Having trouble with broken underground main line.

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  #1  
Old 07-09-12, 09:01 PM
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Having trouble with broken underground main line.

Now I know this is something for the pros but I have had my electrician helping me the whole way. Just hang with me this is a little long. Before I start I will let you know that three months ago I had a gas leak right behind my house that was caused by the main electrical lines that are in question.

Starting Friday evening I lost half of the power to my house. No AC and microwave barely running. Saturday I was able to check the power with a multimeter at my circuit breaker box. At that time I was getting a 119-109 reading at the two main legs. Called my electrician and then called the power company. Power Company came out and tested the meter. The meter was ok but I kept getting weird reading on my breaker. So he went ahead and gave me a new meter. By the time my electrician gets to my house we figure that something in between the meter and my box is wrong. (the meter is about 80 feet away from the box). I ended up disconnecting my AC to save the motor which shut off half of the outlets in my house. (only one leg of power)So this morning I contact the PoCo again to come out to test before I call the Gas company that did the work on my gas lines where the main electrical lines were directly touching. He comes out but does not carry a Concrete/Earth scanner? to find the underground fault from the cable. My goal here was to get somebody to find the fault and hopefully it would be where the gas company dug and did the gas line repair. I am really looking for advice on fighting with the gas company to actually send someone out to test for the fault so they would have to foot the bill. If anybody has had a problem with a utility company at all that dealt with them paying you back for damages done it would be greatly appreciated. It is supposed to get back into the 90's this weekend and my 11 month old daughter will not like it one bit.

Thanks for reading my lengthy post.
Thomas
 
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  #2  
Old 07-09-12, 09:19 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

I ended up disconnecting my AC to save the motor which shut off half of the outlets in my house. (only one leg of power)
Turning off a breaker only kills the circuit that that breaker protects. Pulling the service disconnect for the condensing unit should only power the unit down. Can you explain more?

Have you had Miss Utility - or whatever it's called in Chicago - locate and mark all of the underground feeds?

It is supposed to get back into the 90's this weekend and my 11 month old daughter will not like it one bit.
Nope. And you and Momma aren't going to like her statements about it, either!
 
  #3  
Old 07-09-12, 09:24 PM
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I am only receiving one leg of power. Even with the AC disconnect out I lose all power to half the outlets. One main leg reads 119 the other reads 0. Since then my electrician hooked up a new breaker that will run my outlets but not the AC.

The gas company Nicor was supposed to have Julie out to mark... but it seems they missed my electrical wires that were running right over a gas line and now I have a broken main line somewhere behind my house.
 
  #4  
Old 07-09-12, 09:36 PM
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Got it. When you said
At that time I was getting a 119-109 reading at the two main legs.
I was hearing that as each leg to neutral - normally 120V. Now I'm hearing it as leg-to-leg - normally 240V.
 
  #5  
Old 07-09-12, 09:40 PM
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That was leg to neutral. This was when the all of the breakers in the box were on. With main breaker off I get 120-0. I have never gotten a reading between legs. Because one leg does not work I was getting backfeed when I was getting the 119-109.
 
  #6  
Old 07-09-12, 10:17 PM
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In many areas the customer is responsible for the lateral (buried cable) not the Poco. I can't say for Chicago but normally the Poco will run a temporary drop for free till the cable is fixed. Ask your electrician.
 
  #7  
Old 07-10-12, 03:51 AM
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Not sure about Chicago but in Florida we can call sunshine811 to get all locates done on the property. They only locate utility lines and not consumer owned lines but we can normally talk them into it if we're there when they mark. From my experience, if it was caused by the gas co. you'll be waiting a long time to get them to own up and get it repaired. I'd get it repaired and document the damage and just try to get a reimbursement after the fact rather than go without for what could be months. Good luck.
 
  #8  
Old 07-10-12, 05:34 AM
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Turn off all double breakers and breakers with red wires attached to them. You should now measure 120 volts hot to neutral for one leg, 0 volts hot to neutral for the other leg, and 0 volts hot to hot across the two legs.

(A 120/240 volt circuit or a multiwire branch circuit typically has a red wire for one leg and can also show a backfeed when you do the above test. It should be wired to a double breaker in the panel but is occasionally found wired to two single breakers.)

How do you know that the gas leak was caused by the buried electrical wires?

If indeed the gas leak was caused by the buried electrical wires then the wires may have had a defect possibly caused by gnawing animals prior to the gas leak, and such a defect usually results in the failure of the wires shortly thereafter particularly if they are aluminum.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 07-10-12 at 05:56 AM.
  #9  
Old 07-10-12, 11:35 AM
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I was here and watched every minute of the gas companies work. Once they found the gas line all of my direct buried cables were layed directly over the gas line which caused the membrane that the gas company has over their pipes to wear out and thus corrode.

Fortunately for me I was able to get a hold of the gas company today and they are actually sending someone out to do a ground scan of all of the areas they dug up. I just hope they find that they are responsible and fix it for free. (at least free for me). Wires are aluminum and everyone I have had out to double check they are almost positive that when they pried the wires up to put the clamp over the pipe is the likely culprit.
 
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Old 07-10-12, 01:04 PM
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I was here and watched every minute of the gas companies work. Once they found the gas line all of my direct buried cables were layed directly over the gas line which caused the membrane that the gas company has over their pipes to wear out and thus corrode.

Fortunately for me I was able to get a hold of the gas company today and they are actually sending someone out to do a ground scan of all of the areas they dug up. I just hope they find that they are responsible and fix it for free. (at least free for me). Wires are aluminum and everyone I have had out to double check they are almost positive that when they pried the wires up to put the clamp over the pipe is the likely culprit.
Is the electrical cable between the meter and the panel, or between the transformer and the meter? Whoever installed the electrical cable so that it could contact the gas pipe, or installed the gas pipe so that it could contact the electrical cable, is at fault. Well, and whoever signed off on the installation.

Gas, electricity, water, sewer - all utility feeds - are required to maintain minimum spacing from each other. Fixing this properly may require more than just a splice or two.
 
  #11  
Old 07-10-12, 01:11 PM
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Is the electrical cable between the meter and the panel, or between the transformer and the meter? Whoever installed the electrical cable so that it could contact the gas pipe, or installed the gas pipe so that it could contact the electrical cable, is at fault. Well, and whoever signed off on the installation.

Gas, electricity, water, sewer - all utility feeds - are required to maintain minimum spacing from each other. Fixing this properly may require more than just a splice or two.
This is the main cables coming from the meter to my house. In 1955 when the house was built it was ok to direct lay wires down over a good distance. (almost 100 feet) When the gas company was here they were shocked to find the electrical lines on the gas line. Now-a-days the codes are a lot more specific than they were 65 years ago. Unfortunately the electrical company does not take responsibility because they call it a "private line". Pretty messed up if you ask me.

If the gas company is at fault I am going to request a new service to be run so my meter will be within five feet of the breaker box just like the code requires now.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 07-10-12 at 02:37 PM. Reason: To set off the quote
  #12  
Old 07-10-12, 02:45 PM
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This is the main cables coming from the meter to my house... the electrical company does not take responsibility because they call it a "private line".
Wires or cables connecting your meter to your panel are, indeed, part of your wiring. It is a "private line." The "public line" for overhead feeds ends at the weatherhead. It may end at the meter for buried feeds.

Where is your meter? What is it mounted on?

Correcting this may be your responsibility. Any consideration you receive from either utility might be a gift. And I have no idea why the gas company would get involved in any work on your electrical service.
 
  #13  
Old 07-10-12, 06:24 PM
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This is the main cables coming from the meter to my house. In 1955 when the house was built it was ok to direct lay wires down over a good distance
If you are saying the aluminum direct burial cables are nearly 60 years old I am thinking they have already surpassed their useful life and need to be replaced. This sounds as if it is just an end-of-life event for the cables and not necessarily the fault of the gas company or anyone else. Typically, the wiring between the meter and panel is customer owned and maintained. I think you are looking at replacement of your direct buried cables.
 
  #14  
Old 07-10-12, 06:51 PM
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Why not move the meter to the house and have the electric company drop a line to it? That would be free in most places. The existing pole could be used as an intermediary support if needed. You could be up and running and cool in a day.
 
  #15  
Old 07-10-12, 10:05 PM
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Well the gas company guys were out and they found the fault. Not from them but from the wires being bent beyond belief to get into the house. The main line was broken right outside of the house. Tomorrow I am going to dig it out and have my electrician splice it and then fill the conduit. SUCKS
 
  #16  
Old 07-11-12, 05:24 PM
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Splicing 60 year old aluminum direct burial cables might get you by a while longer. They need to be replaced.
 
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