Electrical Safety and Your Escape Room (Part 1 of 2)

An incomplete, helpful guide to not burning down your business.


If you are reading this, you probably own an escape room or you want to build one.  This guide aims to address the most dangerous and common issues in escape room wiring.  It should be understood that the National Electrical Code (NEC) and your local ordinances should always be followed, but in practice, as soon as the inspectors leave and you get your occupational license, people tend to do whatever they want. 

AC Wiring

AC is a name for the high voltage, high power electricity we commonly use in our houses and business.  AC technically only describes one aspect of the electricity.  Alternating Current.  This electricity flows in waves, 60 Hz (Hertz or times a second) and is great for lights and transformers, but not great for electronics.

To be specific, the electricity in America is 110 Volts, AC.  I’ll use ‘AC’ in a very general sense to represent this.  It is usually limited to 15A (amps) or 20A based on the breaker limit (look at your breaker).  15A circuits use 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge), 20A circuits use 12 AWG.  So here is why this is important.  A circuit breaker is a safety device.  NEC says 14  AWG wire can safely handle 15A.  Safely means it won’t overheat, melt, catch fire, etc. 

So, if let’s say you extend one of these circuits with some 20 AWG wire you have laying around (which is smaller and can’t carry as much current) to run a small prop.  If that prop shorts out, the 20 AWG wire will have to carry the 15A for a period of time and it’s likely to melt, overheat, and catch file. LESSON:  Always use the same wire gauge through the entire branch of the circuit.

Standard single phase AC power, 110V in the USA, has 3 wires.  Hot (carries the current), Neutral (current return), and Ground (references the Earth, 0V).  Neutral and Ground are connected at your panel.  (Not your concern.  I hope you aren’t in the panel, please get an electrician.)  I bring this up so you know that only the Hot (Black wire in the US, 110V systems) is the one that kills you.  The other two should not have any voltage on them if properly wired referenced to ground. 

AC in Escape Rooms

Most people are familiar with AC current as it’s what we have in our homes; props and decorations are routinely pulled from the commercial environment, so it’s natural to just want to run 110V AC into a room… but the best practice is to prevent all access to these outlets inside your rooms.

Common sense may seem common, but in an environment where players believe anything may be part of the game, it’s your responsibility as an escape room owner to prevent access to anything dangerous and to assume players will interact with everything in the game space. Some irresponsible owners have even designed puzzles involving faux electrical outlets, complicating safety for everyone else.

You bear full responsibility for the safety of the public when you invite them into your business.  Not putting AC fixtures, props, or appliances in your room helps keep the room safe.  This doesn’t mean removing fluorescent lights in your drop ceiling, but it does mean you need to pay attention to objects you may not even have considered, like the potential that players might try to remove light bulbs from a table lamp, creating a hazardous situation.

The use of GFCI can increase the safety of an AC circuit.  They are just not for wet locations.  These ingenious devices look for electricity leaving the system.  A person could be in the path where the electricity is leaving the system and this will cut power when it detects that fault state.

If you must…

AC Wiring Key Points

  • Minimize use of AC. Overhead fixtures are OK, but cover up plugs and convert everything else to low voltage DC.
  • Run your grounds. They are there for safety.  It doesn’t matter if they aren’t needed for function.
  • Do not use Romex, it’s for houses. Use ENT (metal or metal wrapped pipe) or the blue ‘smurf pipe’ if allowed by code, other approved enclosure for running AC current.  Or hire an electrician.
  • Restrict, tether, mount, strap, etc. your wiring. All of it (DC too).  Keeping wiring from getting yanked out of their termination point increases safety a lot.
  • Use a GFCI. They are just not for wet locations.  They increase the safety of the circuit.
  • Use proper junction boxes. Don’t leave a connection in midair with wire nuts on it.
  • In a box with mixed voltages (AC and DC), keep the AC as far from the DC as possible. You should be able to draw a virtual line down the path where they are kept separate.  Generally, components that handle both AC and DC have an isolation rating of 1000V.  If it doesn’t, don’t use it.
  • Use approved power supplies. UL/ETL labels on power supplies will ensure you are using a quality product.
  • Keep wiring gauge consistent. Basically, you should never be using anything less than 14 AWG wire in a 15A circuit.  No less than 12 AWG in a 20A circuit.  Don’t use larger than 20A circuits unless you REALLY know what you are doing.
  • Switch the hot. If you are going to switch AC, use a device designed for it.  If you insist on using a relay off eBay you found for $3, make sure you are switching the leg that has power on it.  A proper relay will have an isolation rating to ensure it’s safe.   I would also consider switching both sides of the circuit for complete isolation.
Controller FAQs

How do I prepare an SD card for my Audio BAC?

The SD card that comes with your Audio BAC is prepared at the factory with the correct file system, but if you need to prepare another card, it should be formatted with the FAT16 or FAT32 file system only.

Do not use NTFS or exFAT, and do not store files on your card other than audio files intended for playback via the BAC. Many SD cards ship from the factory with an exFAT file syste


The act of formatting a storage card erases all data on it permanently. Before formatting your card, back up any files on it that you wish to save.

Exercise special caution when formatting your storage card to ensure you don’t accidentally format the wrong device – if you aren’t careful, you could accidentally format other external storage devices or even your computer’s secondary hard disk or recovery partition. When in doubt, stop and consult your operating system manual for assistance.

Files should be named with short filenames – 8 characters or less with a 3 character extension. We recommend simple numbers (for example, 001.wav).

The Audio BAC supports .WAV, .MP3, .OGG, .AAC and .WMA file formats. We recommend the industry-standard 44100Hz 16-bit stereo .WAV format for shorter sounds and 192Kbps CBR MP3 for longer sounds, but most sample rates and formats should work well.

Controller FAQs

What’s the difference between a Bad Ass Controller and an Arduino?

Great question! While both can be used to build your escape room technology, we designed the Bad Ass Controller to solve several key problems we frequently encountered when using Arduino-based controllers.

At the core, both are surprisingly similar devices – both the Arduino and the Bad Ass Controller are based on industry-standard Atmel microcontrollers.

Arduino microcontrollers are generic control devices designed to be used in a wide variety of DIY projects. They operate at a low voltage – typically 3.3V or 5V – and have pin connectors designed for temporary breadboard assembly of circuits. While they offer a great deal of flexibility, the responsibility is on you as the user to design circuits to integrate them with other devices you want to control and to write software implementing your game logic using C++ or a similar programming language.

The Bad Ass Controller builds on this foundation. We designed it to be a turnkey approach, and the BAC improves on the Arduino for escape room use in several ways:

  • The BAC can be configured to run most common escape room game scenarios right out of the box, no programming required. Our easy-to-use configuration tool, Bad Ass Manager, makes configuring game behavior an easy point-and-click operation.
  • The BAC comes with a built-in Ethernet port and integrated support for common escape room software platforms, allowing custom game logic and easy integration with other sound/lighting/gameplay elements. Adding network support to an Arduino requires extra costly hardware and time-consuming software development.
  • The BAC uses industrial screwdown connectors that ensure a safe, secure connection. Loose or poorly soldered wiring is one of the top causes of unreliable escape room props.
  • The BAC uses higher voltages (12V or 24V DC), which better withstand long wiring runs. 3.3V or 5V signals like those generated by an Arduino are not intended to travel more than a few inches from the circuit board and are unsuitable for long in-wall wires.
  • BAC inputs and outputs have extensive protection against electrical faults, protecting your controller in case of wiring mistakes or transient electrical noise. Most Arduino boards have no protection and the controller can be easily damaged by electrical noise.
  • The BAC includes high-current driver circuitry and multiple relay suitable for controlling magnetic locks, which are commonly used in escape rooms. Arduino boards require additional modules and custom wiring to control locks.

We love the Arduino platform, and in fact many elements of the BAC are inspired by its foundation. (In fact, the BAC can actually be used as a fancy Arduino for complex projects, so please reach out to us if you’re interested in that option!)

But our years of experience building escape rooms have taught us there are many challenges encountered when using Arduino devices as the core of an escape room, and we’re proud to have solved many of them with the BAC.

While the upfront investment may be a bit more expensive, we’re confident the time you save by using our products will pay for itself many times over by helping you get up and running faster and by keeping your games reliable over the lifetime of your experience.

Frequently Asked Questions RFID FAQs

Can my sensor or RFID sensor be fully enclosed?

In almost all cases, they can be fully enclosed. All electronics, when they are on, generate heat. However, the power these devices draw is very minimal and there is not any concern enclosing them as long as they are not located next to another heat source.

When in doubt, please contact us and we’ll be happy to offer safety advice specific to your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions Magnet Sensor FAQs

How do I select a magnet to use with my FX51 Magnet Sensor?

Tips and Tricks:

1. Magnetic field is not linear

Its works more like a flashlight against a wall. The closer you get, the brighter, but at a faster rate than the distance [inverse square relationship]. What this means is that as a magnet gets closer to the sensor, the magnet field gets much larger than the distance. Here is a quick table of our 1/2″ cylindrical magnet.

Distance between sensor and magnet (closest surface)Magnet Field
1.25″68 Gauss
1.00″93 Gauss
0.75″231 Gauss
0.50″549 Gauss
0.25″1751 Gauss

We have this all outlined in a Google Doc for you. Or if you want to experiment more, K and J have a nice calculator.

2. Don’t get them too close or too far away from the sensor

Based on the above information, we can see that the sensing distance is important. Think of the magnet as the signal to the board. You don’t want a weak signal (like under 50 Gauss) and you don’t want to overpower it (1000 Gauss is the sensor limit).

3. Use the appropriate magnet size

This brings us to the last bit. If you are not happy with the range a particular magnet gets you, use a different magnet! A smaller magnet of the same type (there are different types, so please consider what kind you are using) will be weaker up close. If you need more range, get a larger magnet and move it away further.

The newest versions of the FX51D have a built in feedback mechanism to show you when you are too weak or over powering it.

Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal network setup for my controller?

The Bad Ass Controller is a standard Ethernet-enabled device, just like other home networking products you might be used to. To keep it connected and running smoothly, we recommend:

Physical Connection

Connect your controller via a high quality (CAT5e or better) cable directly to your router or switch only.

Connecting it directly to your computer requires complex setup steps and is not recommended or supported. If you want to try anyway, we’ve documented one approach here: How do I set up a BAC if I can’t plug it into my router?

Protocol Configuration

The Bad Ass Controller acquires its network address (“IP Address”) directly from a special service called a DHCP server built into your router. In most cases, this is automatic and you do not need to take special action for it to work.

While Bad Ass Manager can detect when your controller changes IP address, we still recommend using your router’s “Static” or “Fixed” reservations feature to assign it a consistent address that never changes. This setting can usually be found in the “Advanced”, “LAN” or “DHCP” section of your router’s configuration page.

Firewall issues

To ensure your computer can talk to your Bad Ass Controller, some additional configuration steps may be needed. Most computers come standard with a ‘firewall’ that blocks communication on your local network – great for security, but bad for connecting to a controller!

For Windows users, be sure your network connection type is not Public. Setting to Private or Domain is the recommended setting. Windows networks marked as Public with extra security which hinders controller communications. If you do need to have your network type Public, then contact us for how to configure your firewall – we’re happy to help.

Typically, selecting the correct network setting will get everything working – but if you’re a firewall configuration wizard, the short answer is that you need to add a inbound firewall rule allowing UDP traffic to the BadASSManager server application.


As is typical for industrial automation, the Bad Ass Controller is designed to be used on a trusted local network and does not have required authentication. This means anyone who has access to your network can use Bad Ass Manager to control your games.

If you provide Wi-Fi access to your guests, we strongly recommend that you use your router’s guest network feature to create a separate Wi-Fi network that only allows access to the Internet, blocking access to other local devices.

You should also ensure devices on your local network are inaccessible to inbound traffic from the Internet. In nearly all cases, this will happen automatically if you are using a standard router.

Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

When should I upgrade the software for my controller?

The Bad Ass Controller can upgrade its internal software (known as firmware) over the Internet (with bootloader versions 1.2 and greater). To upgrade, simply go to the system screen in Bad Ass Manager and click the firmware update button. New firmware will automatically be downloaded and installed, which may include bug fixes and new games or capabilities. 

But should you upgrade your controller at all?

While we make every effort to improve our products with each upgrade, new versions of software may cause subtle changes to how your escape room operates. We recommend only upgrading your firmware when necessary, and doing so during a time when you have enough time to resolve any issues that may arise before your next booking.

After a firmware upgrade:

  • A game you are using may need to be reconfigured.
  • New features may not carry over from previous configurations..
  • A game may work differently or have other nuances that are unexpected.

If you need an update, we recommend:

  • If your budget permits, keep a spare controller on hand to test any new upgrade with. After you have validated your new gameplay with the spare controller, update your live game.
  • Do not upgrade controllers in live games without a backup.
  • Update during slow times, like Monday morning. This will give you time to address unforeseen issues.
Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

How do I factory reset my controller?

Sometimes, a factory reset of a BAC V/Bad Ass Controller is necessary. Perhaps you are repurposing it for a new room, or maybe you want to start fresh as a troubleshooting step.

The reset procedure uses the buttons visible inside the recessed holes on the faceplate of the controller. They are accessible by pushing a long, non-conductive object through the holes to press the button underneath, or by removing the cover of the controller.

To reset the Bad Ass Controller:

  • Disconnect the green terminal blocks, if any wires are connected. The button used for this process is shared with Input 0, so if anything is connected to it, the factory reset sequence may not work. (If you are trying to troubleshoot a controller, removing all the connected electronics is also a great troubleshooting step.)
  • Press and release the reset button.
  • Immediately after releasing the reset button, within a second or two, press and hold the [IN0/A] button. The status light will start flashing.
  • Wait for the status light to stop flashing. When the status light stops flashing, release [IN0/A]
  • Press and release [IN0/A] twice within 2 seconds. The sequence should be slower than a mouse double-click but still fairly rapid – think “one-and-two-and” pacing.
  • Wait about ten seconds. You’ll see the status light blink a mixed green/red color, and then the controller will begin the process of clearing its memory. The status light will go solid once the memory is reset.
  • Your controller is now reset!
Video Demonstration
Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

Can one controller run multiple puzzles?

The BAC uses the concept of a ‘game’, defined as the logic for puzzles like sequence games (press buttons or trigger inputs in order), or a Simon Says, a RFID match game, knock-knock, etc.

Even when the ‘game’ is selected and running, each BAC also always has ‘Room Controller’ mode running.  Room Controller mode is for simple logic and sequences and is all event driven (defined in the Event System page). 

Both modes can overlap.  For instance, you can have an Simon Says game running on 5 inputs and outputs and a 2 other sensors and maglocks all wired up.  The Simon Says game will trigger events to maybe trigger sounds, and the other two sensors and trigger inputs in the Event System to trigger maglocks or solenoids, etc. 

So while only one ‘game’ can be running at a time, the Room Controller mode can allow additional simple puzzles to be implemented, subject to available capacity of inputs and outputs.

Frequently Asked Questions RFID FAQs

How do I swap RFID tags in an RFID game?

The Bad ASS Controller will allow for tags to be swapped out dynamically for easy swapping of spare RFID tagged game pieces.

Video demonstration: