When running wire to your shed, the number of issues that can come up is sometimes overwhelming. One of those issues is figuring out what size wire you can run to your shed. With this guide, we will make that a bit easier.
Assuming that your shed is within 20 feet of your house, a 14-gauge wire is acceptable. It will also handle any level of electricity that your shed needs. This gauge is good at surviving one foot beneath the ground and will fit into any conduit.
Below, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to handle underground cabling to a shed. We will also dig into how this number changes depending upon your house’s distance to your shed.
Table of Contents
- How To Run Wire To Your Shed – A Step-by-Step Guide
- Step One: Determine The Amount Of Power You Will Need
- Step Two: Check Local Code Requirements
- Step Three: Select The Size And Amount Of Wire You Need
- Step Four: Add A Subpanel And A Circuit Breaker
- Step Five: Dig A Three Foot Trench In The Ground
- Step Six: Place A Conduit In The Trench
- Step Seven: Thread Your Wire Through The Conduit With Minimal Bends
- Step Eight: Bury The Conduit
- How Much Does It Cost To Wire A Shed For Electricity?
- Are There Regulations For Wiring My Shed?
- Related Questions
How To Run Wire To Your Shed – A Step-by-Step Guide
- Determine the amount of power you will need.
- Check local codes.
- Select the size and amount of wire you need.
- Add a subpanel and circuit breaker.
- Dig a three-foot trench in the ground.
- Place conduit in the trench.
- Thread your wire through the conduit with as few bends as possible.
- Bury the wires.
Be sure to turn off your house’s power before beginning.
Step One: Determine The Amount Of Power You Will Need
First, ask yourself how much power you will need for the project. Typically, most sheds only need 120 volts for the lights inside. However, if you want to install an outlet, you will need 240 volts.
In this case, be sure that any lights you purchase can handle 240 volts. It ensures that you do not need to run multiple lines of electricity to your shed.
Step Two: Check Local Code Requirements
Your next step will be to check on what you need to provide electric wiring to your shed. In many cases, underground wiring to your shed may require a building permit.
Check with your zone enforcement officer for details. You may need to be a certified contractor. It is best to find out before you start digging up the yard.
Step Three: Select The Size And Amount Of Wire You Need
After you determined the voltage, you will want to measure your house and the shed’s distance. If the shed nears 50 feet away, you will have to adhere to distance requirements behind the gauge of wire you choose.
In most cases, you will want to choose between 12 and 14 AWG, or American Wire Gauge. These both assume that you have a shed within 50 feet of your location.
If your shed is more than 50 feet from your space, you will need to reduce the AWG of your cable to account for this. At this point, you will need to calculate the voltage drop. You can do this with the formula below.
What Is The Voltage Drop Formula?
First, understand that voltage drop is a consequence of having an electric cable over a distance. You can calculate it using a voltage drop calculator. Based on guidelines from the National Electrical Code, a voltage drop above three percent is unacceptable.
Step Four: Add A Subpanel And A Circuit Breaker
At this point, you need to be sure that you have enough knowledge of electricity to go forward. A subpanel allows you to control the amount of wiring coming out of a single panel. It is an electrician’s form of sorting.
A circuit breaker will allow you to control when the electricity no longer going to the shed. Just like the one in your house, it will turn off when it gets overloaded.
You will need to be sure that your circuit breaker has enough room to include your shed at the bare minimum. If it does not, you will need to install a new one.
Step Five: Dig A Three Foot Trench In The Ground
Here comes the hard part.
For wires which do not have a rigid metal covering, you will need to dig a trench that is three feet deep. This number is the minimum amount required by most city ordinances, so you will want to check this number with your ordinance officer before beginning.
Typically, the NEC requires you to have three feet of depth for any conduit. With cooperation with local city groups, you can feasibly reduce this number to one-foot deep.
Be sure to mention whether or not you plan on burying this under concrete. That tends to reduce the depth at which you plant, but might complicate the process if something malfunctions.
What If I Have A Rigid Metal Covering?
If you have a metal covering, you can further reduce this number to six inches. Again, check these numbers out with local city requirements before assuming.
Step Six: Place A Conduit In The Trench
After your trench, you will want to pick a PVC pipe as a standard conduit. A conduit is simply a carrier of the wire between points. If the wire was bare, it could cause a potential electrical and fire hazard. Insects will also eat through your wire.
You will also want to be sure that the conduit does not go too deep inside your vault or building. Three inches is the typical minimum in this case.
Step Seven: Thread Your Wire Through The Conduit With Minimal Bends
You will also want to be sure that the conduit has as few bends as possible. NEC guidelines do not allow more than two 90 degree turns. Going beyond these requirements will cause your cable to become a fire hazard.
If you need to force your PVC pipes to bend, you can heat them with a propane torch and turn them slowly. Again, do this as little as possible to avoid excessive bends.
Step Eight: Bury The Conduit
Assuming you have already connected your wires, you can begin the process of burying them. Be sure that everything is secured and connected before starting this process.
Some diggers place sand between the PVC and the dirt for further stability and protection. As it gets wet, sand will pack your PVC pipes down.
Over the sand, be sure to label the location with some tape or tiny flag. If you sell the house, the next digger will likely want to know where your wires are going.
How Much Does It Cost To Wire A Shed For Electricity?
If you decide to do this project yourself, the answer depends heavily on the materials you use. Larger gauge wires tend to be more expensive, but PVC pipes are typically pretty inexpensive. With this in mind, do not expect to spend more than $200 on this DIY project.
If you decide to hire a professional electrician, expect to add a couple of hundred dollars to your project. You can pay as much as $500 depending upon the length between your house and the shed.
If you wish to include more complicated projects which include larger electronics, expect that number to increase to nearly $1000.
Are There Regulations For Wiring My Shed?
If you want to wire your shed, you will likely need a building permit. Contact your local zoning office for further information.
If you live in rural out-of-city locations, the zoning locations will depend upon your county. Like South Dakota, Arkansas, and Wyoming, some states do not have regulations in individual counties. Never assume that you know and always follow safe wiring practices.
Do I Need A Sub-Panel In My Shed?
The NEC states that most locations require a single branch to supply a building. That means you should only have a single circuit or sub-panel.
If you prefer to avoid a sub panel, you will have to check with local zoning to ensure they allow this. In most cases, you will need some element of control. In your house or shed to ensure that things stay safe.
Without a sub panel, it can be not easy to differentiate what goes to where. Also, additional panels will give you an allowance for expansion for the future. If you turn your small shed into a small den, you will thank yourself later by giving yourself the budget to add the extra panel.
In some states, these rules do not apply. Regardless of what you do, be sure to follow the best electrical wiring practices.