When you want to become a music producer, your first thing home studio thoughts are usually music equipment!
You starting thinking about:
- What’s the best audio interface?
- What speakers should you buy for making beats?
- What’s the best MIDI Keyboard?
Well.. let me slow you down!
Because before any music equipment.. it all starts with power.
I was an electrician for almost 10 years in Canada, so hopefully these electricity tips for the home studio help 🙂
P.S. You can also learn to become an electrician here!
How Much Power Does a Home Studio Need?
When we talk about power for home studios, we’re really talking about bedroom studios, which are often only 15 Amps.
Is 15 Amps enough for a home studio?
Yes, definitely.. for the average home studio user!
But I will be talking specifically for beatmakers wanting to build a home studio and power requirements..
The first thing to understand is how electricity works in a typical home with electrical codes, and electrical equipment.
That word “typical” is very often used in construction because most homes are “typical”, whereas “custom homes” are unique, and vary from “typical” installations.
It’s All About Protecting the Wire (Circuit Breakers)
Wires ALWAYS need some form of protection so wires don’t get too hot. If a wire gets too hot, it will literally start glowing and eventually cause a house fire!
Protection simply measures how hot a wire gets, and stops the circuit from being live anymore, which prevents the wire from getting too hot so it can cool down!
MANY years ago, fuses were used in homes to protect wires.
But today, most homes use circuit breakers to protect wires.
When it comes to a home studio, you have these 4 components:
- The actual equipment itself (your computer, or pre-amp, or whatever draws power)
- The plug where you plug the equipment into (this has an amp rating!)
- The wire size (which determines how many amps are allowed to run on that wire)
- The overcurrent protection for that wire (circuit breaker or fuse)
You may hear people talk about how many watts a circuit can handle, but it’s important to know that the electrical code book looks at Amps when talking about wire size, and how much ampacity you’re allowed to use, so let’s start there.
A typical music studio doesn’t require too much power..
And because we’re mostly working in bedroom music studios, understand that a typical circuit in a home is 15 Amps.
But.. just because a circuit breaker shows 15 Amps, doesn’t mean you get 15 Amps!
You see, most circuit breakers are 80% rated.
This means 15 Amps multiplied by .8, and we’re left with 12 Amps!
So a typical home studio actually only has 12 Amps to work with, if on a 15 Amp Breaker, which most bedrooms are wired for!
Let’s say your one speaker is 1 Amp.
Well.. you’ll have two speakers, so that’s 2 Amps!
And.. your computer is 1 Amp (that’s 3 Amps now!)
And your computer screen is 1 Amp (that’s 4 Amps now!)
So.. 12 Amps – 4 Amps leaves us with 8 Amps left to use!
Now each piece of equipment in the real world may use more or less amps, like 2-3 amps.. or maybe only 0.5 Amps. (Check your equipment for how many amps it consumes!).
For most people, we never think about power this way, because we’re not electricians!
We just want to make beats!
So a pro-tip if you’re constructing a home music studio.. use 20 Amp Breakers, which means you’re allowed 16 Amps. (Remember, breakers are 80% rated.. so 20 * .8 = 16 Amps).
Now, understand more amps doesn’t mean better quality power.. it just means you’re able to load more equipment on the circuit without the circuit breaker tripping, and stopping the circuit.
If you’re having electrical problems like ground loops or noise.. more amps won’t fix that for you, you will need to look into a Pure Sine Generator (more expensive Uninterrupted Power Supplies have this), or things like isolated transformers can fix this.
What are Amps in the Home Studio?
Amps are how much load a wire can take.
It’s all about protecting the wire in the electrical world, and we’re only allowed to amps based off wire size.
(The full name of Amps is Ampere, named after André-Marie Ampère, which is sometimes called current instead of Amps.. in math equations, it can be seen as A or I).
The electrical code book looks at Amps to determine what wire size is needed for your circuit.
So it’s important to figure out what you need for power in your home studio by making a list of what equipment will be plugged into the wall and consume power.
What Wire Size Do I Need to Power My Music Equipment
Here’s a quick breakdown on how wire size works in the electrical code book, which will help you wire-up your home studio.
Wire size is based on AWG (American Wire Gauge).
The smaller the wire size, the bigger the wire is.. it’s a little confusing, but understand smaller is bigger, and you’ll catch on!
Now.. disclaimer, these wire sizes can change in regards to how much ampacity is allowed, but here’s what you’re allowed in a typical home studio installation.
Remember, breakers are 80% Rated, so 15 Amps x 80% is only 12 Amps!
- #14 Wire is Rated for 15 Amps
- #12 Wire is Rated for 20 Amps
Also understand, if you go bigger, like #10, the wire costs more, is harder to work with, takes up more box fill (in the electrical box), and they don’t make a typical 30A plug.
If you need more power, it’d be best to run a separate circuit. In other words, in your home studio, you could run two separate 20 Amp circuits, and that should cover you very well.
Different Plug Types for the Home Studio (15 Amp vs 20 Amp Plug)
Let me show you a picture of a typical 15 Amp plug and a typical 20 Amp plug:
So understand when I talk about wire size and wire protection (circuit breakers), that the electrical device (plug or switch), also must be rated for that ampacity, too.
So if you want to use the 20 Amp breaker, you’ll need:
- 20 Amp Breaker
- #12 Wire [Rated for 20 Amps] – (Yellow Jacket)
- 20 Amp-Rated Plug
Here’s what #12 Wire Yellow-Jacket looks like:
This wire for the home is called NMD90 in the code book.
But you may hear people call it Romex or Loomex.
14/2 is the most common.
In a 14/2 you may see three wires.. but one is a bond wire, which is not counted as a conductor.
A conductor is a current carrying wire.
So in 14/2 you have a hot (black wire) and neutral (white wire).
The hot wire goes on the circuit breaker, while the neutral ties into the neutral bar in the panel.
The bond wire gets installed on the bond bar in the panel, and is used for safety. The bond wire attachs to equipment chassis so it cannot be energized (you get shocked if you touch it!).
If we talk about 12/2, it’s the same thing, except the conductors are #12 in size for more amperage!
This NMD90 type of wire is to be installed in wood stud walls by drilling holes. Also, if you drill a hole too close to the edge of a stud, make sure to use protection plates to protect the wire, as a screw in the wire will cause the circuit to be unusable!!
Wrapping Up: Power in the Home Studio
So I hope this article helps you out if you decide to build your own custom music studio from scratch with your own construction.
Understand that #12 wire gives you more amps to work with, and actually doesn’t cost much more money when you’re installing a home studio in new construction.
But when it comes to power, understand the amount of Amps (current) you’ll be using, and protecting that wire with a proper form of overcurrent protection (circuit breaker).
Since circuit breakers are only 80% rated, you only get 80% of the breaker!
Yes, they make 100% rated breakers, but these are not typical, and will often be special order, and cost more.
For most bedroom studios, we don’t have to worry about overloading our circuit, as 15 Amps is sufficient for a home studio.. but if you’re overloading your home studio circuit, and it’s tripping, here’s how to increase your power.
(You can’t actually increase your power, but here’s some things that will help):
- Only turn on the equipment you need on at that time.
- Look into a 100% rated breaker (contact a local electrical inspector before proceeding)
One last thing to mention is how long your wire run is..
General rule of thumb is if your run is over 100′ (feet), you need to upsize your wire.
So if you’re running #14 over 100′, you’ll want to upsize to #12, even though you’ll be using a 15 Amp plug.
If you’re in these situations, it’s best to contact a professional electrician, as they will guide you on the most recent code rules, as electrical code rules change very often!