How and Why to Add Electricity to Your Metal Building

Jun 15, 2018 | Metal Buildings

Metal buildings and steel sheds are extremely versatile. People use them for everything from carports and garages to outdoor workshops or private offices. Some people even live in them! But for many metal building owners, these buildings aren’t complete without the addition of electrical power. Whether they want light, heat, or power for appliances, adding electricity can make a big difference. 

Why to Add Power to Your Metal Building

If you’re considering adding electrical lines to your metal building or shed, or if you just want to build a powered metal building, the first question you need to ask is, “What am I using it for?” Your answer will help you determine the best way to power your building.

For instance, if you only want to power a few lights or a utility outlet, you’ll most likely be fine with a simple, direct wiring job from your house’s main electrical panel. However, if you’re setting up a full workshop with multiple heavy-duty tools, you will probably need a higher-capacity solution.

In either case, adding electrical power to a metal building doesn’t have to be a complex job. Depending on the complexity of the wiring, you should be able to finish the work in a day or two.

How to Add Electricity to A Steel Building

Running electrical cables and getting power to a metal outbuilding might seem like a complex job, but it’s actually surprisingly simple. Of course if you’re not experienced with do-it-yourself work or aren’t comfortable working with electricity, you can always call an electrician and have him do the tough stuff.

Step 1: Plan the Conduit

Before you start running wire, you’ll need to plan out the route that the wiring will take. For most backyard outbuildings, it’s easiest to run the power from the main panel. This will ensure that you’re not pulling too much power from another circuit in the house. If your main panel isn’t easily accessed from your shed’s location, it’s also possible to run your wiring off an existing junction box or circuit. Just make sure you’re not adding too much load to an existing circuit in your home. If you’re planning to run power off your main panel, you’ll need an electrician to make the final connection.

When planning the route your wiring will take, you need to keep angles in mind. The National Electric Council states that wiring is not allowed to “bend” more than 360 degrees when you’re running it through electrical pipe. Since you probably already have two 90 degree bends planned – one running down from your house to the ground, and one running up from the ground to your metal building  – you’re limited to 180 degrees of bend, or two 90-degree turns.

Once you have your conduit planned out, you’ll need to get wire. For most outdoor wiring, it’s easiest to run standard electrical wire through rigid metal conduit, which resembles thin metal pipe. Rigid metal conduit, or RMC, only needs to be buried to a depth of six inches underground. Other types of underground wiring, such as electrical feeder cable, need to be buried 12 inches down. With Oklahoma’s rocky, clay-filled soil, you’ll save a lot of time and effort if you have to dig less.

Measure out the total length of the circuit, including the vertical length from your connections to your house and your metal building. Remember to add six inches on each end for the underground depth. It’s also a good idea to buy some extra wire and RMC, just in case.

Step 2: Dig the Trench

This is a relatively simple step. You need to dig a trench following your planned conduit route. The trench should be deep enough that the top of the RMC pipe is at least 6 inches underground. This is easiest to do with a pick or a mattock, since their long, thin blades easily pull up dirt for a trench without it being too wide. You might also want to remove some grass or sod beforehand to lay over the filled trench when you’re done.

Step 3: Lay the Conduit

Once you’ve dug the trench, you’ll need to bend the conduit at the proper locations and lay it out. It’s easiest to do this if you assemble the lengths of RMC first, and then mark the locations where the bends will be. You’ll need a pipe bender to make the 90 degree bends you need – most hardware stores allow you to rent them if you’re not interested in buying one.

After your conduit is laid out, you need to connect it to your house and to your metal shed. It’s easiest to do this with connectors called LBs. These connectors have access panels on the back that allow you to pull wire through easily. Plan the locations of your connections to the house and the metal building and mount them on the wall. You’ll need a long drill to make holes into the shed to complete the circuit.

Step 4: Fasten the Pipe and Pull the Wires

Now that your conduit is planned and laid out, you’ll need to fasten everything together and run the wire. Use pipe wrenches to fasten all the RMC together, and use a compression fitting to attach the RMC to the LB at your metal building.

Now you have to run the wire, one of the trickiest parts of the job. Electricians use a tool called fish tape to do this task. You’ll need to carefully push the fish tape along the length of your completed conduit, and then attach it to a guide string at the other end. This part of the job is best done with two people, one at each end of the circuit.

Remember that you should never pull wire directly with the fish tape. Instead, pull a guide string through the conduit first, and then use the string to pull the wires. You’ll need at least two wires, one white and one black, to complete the circuit. If you’re doing a bigger job with a three-way switch or multiple circuits, you’ll need more wires. Pull the wire carefully through the conduit and into the LB, then feed it through the wall.

That’s it! You now have wiring leading directly to your metal building. From here, you can wire up lighting, outlets, or other electrical devices. Remember to attach a power disconnect switch to the circuit where it enters the shed, and then run your power how you like through the interior.

To learn more about metal buildings and their many uses, you can call us today at Bargain Barns USA. We’re one of the country’s leading providers of metal buildings, sheds, and carports, and we’d love to help you with your metal building project. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for more news and ideas!

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