that wire strings to other outlets. And it will protect all the outlets on the load side or “underneath” it. GFCI’s should always be tested with the $7 dollar tester available at your local hardware store. Outlets in your kitchen maybe 20amp so you may need 20 amp GFCI outlets for these.
I had the utility company come to our house and tighten all connections in the breaker panel and behind the meter. These connections as well as those in lamp fixtures and outlets in your house can become loose over time, which is dangerous. i.e. Because a “thinner” connection means possible overheating and a source of fire. And a lose wire such as neutral or ground can be an unseen source of electrocution, which could happen just by changing a light bulb. The lineman had rubber electricians gloves on that must have been ½” thick, I forget what the volt rating was on them but it was high.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be thought provoking and lead you to a more informed conversation with your electrician. Do not try this for yourself! You probably do not have the competence to do this! I make no warranty to the safety of your work or competence. You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those around you at all times in life. Never exceed your own competence without doing so using scientifically proven safety protocols and methods, which you should have working knowledge of before having an aspiration. An inventor should always expect catastrophic failure and plan to compensate for it; that is the nature of invention.
Copyright 2009 THOMAS PAUL MURPHY