LAN Party How To - Part 1: Planning and Power

Power - Mega Party

Some events held at large conference halls or convention centers have relatively modest power requirements that can be handled by existing power hookups. But LAN parties require so much power that you will need to arrange for special power distribution. Whenever possible, I recommend you hire a contractor with the proper expertise to install the necessary power distribution equipment to run your event. This not only ensures that you'll get properly sized and installed power, but also provides a good amount of insurance against liability in case something horribly wrong happens.

Convention halls may have on-site staff that can handle what you need, so be sure to ask. Companies that provide power will usually solicit the venues which, in turn, use a referral system. Most of these agreements aren't exclusive though, so once you find a power service you like, they can probably hook you up wherever you go.

If the venue folks don't have any suggestions, you'll have to use your local phone book, search engines, etc. and do some research. Be sure to check with local electric supply houses, who will probably be able to hook you up with the people you need.

Ok. Now study the diagram in Figure 8 and I'll explain top-down how everything works.

Figure 8: Power System for 150 players

(click image to enlarge)

Switch Gear

The Switch Gear is the facility power equipment that is usually locked in a room and is accessible only by a qualified electrician. If you are familiar with Ethernet networks, this is the power equivalent of a core network switch and is either where the power enters the building from the power company, or a sub-circuit distribution point off it.

For a medium or large facility, this equipment is almost always of a type called "three phase", which allows for a great deal of flexibility in accommodating a variety of power requirements. Without switch gear, it becomes very difficult - if not impossible - to connect the necessary distribution boxes for a large event. You should check with your venue to ensure that the rated capacity of the switch gear that you'll have access to is enough to handle your total power requirements. (I'll be telling you how to figure that shortly.) For our example shown in Figure 8 , the switch gear is supplying two 100A 3-phase circuits.

Figure 9: Switch Gear room with directly-wired table distribution

Figure 9 shows a typical switch gear room, but with an unusual arrangement of having the table distribution panels right in it, with long extension cords running to the tables. Notice the big panel on the back wall, complete with hunky circuit breakers.