Have you ever lived in a house or worked in a place that was constantly tripping the breakers? When you tried to use the blender in the kitchen and someone flipped on a hair dryer in the next room, the power draw becomes too much for the particular circuit and the circuit breaker does what it is designed to do... it trips. This is to help ensure a fire does start or at least overheat. These circuit breakers are there to protect your house and your appliances from permanent damage.
This same principal applies to live event production. When your vision involves as many brightly colored lights as possible or a sound system with several large power amps this will put a strain on any 15A or 20A circuit. These are the most common types found in normal electric wiring. Each lighting fixture and power amp as well as anything that requires power has a specific “draw.” This draw is the specific power consumption rating for that specific piece of equipment. Given this information it is a simple math equation to figure out how many can be plugged in at one time on one circuit. It is simple to understand if you are getting an overall draw of 22 amps on a 15 amp circuit your breaker will trip most of the time. When this happens the circuit becomes dead and anything that is plugged into it will no longer work. During the middle of a song or during a runway show is not the best time to have lights or a sound system stop working. Your event that you have spent hours and hours planning and promoting is ruined.
The solution is a power distribution system. This is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in a productions companies arsenal. This allows the production company to tie directly into the master panel, bypassing the house or venue electrical system. This hookup is to be done by a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician. This many times is the responsibility of the client unless agreed otherwise in advance. These “tails” that tie into the raw power go directly to a power distro so the amount of power can be monitored and used properly. Usually a power distro will have many 20 amp circuits and even some 30 amp and 50 amp connections depending on what is needed. When you are utilizing 100 lights as well as a full size sound system and more, these power distro are essential just for sheer volume alone. Bypassing the venue’s power outlets ensures the production company knows exactly what is drawing from which circuit. This makes the environment safe for both the patrons and the equipment. So if you see one or more of these power distros listed on your quote or scope of work, now you know exactly the reason it is needed. As in everything we do, your outcome and safety is the reason for every decision made.