UPB Controlled Outlets


Active Member
I am building a house and will have a workshop setup that will have a bunch of power tools. I would really like to prevent my kids from using them (I'm lucky I have all of my fingers....). My thought is that I will setup a keypad for the alarm system (or perhaps just one of those garage door opener keypads) and have that control a 12A UPB Inline Relay Fixture Module to the outlets in the shop.

I've ruled out the UPB recepticals as the one is powered and the other is UPB controlled and I'd need several around the shop.

The only problem with this idea is that a kid could go and turn on all of the tools while the power was cut off...

Do you really want your outlets limited to just 12 amps for a work shop?

Since you are in the buiding/planning stages of the house, why not place an auxillary electrical box next to the shop's breaker box (only a lot smaller). Then mount relays or contactors off of the shops breakers and have those switched lines feeding your shop's outlets.

Then you can just switch off the feed(s) to the shop. There are all types of units that can do this. I did a quick search and found THIS double pole relay (can switch two breaker loads) that can be turned on/off via a 120 coil (contol line). Therefore you could just wire in an in-line UPB module to the "coil" of that relay for control of it.

You could also just use a remote and eliminate UPB all together. This isn't a good example for the relay I mentioned above but there are remote controlled devices that you could use to switch the coil of a contactor/relay. This shows a remotely controlled 12 volt source so you couldn't use it with the 120 volt coil relay above, but its just an example of what I was thinking.

This way you would be the only one with the remote.

Just some thoughts...


Thanks for that idea. I'm not sure about the junction box but help me decide on these options:

1) 2 UPB inline appliance modules switching power for two circuits in the shop. While
I do have power tools I would never expect two of them to be running at the same
time with the exception of the compressor.

2) Junction box w/2circuits + relay. I could not find a relay that is switched with 12 or
24 V. Is there a site that would allow me to parametrically search for relays? I
could use my HVPro for the actuating the relay.

It seems like option 1 is cheaper as it just splices in some inline UPB devices, while option 2 requires a junction box as well as the space for the box itself.

Well, I do know there are electrical relays and contactors with 24 volt coils for switching 120 VAC, 20 amp loads (industry standard). Maybe our electrical contractor friends can point us to a vendor.

As far as UPB in-line modules, I don't know a lot about them (you did mention that they had a 12 amp rating), but if they are going to be spliced "in-line" to an outlet and that outlet is supplied by a 20 amp breaker, I don't think this would be a good idea. Reason being is that outlet has the "ability" to draw the full 20 amps from the breaker.

This is the same reasoning that you wouldn't want to place a 15 amp rated receptacle on a 20 amp breaker circuit.

As far as the spacing I would thing you would have plenty of room beside your breaker box.
To add another element of complexity, I'd also recommend adding some 240V circuits to your shop wiring needs. As soon as you don't do it you'll wish you had. I recently added 3 additional 240V circuits to my "shop" (garage) for heater, dust collector, saw. You never know which way your workshop activities will take you. I never thought I'd need a 3 HP tablesaw, but there ya go.

Of course do this and you're pretty much negating any UPB controlled switching, though I suppose you could have a UPB switch on each phase of a 240V circuit. Still, a sub panel with a big switch and a key lock sound alot simpler.
And a lot safer. I don't think I'd be willing to have anything in my shop that could be powered up or down remotely. Just imagine being in the middle of something with the a table saw and the lights go off or your router goes off as you're trimming an edge and then comes back on 2 seconds later. A manually locked subpanel and a lock on the door seem better to me.
Seems to make sense with the manual control and physical locking. The problem I have with that is that I really want it to be fail safe. I can see very easily forgetting to turn it off. Perhaps there is an easy way to sense that the power is on and have that connect to a zone in my alarm panel. Then trying to arm the alarm will give a zone warning.

Does that sound reasonable? Can it be sensed easily?

If you want a "fail-safe" mode, use a contactor instead of a relay and have its 24 volts dc control via a hardwire pushbutton that is installed near the door of your shop.

If you get a multiple pole contactor you could also have the unused pole connected to a light or other indicator giving you feedback of the contactor's position.

A contactor will not require a constant "voltage" on its coil (just requires a pulse) therefore eliminating some of the above concerns. Plus the "hardwire" vs. remote control also will provide additional security. You can even use a key switch vs. a pushbutton so you can remove the key when you leave the shop.

I'll try to get some examples of this type of hardware later this week.
The cost for automating enough power for a couple of workbench outlets is fairly high when you consider the components and wiring time (and I don't recommend that you do this yourself for safety and electrical code reasons). It is fairly easy to make a simple control circuit for a contactor, but it is also very easy to get it wrong. There are even a specific set of wiring and labeling requirements developed by NEMA for control ciruits.

Why not put your work area lighting on the same sub panel with the shop circuits, leaving only a 60 wat bulb on the ceiling on the regular panel. Don't install them on a light switch, but rather directly off of a lighting circuit breaker. They will come on when you energize the panel. That way, if the bench lights are on, the panel is on, yet you still have general illumination in the shop to walk in and out.

Crcuit breaker lock out tabs are also available to enable you to lock out individual breakers as well. They can only be removed by taking the panel cover off. You could lock out just the receptacle circuits or the 240 volt sub panel breaker.
Well, I'm certainly not going to defend an "industry" standard switching methodology, but I'm curious to setting up a system that requires you "switch" the circuit breakers on a routine basis. I'm no expert in code, but aren’t there restrictions on using circuit breakers as "switches"? The reason I ask is it seems like he will need to switch the circuitry on a fairly routine basis that goes beyond the "lockout/tagout" maintenance scenario.

Your also correct in the fact that an industry standard may stray to far away from your typical "home" electrician who may be wiring the house. You wouldn't think so as it's really not that complicated, but then again... :)

BTW, thanks again for the information as it’s good to hear from the people out in the field (who actually do installations/wiring in home/residence environments). :)
The only restriction that I am aware of regarding circuit breakers used as switches is that they must have the rating of "SWD" (switching device) for flourescent lighting or "HID" for high intensity discharge lighting loads. These rateings indicate that the breaker has been put through more rigourous testing as a switching device.

I have no problem "defending" electrical standards. The National Electrical Code is written by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) to protect lives and prevent fires.

IMHO, and not to put to fine a point on it, but I have had to fix far too many electrical installations done by DIY'ers. I am all for saving money and I am toatally content to have people do unlimited amounts of low voltage wiring for audio, video, computers etc, but I have seen far too many dangerous hookups done by otherwise well intentioned and well meaning people. There is not a lot of room for "work arounds' in electricity.

As long as a person is willing to spend a little time at the library with some books on residential electical wiring, most anyone is capable of doing the job the right way. In addition to learning as much as I can from sites like this one, I also hope to offer a little guidance from my own area of expertice where I see potential hazards.
They are calling it a relay - "Fixture Relay Module, 1 Channel, 20 A"

In addition, they will also be coming out with 2 channel dimming in line modules that will handle 400W per channel. Sounds to me like a really good ceiling fan solution....
Is there a 20A UPB receptacle?

My coffee machine seems to draw more than its specified 15 amps and my UPB receptacle has failed. As well, there was an unusual failure of the transformer in the machine. The coffee repair tech didn't really know, but said it might be related.
Anyone know more about this than me?