How to Safely Wire Your Backyard Shed on a Tiny Budget
Wiring a backyard shed can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to break the bank! With some planning and elbow grease, I can wire my shed safely and affordably.
Assess the Shed's Electrical Needs
Before getting started, I need to think about how I plan to use the shed and what that means for its electrical needs.
Will it just be for storage or will I use it as a workshop? A workshop will require more lighting and outlets.
What tools and appliances do I plan to use out there? Something like a table saw will need a dedicated circuit.
How much lighting do I need? Task lighting over workbenches and basic overhead illumination are musts.
Will I need heating and cooling? Window AC units or space heaters require an adequate power supply.
Do I need more than one outlet? It's smart to include outlets spaced around the perimeter.
By critically evaluating my intended use, I can size the electrical service appropriately without overdoing it.
Choose the Right Wire Gauge
Selecting the proper wire gauge for the shed is key to safety and performance. The wire gauge refers to the diameter of the wire - a higher gauge number indicates a thinner wire.
For a basic shed circuit, I can use 14 or 12 AWG wire for any runs up to 100 feet. This covers simple lighting and outlet needs.
For a 20 amp circuit with higher power tools or appliances, I should opt for 12 AWG wire.
For a dedicated 240V circuit greater than 20 amps, I need 10 AWG wire to handle the extra voltage safely.
Thicker wire gauges cost more but won't overheat under higher electrical loads.
Use Appropriate Wiring Methods
I have a couple options when running wires from the house to the shed:
Underground feeder wire buried 18-24 inches deep. This provides the most flexibility but requires trenching.
Conduit like PVC allows wires to be run above ground. It provides protection but may not have aesthetic appeal.
Exterior-rated cable can be surface mounted on the exterior and painted to match. Easy to install but less protected.
For wiring inside the shed, I can use standard NM cable stapled to studs or joists and secured in electrical boxes.
Add a Subpanel with Adequate Breakers
The shed needs its own subpanel with a main breaker sized for the total service. For example:
For a 60 amp subpanel, the main breaker should be 60 amps.
Each 120V circuit gets a standard 15 or 20 amp breaker.
240V circuits may need 30 or 40 amp breakers, depending on the loads.
A subpanel with spare breaker spaces allows for future expansion. I should also ground the subpanel and fixtures to the earth.
Include Essential Safety Features
Shed electrical safety is a must:
Use GFCI outlets or breakers to prevent shocks.
Make sure all junction boxes are properly covered.
Caulk exterior boxes and fixtures to prevent moisture ingress.
Post warning signs indicating the location of power shutoffs.
Install lighting rods if the area is prone to lightning strikes.
Following basic codes and best practices will keep my DIY shed wiring project safe for years to come.
Stick to a Realistic Budget
By picking up supplies at big box stores when they go on sale and buying generic electrical boxes and fixtures rather than premium brands, I can outfit a basic 8x10 shed with necessary lighting, outlets and wiring for under $500 in many cases. Here are some sample shed wiring costs to anticipate:
- 50' 12/2 NM-B Cable - $50
- 60 amp main breaker subpanel - $120
- GFCI outlets (x3) - $75
- 75W equivalent LED light bulbs (x4) - $32
- Basic light fixtures (x3) - $105
- 20 amp breakers (x4) - $40
- Misc. electrical boxes, clamps, tools - $100
With smart planning and safe execution, wiring a shed doesn't have to wreck the budget. By accurately estimating my needs, utilizing cost-saving options where possible, and doing the legwork myself, I can get the powered shed I need at a price I can afford.