Will strobe lights blow the fuses in my house?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by justinweiss, Jun 1, 2009.

  1. I told a studio photographer friend that I was thinking about setting up a home studio with strobe lights. He told me to go with battery-powered Speedlight flashes instead. He said real studio strobes need more electrical power than an average home can provide, and I would blow all the fuses in short order (unless I bought some sort of huge capacitor unit that costs at least $10,000 to store up enough of a charge).
    Is this true? I never heard any warnings about using strobes at home until this one guy warned me about it.
     
  2. i dont know about your house but i have used a novatron 800 ws 3 head pack in my house and 3 mobile homes with no trouble as long as you have 15 to 25 amp breakers and good wiring you should have no trouble at all.
     
  3. Complete nonesense!
     
  4. They fire from capacitors built into the power supply and the capacitors are charged slowly over 2 to 5 seconds. They are not fired directly from wall current.
     
  5. A typical house-current circuit can handle 15 amps. Since Watts are calculated by multiplying volts times amps and since house-current is usually around 110 volts, the average circuit can handle 1,650 watts (110 x15 = 1,650). I you are thinking about using three 500watt strobes on one circuit, I would think that would be pushing it .
     
  6. you also need to factor in the power setting of the strobes and considering that most homes are 'small', most half decent strobes are running at 1/4 or 1/8 power or even less. it doesn't take much power from the wall to recharge them.
    I doubt you'll have much if any problem
     
  7. I hope your friend, some day, realizes not only that this is silly, but also that he can give in and buy a toaster without needing industrial service from the utility.

    I use two fairly powerful monolights and a 1250w/s pack on a single 20A circuit, and have never popped the breaker. Also running a decent-sized fan, ambient lights, a laptop... all's well.

    As mentioned above, the odds of you running such strobes all at full power in a typical residential settings are very, very slim... and you can always run a 50' extension cable to another room, serviced by a different circuit breaker. But I'll bet it will never, ever be an issue.
     
  8. LOL with friends like that you don't need enemies ROTFL
    Unless you have several very large monoblocks running off of one fuse in your house you will be fine... when I say large I'm talking about six AB1600's all firing at once with the modeling lamps going...If you can get an arpeture small enough to deal with that much light then I think that you would be in the realm where shooting out of your house is a nonissue anyway.
     
  9. A typical house-current circuit can handle 15 amps. Since Watts are calculated by multiplying volts times amps and since house-current is usually around 110 volts, the average circuit can handle 1,650 watts (110 x15 = 1,650). I you are thinking about using three 500watt strobes on one circuit, I would think that would be pushing it .​
    If you were talking about tungsten lights which were on all the time you would be correct but for a studio strobe/flash which charges up slowly, the continuous power consumption would be much less than this.
     
  10. I used to run a 2400ws Speedotron and a 1200 at the same time. Each required a socket run from a separate fuse. On quick recharge, when the lines were 15 amps I did blow fuses once in a while. I just kept an extra box, waiting for a bit of cooloff before resuming work. When I got the lines changed to 20 amps blown fuses happened very rarely. The more modern strobes do use less power. I never blew a fuse with the most powerful Visatec monolights.
     
  11. As already explained, your friend has this mixed up badly and came to opposite conclusion, saying:
    "and I would blow all the fuses in short order (unless I bought some sort of huge capacitor unit that costs at least $10,000 to store up enough of a charge".
    First, perhaps you cannot add a capacitor to an existing flash,unless the flash is a modular power pack strobe designed for it. If you managed to add a "huge capacitor" you would just increase chances to blow fuses.
    Most modern commercial studio flashes have some minimal way of limitting max surge AC current, to make your home safer, for slow-blow type fuses.
    He knows something saying: " He said real studio strobes need more electrical power than an average home can provide" - yeah, if you discharge 1000 Wattseconds flash in 1/1000 sec. time you will excercise the 1000 x 1000 watts of power, or a megawatt. Your flash may have more power than your home can produce, but that has nothing to do with the household electricity.
     
  12. Your friend is uninformed, bad at math, or has very very bad wiring in his home. The calculation of 1650 watts on a 15 amp circuit is correct. Strobes are measured in Watt/Seconds, however, so a 2400 w/s pack will not be pulling 2400 watts-if it has a 3 second recycle time, it will be pulling 800 watts, max. I run a Speedotron 2400 and 4800 pack on a 20 amp circuit without tripping it, even at full power. If you are running 6 lights with 250 watt modeling lights on one circuit, that may not work very well, but two or three AB1600's on a circuit will be fine.
     
  13. Well, the wiring issues aside, and not to put down the "strobist" philosophy, but battery powered speedlights...
    • Have no modeling light. This makes aiming hair lights, flagging off hot spots on the background, etc. very difficult.
    • Can't even use most off-the-shelf modifiers (softbox, snoot, octabank, strip light, beauty dish).
    • Lack the power to drive heavy light modifiers like large softboxes, octabanks, big umbrellas.
    • Generally can't give you enough light to go to f11 or f16 at ISO 100 or 200 at portrait range even with smaller modifiers.
    Back to the wiring issues. Stately Wisniewski Manor was built in 1929. We have no trouble here with one 1800 WS and four 600W-S White Lightning monolights.
     
  14. I cannot run 3 of my alienbees in the spare bedroom without blowing the breaker. I can however run 4 of them in the kitchen area. It depends on how your house is wired, i.e. what all is on the same circuit.
     
  15. so a 2400 w/s pack will not be pulling 2400 watts-if it has a 3 second recycle time​
    Also, if it has a three second charging time, most of the time it will be sitting there drawing practically no current at all unless you are taking a shot every three seconds.
     
  16. I see various nastinesses like this in this thread:
    ...and a 1250w/s pack...
    ...a 2400 w/s pack...
    ...three 500watt strobes...​
    Come on everyone, get with the maths. Strobe energy is measured in joules, or watt-seconds - that's watts multiplied by seconds, not watts, and definitely not w/s which would be watts divided by seconds (a not very useful measure of rate of change of power usage).
     
  17. A few makers miss-quote the strobes caps or storage energy in w/s instead of ws; thus folks somehow get this error in their brains; and miss-quote then in w/s. I tend to correct about every thread that uses this w/s nonsense too.

    For an electrical engineer like me its is like fingers one the blackboard; or somebody saying the fstop is 1/25 second; or iso is 1/4-20; or they used Dektol to shoot a wedding; or theiri car gets 25 mile gallons.
    I wonder what a person in a job interview about photography thinks when a person uses gibberish.

    Watt-seconds is energy; ie Joules. That is what is in the flash capacitor before it is fired.

    Watts per second; ie Watts/second is the rate of change of power; like spooling up a power plant; or a transient conditon.

    Using W/S when talking about strobes means a listener wonders what other fundamentals the preacher has missed; like all of Physics; science; or electrical.

    It blows the speach; its is like if a history guru said the war of 1812 was 1865; or if a cook said water boils at 32 F; or photographer says Kodachrome is asa/iso 2000.

    Spineless marketing chaps who skipped science and took BS wrote these strobe specs using W/s; folks read this and repeat the gibberish as gospel. Even a homeless chap on the street knows jobs pay X dollars per hour; not dollar-hours. Maybe the ill usage of w/s can be weeded out thru education; and the the proper usage ie watt-seconds can be learned again; your basic 1959 High School MKS stuff; ie slide rule area; space program stuff; ie rocket science.
    Most modern houses use circuit breakers; not fuses. These breakers for a single circuit are typically 20 amp or 15 amp breakers. If one used more than 20 amps on a 20 amp breaker; it trips in a few seconds if it is 25 to 30 amps; it will trip in a fraction of a second with 100 amp load. A window AC that is say 10000 BTUH might draw 10 amps at 120 volts when on; and draw 50 amps for a fraction of a second when it starts up the compressor.

    A "circuit" in a house means what wall plugs, lights; motors, doorbells; ie stuff is on that ONE breaker. A bedroom usually is on one circuit; a better house has it so that a tripped wallplug does NOT also turn off the room lamp.

    There maybe another load already beaing used on a circuit when you hook up your strobe; a wall AC sucking off 10 amps already form a 20 amp or 5 amp circuit. Or you have a hokey layout; your kid sister is using a hairdryer that is 1875 watts; and your neighbor in the apartment next door has tapped into your circuit! :)


    Even a house from 1920 had enough "poop" to run your strobe; it is the breakers and circuit layout that is the issue. An early house might have a just a 120 volt service; and 3 breakers of only 6 or 10 amp each; and a 30 amp entrance. With a modern 20 amp breaker the 1920 house will work; it has a 5 0r 10 Kw transformer. Later houses became 60 amps with 120 volt service; then in 1947 about 240 volts became a requirement. Houses then had 240 volts 60 amp service; then it became a minimum of 240 volt 100 amp service.


    One can plug in 2 or 3 toasters and make a breaker trip. One can use a skillsaw an make a breaker trip; if the circuit already has other loads. I can trip the breaker with my Stihl E20 chainsaw that is 1800 watts; it it is not a dedicated breaker for the task.


    One really for a good application of a bigger load should try to use a circuit that has no or few loads; thus one has the whole breaker to use. In a studio; or pro kitchen one might have many dedicated plugs; one can run many toasters; coffee makers; strobes; hot lamps and not blow breakers.
     
  18. don't take any more photography advice from this friend.
     

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