Cooling Things Down

After recovering from the spark show in the electrical panel over a few beers and a half season of Dexter, Dad and I got to work the next morning on running the wire for the A/C.

I really didn’t want more conduit on the outside of the house than was necessary, so rather than just running wire out the hole in the back of the panel that was used for the hot tub, I decided to run the wire up through the wall, into the attic, and down the exterior wall.

I now know why conduit is the more popular method.

Thankfully, there was a spare wire leading into a blank 20 amp breaker in the main panel that we’d identified when replacing it in ’09. It had originally been labeled for the old baseboard heaters that were original to the house (irony?). But when the original furnace went in around ‘92/’94, those heaters were removed and the wires coiled up in the wall.

So while I was in the attic, Dad wiggled the wire in the panel so I could tell which one it was. Bingo.

We cut the smallest hole in the wall at the top of the panel to remove the wire clamp.

With the clamp loosened, we attached a rope to use as the snake.rope firmly attached, I removed the staples in the attic and pulled the rope through the hole into the attic.

And then the opposite – attached the new wire to the rope in the attic, hollered down, and dad pulled it back into the panel.

At this point, we cut a hole in the exterior wall that perfectly fit the wire clamp for the fused disconnect box – this is where we’d pull the wire through. I then went back into the attic, stretched it across the rafters to the area we needed to run it down the wall, and stapled it into place.

Now just to run the wire – measuring over from the soffit vent the same distance I’d drilled the hole in the exterior, I drilled a hole (or 10) in the top plate, and began feeding the wire down the wall.

Problem. I kept hitting junction boxes, insulation, etc. in the wall. So we’d pull it back up, thread it again.

About an hour later, I could finally see the wire through the hole. Reached inside with pliers, pulled it through the hole, and we were ready to install the disconnect.

After pulling all of the slack out of the attic, we screwed the disconnect box onto the siding and cut the wire to length.

With that, we attached the wire to the hot, neutral and ground ports in the disconnect. Since our panel is wired for 4-strand wire, we took up the ground port for the wire that would run to the A/C, so I installed a ground bar extension, which added an additional port.

I then attached the “whip” that is a water-tight piece of conduit that houses the wire that runs from the shut-off box to the A/C. Once it was tightened onto the box, I attached the wiring to the disconnect.


Until the A/C could be installed, at least.

So the next day, the guys came out and installed the furnace and the A/C, and then I just had a few finishing touches – connecting the “whip” from the disconnect box to the A/C.

I took off the side access panel.

Stripped the wires, matched the ground, hot and neutral to their respective wires, and using wire nuts sized for 2-10 gauge wires, crimped everything together. I left the service panel off, so the inspector could see my handy work, which he approved, and then we were truly finished.

So, was it worth it?

We got $400 off of the furnace and A/C install for doing the electrical ourselves. I paid $150 for supplies (solid copper wire is spendy) and spent one full day doing the work. I also paid $68 for an electrical permit so the work would be considered legit if we ever try to sell the house.

So, we really ended up saving just a little under $200 bucks, BUT… BUT… I don’t have conduit running on the outside of my house (which is how the installers would have done it) and I got to locate everything exactly where I wanted it, which I consider a win.

I did almost electrocute myself, but I’m not including that in the cost/benefit analysis.

And, my negotiating with the installer got us a higher efficiency (both EnergyStar certified and Tax Credit eligible) air conditioner, for the price of the lower efficiency one, plus $500 off of the bottom line. All in all, a savings of about $2500 for the equipment we got.

(Notice I straightened out the exterior GFCI outlet… couldn’t take the crookedness).

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