Studio Electricity & Lighting

by Sarah Ann Smith

A question on the quiltart list prompted me to write the following, based on my experience building a house with a small studio in it. The question posed was how many irons can be used on a given electrical circuit?

Your electrician can tell you how many irons on a circuit if you tell him the amps/power of the will depend on what that particular circuit is rated and how much power the iron draws.

As for how many circuits.... in a dream world where price is no object (and if you have enough spots on your circuit breaker box) I'd want one for the heat source (iron), one for the sewing machine, and a third for the computer station. If these three work zones/circuits are spread around the room, when you have classes you could unplug the computer to protect against blown circuits, then distribute the irons around the room. Basically, anything that creates heat (iron, hair dryer, hot water kettle, toaster, heat gun, space heater) sucks energy like you wouldn't believe. Best not to have more than one major heat-sucker-upper in use on any given circuit. And spend the bucks to get surge protecting power strips. I am pretty sure that my sewing room took a hit this summer, because the surge protectors all tripped. Fortunately, my equipment is all OK.

Another option, which is what we did in the kitchen in Friday Harbor... every other outlet (one every four feet required by code in kitchens) was on the other circuit...there were two basic circuits, plus a separate "dedicated" one for the microwave. That way we could run the coffee pot (for hubby), the electric kettle (for me), AND the toaster all at once, have them all grouped in one corner, and still not blow a circuit.

Lighting: As our builder in FH said, he'd never heard anyone complain of having too much light in the kitchen (as we were dithering over three versus four recessed cans over one portion of counter....we opted for four). To save on electric bills, if you can have overhead lights grouped to be turned off by separate wall switches, then you can have the lights on in one portion of the studio where you are working, and off in the other areas and save on bills. Even the energy-efficient ones still use up electricity! When we moved to Maine, my room had NO lighting. I bought two separate tracks and the add-on stuff to run a cord across the ceiling and down the wall to the outlet as the room is all wood (ceiling, walls) and there were not lighting boxes in the ceiling. I can turn on just one at a time, which is helpful--especially in summer when the heat they generate can make the difference between can-tolerate-it heat and too-much.

Wall switches: Your electrician can wire things so that anything plugged into the upper outlet turns off when you turn off the switch on the wall, the lower outlet stays powered. If you have a DVD player or something with an electric clock, you'd plug that into the lower outlet so the power would keep things working. You can plug a power strip into the upper outlet, and use that for a lamp and your iron. This way you have a visual cue that the power to your iron is still on. When I leave the studio, I flip the switch, light goes off, and so does the iron. Mo' bettah!

Location of outlets: Frequent--like every 3-4 feet! They are never where you need them! Think about having them up at counter height instead of the usual low-on-the-wall. If you will have work stations near or up against the walls, this might come in handy. Another option is having one or two outlet boxes HIGH or overhead (tho with 10 foot ceilings this may not does with regular ceilings).

One of the best ironing stations I ever saw was at a longarm quilter's place.... she had the ironing station in the hallway...a 2 foot deep table about 9 feet long....set several inches away from the wall. Up where the wall met the ceiling was a length of pipe (attached to the ceiling at either end) with a large metal ring on it. She had a LONG extension cord that looped up through the ring, then plugged the iron in to that. She could iron a king-sized quilt top from side to side, have a portion drape down the back and not get wrinkled, and the cord from the iron didn't drag over the surface---the ring just slid along the pipe and held the cord up out of the way (so easy to sketch, so wordy to explain!).

Finally, if you will be having an island in the center of the room, perhaps an outlet embedded in the floor so you don't have to string an extension cord from the nearest wall receptacle.

Basically, put in more power and outlets and light than you think you'll need.... it is FAR easier and less expensive to put in extra circuits and boxes when the walls are open and wiring going in than ripping OPEN the walls later, or having to run conduit pipes on the room-side of the walls, or taping down / tripping on extension cords.