Loose Wire at Meter

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  #1  
Old 06-25-04, 06:04 AM
Bob C
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Loose Wire at Meter

When I purchased a home recently, I noticed the main circuit breaker had a crack in the side of it and what appeared to be a melted area. I pulled the meter to kill the power to the panel (did not have a meter cutoff) and than pulled the main breaker out. The breaker was definitely fried from arcing(sp?). I replaced the breaker. I subsequently had flickering lights after running a table saw. ALso, after installing HVAC the AC would not come on and we found only 30 volts were coming through on the right power cable in the panel.

I pulled the meter again and cautiously (ensuring I would not get zapped), tightened the lug at the panel and found it needed to be turned more then one complete turn and than some. Upon close inspection, I also noted some blue marks near the lug and burn marks on the wiring.

This looseness and subsequent arcing was what fried the main.

The house was built in 1965, and I don't know how often, if ever, the meter has been pulled for inspection. This makes me wonder, how prevalent is this problem? How ofter should one have the wires in the meter inspected, should the word be out on this sort of thing? With the current dropping and arcing with this, won't appliance motors be fried, and can this, has this, caused fires?

Is the local power company responsible for the power supply to the home is properly attached?

Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-25-04, 06:29 AM
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I subsequently had flickering lights after running a table saw
Flickering lights on the same circuit as the table saw, or on another circuit?

we found only 30 volts were coming through on the right power cable in the panel
A 30-volt reading is almost always phantom voltage, and as such should usually be disregarded.
 
  #3  
Old 06-25-04, 10:31 AM
rlrct
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We just had a similar problem at my dad's cottage. We lost voltage on one of the incoming legs. The problem was in the meter base - one of the clips that the meter tabs slide into wasn't tight enough, so the connection heated and arced.

In our area, the property owner is responsible for the meter base. The LOPOCO is responsible for the wiring up to connections at the weatherhead for an overhead service or where the service laterals come up and connect to the meter base for underground service (which is our case).

We had to replace the meter base and re-terminate the feeder from the meter to the service disconnect. Again, in our area, only the LOPOCO or a licensed electrician is supposed to touch the meter. We ended up hiring a licensed electrician to swap the meter base because he could deal with the LOCOPO for a CRS (Cut and Restore Service) with out a permit. Were I to do it, it would have meant a permit/inspection and a full day out of work.

If you have conductors that are burned, you really should cut the conductors back to fresh aluminum/copper and reterminate. You should also inspect the meter base lugs for burning, otherwise you're not getting a totally proper connection and the heating may recur. Bottom line - you might need to replace the mater base.

If the conductors are aluminum, you should apply an antioxidant like Oxgard (commonly available) to the exposed portion of the conductor. You might want to verify that your neutral buss connections are tight too. There are typically torque specs for the lugs that you should adhere to.
 
  #4  
Old 06-25-04, 10:46 AM
Dosperado
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When I moved into my house 1 1/2 yrs ago I had the electrician come out because I noticed if I tapped the meter it would arc. Electric CO said if I wanted them to check, they would start by turning off my power entirely, then put in a service call. Nice way of saying "piss-off" I guess.
Anyway, the electrician pulled the meter and found a wire that was laying across the tabs with most of the insulation worn off, and it would arc when it bounced around. It was a leftover from an old water heater connection that was never removed. Scary.
 
  #5  
Old 06-25-04, 11:46 AM
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Location: Kansas City, KS
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Originally Posted by Dosperado
When I moved into my house 1 1/2 yrs ago I had the electrician come out because I noticed if I tapped the meter it would arc. Electric CO said if I wanted them to check, they would start by turning off my power entirely, then put in a service call. Nice way of saying "piss-off" I guess.
Anyway, the electrician pulled the meter and found a wire that was laying across the tabs with most of the insulation worn off, and it would arc when it bounced around. It was a leftover from an old water heater connection that was never removed. Scary.
What was a water heater connection doing in your meter box? was someone stealing power?
 
  #6  
Old 06-25-04, 11:59 AM
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Location: Central New York State
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In some parts of the country the utilities used to require that electric water heaters be wired on timers. The timer would limit electricity to the water heater so that only one of the elements would work between the hours of say 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. This was because everyone was using their electric ranges and ovens during those hours to cook dinner, and the utility company wanted to have enough power for all.

With the influx of natural gas for both heating water and cooking, and because less people are really cooking dinner every night, most places in the country have stopped this practice. However, in many cases the water heater connections remain, or have only been partially removed.
 
  #7  
Old 06-25-04, 12:40 PM
Dosperado
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Originally Posted by racraft
In some parts of the country the utilities used to require that electric water heaters be wired on timers. The timer would limit electricity to the water heater so that only one of the elements would work between the hours of say 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. This was because everyone was using their electric ranges and ovens during those hours to cook dinner, and the utility company wanted to have enough power for all.

With the influx of natural gas for both heating water and cooking, and because less people are really cooking dinner every night, most places in the country have stopped this practice. However, in many cases the water heater connections remain, or have only been partially removed.
Yes, that's why. /thanks for splaining

On a side note, my last house was in Shrewsbury MA, and they own the power and cable locally, and although they no longer practice the timer thing for water heaters, they STILL give a discount on your bill, but only if you have a 50+ gal electric water heater. I don't get the thinking behind that, since it encourages you to use more power.
 
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