Troubleshooting Whole House Electrical Problems

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Old 12-13-14, 12:20 PM
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Troubleshooting Whole House Electrical Problems

I'm having the following problems regarding my home electrical system.
• Lights sometimes flicker for no reason (different circuits)
• Turning on power heavy appliances will sometimes cause the lights to momentarily dim.
• Turning on power heavy appliances will sometimes cause the lights to dim AND STAY SLIGHTLY DIMMED while appliance is running.
• At times my microwave will run as if it's experiencing a power flux. Light inside will dim slightly, then go brighter, and then repeat. Same for sound.
• Some GFCI circuits are throwing for no good reason.
• Not once have I thrown any breakers during all this.
• Power company has been out to my home and has replaced one of the power lines (which might have been the neutral). However, the worker didn't know if it really needed it and he said everything else looked okay including the weatherhead and service meter. Edit: They came out yesterday (12/12). They also mentioned some kind of minor update or change to the service meter, although my impression was this was mechanical in nature.
• No branches seem to be interfering with the line.
• Power Co man suggested I call them back in a couple weeks if I'm still having problems and they can put a voltage meter (on the pole?) to see if I'm getting inconsistent voltage.
• I'm not a pro, bu I have done some of my own electrical work, but I'm almost OCD about code and safety. However, I have uncovered some shady electrical work by previous home owners (which I correct whenever I discover it)

I if add up all the circuits in terms of amp rating on each breaker I'm well over the 200 amp max listed on the service panel. However, this has always been the case for the 15 years I've lived here and I haven't had the above problems. Of course many of these circuits are never under any load and others are only ever under partial load. I haven't done anything that should be adding to overall power usage in 15 years. In fact, I've switched entirely over to CFL bulbs which should have provided some overall power decrease, not increase.


Q. When it comes to the power coming in from the Power Company, is it true that one hot goes to one bus, one hot to the other bus, then a third for neutral? I'm thinking this is the case. Maybe I should try to figure out just which circuits are being effected. I know it's more than one, but maybe they are all on the same bus?

I did replace a dishwasher which may have been around the time this started happening. There is also a circuit that I'm using in the basement that I rarely used before.

I guess I should start calling my neighbors to see if they are having problems.

I could also go around the house with my space heater plugging into to different outlets/circuits and seeing if the power draw effects them in the same way.

Edit: I just did as I describe in the sentence previous to this one. I've tried several different circuits and every time I plug in the space heater and turn it on, the lights very slightly dim and stay dim. Also, it doesn't appear that the space heater is performing at max speed.

I'm no expert, but this really seems like a voltage issue to me. Is there someway I can do voltage tests? I've got a multimeter but I'm not sure how I can test for voltage in such a way as to monitor it or test for appliances putting more or less load on the circuit, etc.

Any insights onto what's going on?

Thanks.

FYI: Although it provides no background I haven't already listed here, I first started exploring this problem on a different thread when I thought (incorrectly) that this was related to the weatherhead.
http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...d-problem.html
 

Last edited by petethebuilder; 12-13-14 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 12-13-14, 12:48 PM
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Im still reading thru your short story but I can answer one question now....

At times my microwave will run as if it's experiencing a power flux. Light inside will dim slightly, then go brighter, and then repeat. Same for sound.
That is completely normal. The magnetron (the part that generates the waves) draws the heavy power and is cycled on and off based on heat setting.
 
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Old 12-13-14, 12:53 PM
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PJMax, RE: Microwave

It seems like this is a new occurrence. It even sounds different like it's being held back and then suddenly (but slightly) gains a little more power. But yes, it's possible my imagination has gotten the better of me. Lights are definitely dimming and I don't remember that from before.
 
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Old 12-13-14, 01:00 PM
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It is normal for the lights to dim when you turn on heavy current draw items.

It may be normal for lights to flicker briefly if they are on a long circuit and there are some "heavier then normal" devices that turn on.... on the same circuit.

Look towards your service. Aerial or underground ?
How many feet from the transformer. The further you are from the transformer and the more customers that are on the same transformer..... the more the lights will flicker and dim.

Try to determine which neighbors are on the same transformer and check with them.

The diagram shows how the power legs work. Each row alternates legs. Usually odd breakers on the left and evens on the right.


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Old 12-13-14, 01:39 PM
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PJmax,

Thanks for your reply.

I understand that you are saying some of these things are normal but they are happening more often and more severely. My wife and kids are noticing the lights flicker so it's not just me. Also, I have an audio amplifier running a small speaker in my kitchen (although the amp runs of a circuit not used by the kitchen). Over the last month or so, I notice static noise coming from that speaker (when the amp is on but no signal is being sent over it). The static also occurs when I turn on the garbage disposal or microwave. I've had that speaker/amp in place for over 5 years and this never happened before. No static at any time. Last night there was a lot of static when I turned the kitchen light switch on and off.

Your attachment 43233 didn't work, but I am familiar with service panel buses arrangement and I have added a couple circuits, although this was years ago. My question regarding buses and wires had to do with troubleshooting whether or not the problem was with circuits coming from one bus rather than the other. This is testing I could do if you thought it would be helpful, but I haven't done it yet. I guess I was wondering if the trouble could be isolated to ONE of the hot lines coming in from the power company.

My hook up is aerial. So far as I know no one in my neighborhood has underground service. Is the transformer the part that's on the pole outside from where the wire comes? The wire crosses over the street then runs about four car lengths (down my driveway) before reaching the house.

I'll check with the neighbors, but it's an old neighborhood so it's not like new homes are being added or anything. Also, we don't have any christmas lights in our area so this wouldn't be a draw either. In other words, I don't see any evidence any of my neighbors are drawing more power than usual, but it's not really something I can easily determine. Winter is just getting in full swing, but most folks around here use natural gas.

Again, the real puzzle to me is that these are all new occurrences, recent over the last month or so. The strange microwave draw and slower speed of my space heater seem to be even newer occurrences.

I still think some kind of voltage test would be fruitful. I'm not well versed with a multi-meter, but I'll try to study how to test for voltage in such a way as to monitor the house better. Suggestions on what or how to test for this would be of help.

Thanks.
 
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Old 12-13-14, 02:12 PM
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Meaningful voltage checks would be checking from the A bus to neutral and from the B bus to neutral.... at the panel. Then make spot checks around the house. The voltages should be close.

Do you have any 240v appliances..... see how they affect the power.

In my neighborhood there are four of us on a transformer. My neighbor had a new larger A/C condensor installed. I could tell when it started by my lights.

Still important is to check with the neighbors.
 
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Old 12-13-14, 03:08 PM
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PJmax,

I have and electric dryer, but when I run it it's no different than running the space heater or some other small appliance. It has a similar small effect on the lights.

I'll check out the voltages tomorrow when I have more time. That's a good idea checking it at the service panel. Is there an acceptable range? Shouldn't everything be in the 125-130? What's considered far enough out of range that something's wrong? When you say voltages should be close, you mean between buses or just in general around the whole house including bus checks? And what's close? 5V?

I will call the neighbors tomorrow. From what you describe it doesn't sound like it takes much to have an effect.

I appreciate the advice!
 
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Old 12-13-14, 09:36 PM
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Technically if there are no heavy loads running in your house.... the voltage measurements should be almost identical all over the house.

The ideal voltage is 120vac from each bus to neutral and 240vac between legs.
 
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Old 12-14-14, 03:33 AM
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Standard voltages are 120 and 240 plus/minus 10%. That translates to a minimum of 108 and a maximum of 132 on the 120 volt circuit and a minimum of 216 and a maximum of 264 on the 240 volt circuits.

Odds are that you will be very close to 120 and 240 volts however. My 120 volt circuits will fluctuate between about 120.2 and 121.8 at any particular time.
 
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Old 12-14-14, 12:09 PM
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update:

I haven't checked the service panel directly, but with my MM I've been able to check a few different outlets around the house. Mostly, I'm getting 110. However, an outlet from one circuit was giving me 95, but later was at 110. Another outlet on a different circuit that was giving me 130 has now dropped down to 110.

Meanwhile, my space heater just isn't right on any outlet. Low heat at full blast. My microwave is not working consistently. The speaker I have in the kitchen (running off a small audio amp) will periodically crackle with static for no apparent reason and will completely cut out when the microwave or garbage disposal is running.

I have more tests to make and would like to try it at different parts of the day, but what does it mean that I'm getting inconsistent voltage readings from different outlets which themselves vary at different times?

Meanwhile, I know that low voltage can wreck certain motors. I'm wondering if whatever problem this is has now damaged my microwave or space heater?

I've got a few things more to try, but any suggestions or feedback is appreciated.

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-14-14, 12:19 PM
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Check the voltage at the receptacle where the heater is with it plugged in and on high.

You've measured 95vac and 130vac. That would tells us that you may have a neutral problem. We know it's not at the service head since that was just redone. It could still be with the power company.

You need to check at the panel too. We need to determine if the neutral problem is a "whole house" issue or just on a particular circuit or two.
 
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Old 12-14-14, 12:27 PM
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Any heavy loads like space heaters will make the issue worse if the neutral is loose.
 
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Old 12-14-14, 06:10 PM
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Thanks everyone. I appreciate you coaching me through this.

I've been checking outlets on and off today. I keep getting inconsistent results even from the same outlets even when I check just ten minutes later.

Space Heater Test
Okay, one outlet, MM plugged into top socket. Space heater (1500W) plugged into lower socket, but turned off. MM reads 105. Turn on space heater. Now MM reads 80. My wife now has hotter breath on valentines day than this space heater at full blast. In a normal situation under this kind of test should the voltage change at all?

Neighbors
Called neighbors to my left and right. Neither have been experiencing any problems. Neither reported any new power hungry appliances. One has xmas lights, but that's no different than in years past when I wasn't having these problems. House across the street is vacant. Let me know if there's reason to keep calling neighbors...

Service Panel
I opened the panel and checked the hots and neutral. One read 118V, the other 106V. I only checked it once today, so I don't know if these are consistent voltages or if they vary. I'll check again tomorrow. I can try during lesser or greater household loads if that would help determine anything.

I'm confused about a possible loose neutral if it's on my end. I traced the cable coming in from the weather head down into the basement. Opening the panel back in the basement I see one red, one black, one silver coiled exposed neutral. The wires were stripped just enough to connect them to the main bolts on the service panel. When testing I actually made contact with the stripped part of the wire before it even met the bolt. Testing off the actual buses gave me the same results, so I guess that means main connections on the service panel are tight.

Explanations or even speculations are welcome. I really don't know the significance of these voltage readings.

Photo of outside service hook and weatherhead, recently serviced by Power Co.
newwire.jpg Photo by mypicstrix | Photobucket

I'm game to try anything you guys suggest. Let me know if it's time to call the Power Co again.

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-14-14, 07:08 PM
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If it is a digital multimeter change the battery. You might even want to try it at your work to see what it reads there. From what you write I doubt it is the meter but it always best to confirm the meter is working correctly.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:01 AM
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ray2047,

Good thought. The MM is Analog, so I don't think it has a battery or at least that it doesn't need one to check voltage? However, I might just take my space heater my neighbors house to see if it still works like it used to.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:35 AM
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Yes, no battery except for ohms function and that doesn't affect voltage readings. Yes any test to eliminate a possible cause is good but the neighbor can't be on the same transformer.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 07:46 AM
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ray2047,

I believe the transformer the pole blew up about 3 years ago and had to be replaced. I was outside at the time and it was as loud as a cannon. I can't remember if my neighbor was on the same one, but if this is a Power Co issue it is strange that no one else is having problems.

With the holidays coming, I'm eager to call the Power Co and get it worked on if this sounds like a loose neutral on their side. If I'm pulling an unequal 118 and 106 off the incoming power lines, isn't that reason enough to suspect it's them? The guy who came out a few days back said he thought the weather head looked okay so I'm not sure what else it could be. Of course I'm no pro, so I guess that's not saying much.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 10:10 AM
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Update:

Just checked the service panel as before. This time I get 100 on one wire and 122 on the other. Next, I run my dryer full heat then check again. This time I'm reading 105 and 118, respectively. Then a minute later, I hear the dryer make a rumbling noise like it's working hard. This isn't a normal dryer noise and it only lasts a few seconds. This noise repeats sporadically every couple minutes. I check the voltage again and manage to get a reading while this is happening. Checking while this is happening I notice the first wire goes up to 110 and the second one comes down to about 114. Keep in mind this is an analog MM and my eyes ain't what they used to be.

I gotta assume at this point that I'm ruining my appliances by running them at low voltage. I noticed the garage door opener doesn't sound the same either.

Meanwhile, I got some more photos of the heavy gauge line going from the weather head and into my home. The Power Co guy they sent out said they look fine to him, but I managed to get a few photos and I'm not so sure.

Here you can see most of the run. Just below and out of frame is the meter. The lower cable is a cable/phone/fios line.
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/w1.jpg

http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...ix/wire040.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/w3.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...ix/wire037.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...ix/wire035.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...ix/wire030.jpg
 
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Old 12-15-14, 10:32 AM
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That service cable is shot. That's not really the problem. The problem is that since the outer jacket is pretty well gone..... water has been allowed into the meter pan. You may have corrosion issue in the meter pan.

Many times the meter is right above the main panel so that when the water runs thru the meter pan it continues into the panel. Check where the service cable comes into the panel for signs of water. Any rust or corrosion in your panel could be due to water intrusion.

You may be able to call an electrician and have him check the meter pan otherwise the power company will need to be called again.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 11:19 AM
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PJMax,

Thanks again for all the follow ups.

I would have taken a closer look at the service cable sooner had the Power Co guy not said it looked fine. There were actually three guys out here at the time. I have no idea if they checked the meter pan, but they did say they checked the service meter and it looked fine. I does seem that things have gotten worse since they were here.

I know you and everyone else can only speculate, but I'd really like some more clarification if you or anyone else can offer it. Regarding service cable, corrosion and wet meter pan, I accept that it needs to be addressed, but are you saying that this is the source of my voltage problem? Or at these things just separate issues that need to be addressed?

I still don't even know how much uneven voltages coming in from the service cable is normal or how much fluctuation is normal. If anyone wants to dumb it down and explain this basic concept to me, I'd appreciate it. Seems to me that the tests I was doing resulted in such a way as to suggest a "loose neutral" problem, but I'm still hoping for a follow up from one of you guys. Speaking of which, I'm still not entirely sure what "loose neutral" means. If this is the problem is it likely happening at the transformer on the utility pole?

Basically, as I understand it, my responsibility starts at the weather head and service cable then stops and the meter, then begins again after the meter. For this reason I'm not sure if I should call the Power Company out again or just go right to the electrician.

Replacing that service cable is probably half a days work for an electrician and of course he'll need to work with the city to shut the power off. I have to believe that before I go through all that there must be a simple test to determine if the voltage problem is starting before or after the service cable comes into play. Maybe the Power Co man could do this pretty easily while up in the bucket?

Santa's only 10 days away and I wouldn't want him to get a shock, so I do need to take some kind of action. How about I call the Power Co out again and have them:
1) Check the incoming voltage
2) Re-examine the service line and meter pan.
3) Check for loose neutral (whatever that means)

Anybody got a ball park idea what it's gonna cost me to have an electrician replace that service line?

Edit: Once the service cable makes that bend (see photo) and starts heading down, it looks to be in good shape. No sign of corrosion or problems going into or coming out of the meter outside the house, and no corrosion or suggestion of water damage inside the home where it meets the service panel.

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-15-14, 11:34 AM
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You have 240vac service in your house. If you look at the service you'll see two insulated wires and a bare conductor. Between the two insulated wires there is 240v. Between either wire and the bare neutral is 120vac. So we'll call the legs A and B like I posted in the panel diagram.

120v loads are placed on both the A and B legs randomly. As long as the neutral is there both legs will remain almost the same voltage to neutral. For all intents and purposes.... the neutral is at the same potential as ground.


Now... the neutral is no longer at ground potential. It has become disconnected or the connector has become corroded. Since the neutral is no longer at ground potential it will rise in voltage. That changes what is measured between each leg and neutral. The more load you put on a leg.... the higher the opposite leg will go. The neutral carries the difference in load between the A and B legs.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 12:13 PM
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PJmax,

Yep, what you describe seems to be exactly what's happening. Thanks for the lesson.

So, to be clear, you're saying the corrosion is the likely cause and the corrosion because the corrosion is causing the "loose neutral". Water has likely gotten into the service cable and dripped down it vertically into the service panel. It's in here that the corrosion is most likely to have occurred (meter pan).

If this is the case, I have to wonder why the Power Co people didn't notice this when they checked the meter, but maybe they never opened it up.

So, one last question (<--- probably a lie). Would it be smart to call the Power Co and have them send somebody out to check for corrosion in the meter box? I think this would be something they would be responsible for. In fact, I assume that box is probably locked up and inaccessible to any private electrician anyway. With a little luck maybe the power company could come out, clean off the cables, brush out the corrosion and reattach them offering me a temporary fix. Is this overly optimistic? If I could even temporarily fix the problem, I could buy myself a little time to get an electrician out here and replace the service cable. How's that sound as a course of action?
 
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Old 12-15-14, 02:45 PM
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Update:

Well, since my last post I've had the power company come out. They opened up the meter and took a look. He said it does look like there's some corrosion in there and that's probably the problem. He tested the incoming lines and the voltage was good up to the point it entered the meter so it must be the meter socket itself which he said looked like it was from the early 50s. Honestly, it didn't look too bad to me. I think a more sympathetic service guy could have taken off the connections, cleaned it up, and put it back, but I could tell before he even opened it up that he wasn't going to do anything. Oh well, you can't blame a guy for not going the extra mile and by all rights this is my responsibility.

I've left messages with a couple electricians to call me back. I don't know if home owners insurance would cover any of this so I'm looking into that as well. I've never filed a claim in 15 years.

The Power Co guy said I'd need a new weather head, service line and socket. He said I should consider redoing the line going into the house as well not because it looked bad but because it was so old. That said, he told me from weather head all the way to the service panel I'd be looking at up to $2,000 for a 200 amp service panel, $1,500 for a 150 amp, and $1,000 for a 100 amp. That's everything. Does this sound about right for price? He gave me a card and I got the feeling he knew the guy he was recommending although he said about three times he wasn't trying to push anyone on me.

And finally, how concerned should I be about my appliances while I wait for this to all get taken care of? I've noticed this going on for at least a month, but it's obviously been a problem that's slowly gotten worse. Are there certain appliances I should or shouldn't run? Dryer? Fridge? TV? All of them? lol.

Anyway, I really appreciate all the feedback and ideas for which PJMax lead the way. I hope I haven't been too long winded and overbearing with my questions although I'm sure I have. This forum is a great resource that I've used for a number of home projects.

Thanks a ton to everyone for all the advice and troubleshooting suggestions.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 04:36 PM
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Replacing the line right into the panel is a good idea. The power company guys can't actually do any repair work to your equipment. If the jaws in the meter pan were corroded.... he'd have to disconnect power to the service to make any kind of repair.

You would know the size of the service based on the main breaker amperage. The service cable looks like 100A cable although it's not easy to see in the pictures.

Replacement parts.... service head, service cable, meter pan should run around $150 or so. That shouldn't be more than a four hour job. I'd say the prices he quoted were on the high side.

Get two prices so you know where you stand.

I don't believe we discussed the main panel. Is that as old as the service cable ?
That may bear changing too. Now would be the time to do it if you were considering it.

The outside work would probably be covered under a home warranty plan. I'm not sure if the panel could be included in that unless it was specifically bad.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:08 PM
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Just my not a pro opinion. I don't like SE period for something like this. IMHO looks like crap and doesn't hold up as well as conduit. I'd suggest replacing with conduit and turn the conduit up 90°at the end so the the weather head bevel is facing down.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:14 PM
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I agree 100% with you Ray. The pipe and the head could be kept under the rakeboard.
This could definitely bring the bill up to $1000.00 for a 100A service.

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Old 12-15-14, 05:23 PM
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PJMax,

The prices he estimated must have included a new service panel with all the labor. However, my case is different and I think it would be much less labor intense because I don't think it would require changing the main service panel to get me up to 200 amps...

I'm pretty handy and I gotta say that whatever labor would be involved in swapping out that service cable didn't look to difficult. It's basically a romex cable on steroids and it seems to me after you had it secured to the house, cut to size and stripped, the power company would end up doing all the connection work anyway. He!!, they might even do the stripping. But for this job I'm hiring a pro.

The power co man said my meter looks like it's from the '40s which would make it original with the house. He said it was rated for 60 amp which seemed strange to me because I don't know how a meter with the same gauge coming in and out would have any rating other than what the meter might limit it to.

Inside the house it's a bit of a mess. It comes into a service panel that is marked with a 100 amp rating. I say service panel, but it's really just a big junction box with a single huge 100 amp throw switch in it. Outgoing from this box is another cable which looks to be the same gauge as the one that came into it. This cable goes to another service panel which looks modern. This panel says it's rated for 200 amps. I think once I had an appliance that threw a breaker because the appliance was bad. Otherwise, I've never thrown a breaker in 15 years that I've lived here.

I think you're right about doing more that just the cable while I'm at it. My assumption is that because of that first box I'm really running on 100A, not 200A, but I'd be very surprised if all I was pulling down was 60. The house is about 2000 sqft not including the attached garage. Air Conditioner. I have a table saw, chop saw and a few other power tools I like to run sometimes, but that's about it. No pools or hottubs or anything like that. There's an addition but it's only heat is a wood stove and some built in space heaters I never use.

You know you like the pictures PJ...

where cable comes into home (smaller one is phone service)
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/s1.jpg

100A power switch
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/s2.jpg

Modern service panel
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/s3.jpg

Told ya I had plenty of circuits. The big ones in the middle are shut down because I never use them. They go to space heaters in an addition to the home.
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Specs, inside modern panel door
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I'm guessing that while the modern service panel is rated at 200, I'm limited by the 100 amp junction box that comes before. By my thinking, couldn't I just do everything from the weather head all the way to the point where it enters the modern service panel eliminating the 100A box? The only hook ups the electrician would have to do are the ones to the 200amp modern service panel and any work that needed to be done to get the service cable attached to the weather head. Knock a hole in the wall and putty it up and leave the rest for the Power Co, right?
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:29 PM
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I see what you guys mean about the conduit. It kills me that I'd have to get pro to do this as I've run electrical conduit many times in the past and I don't find it a big deal. I'd have to see the cost difference, but I agree you guys have it right. Protected and under the rake. Then again, could the worn out service cable have been original as well? If so, 75 years is a pretty good run. lol.
 
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Old 12-15-14, 05:40 PM
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Oh, and appliances? I guess just run as few things as possible until the repair is made? Or am I being overly paranoid? Is this a case of harder wear taking a little life off the longevity of the appliance, or is it a matter of maybe destroying something at any given moment? Something with an electric motor would be more at risk than just some christmas tree lights, right?
 
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Old 12-16-14, 03:21 AM
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Re-doing it with conduit, which I agree, is best, MAY trigger minimum height requirements from the utility. They may want the conduit to go through the roof and the mast back-stayed.

Here is my take on the whole installation. When the house was built it DID have a 60 ampere fused service. Probably a single enclosure with two double pole pull-out fuses, one for a water heater or kitchen range and the other to serve as a main for four to six screw-in (plug) fuses. At some time prior to you buying the house someone decided to install a circuit breaker panel and butched in that 100 ampere circuit breaker along with the connecting cable and the CB panel. I seriously doubt that it was ever inspected.

Since you have that 100 ampere circuit breaker, which IS the service disconnect and makes the GE panel a "sub-panel" although I seriously doubt it is wired as such, what you CAN do is to cut the power to the GE panel, remove a knockout from the top, drill through the house and run conduit to a new 200 ampere meter base and service mast. This would be, in my opinion, the best method although not the least expensive. You would save in that you do not need a new CB panel or any circuits swapped over from an existing panel. Depending on prevailing labor rates and material costs this could be less than $1,000 although perhaps not much less. It would give you a modern and safe installation. This could be a DIY project and it could be done while still having electrical service through the existing system. Any outage would only last as long as it took for the utility crew to remove and re-connect their drop. During that time is when you would make the final swap of wiring at the main circuit breaker in the GE panel.

Second option would be to replace the SE cable and weatherhead along with a new meter base and re-use the existing SE cable to the 100 ampere circuit breaker.

Either option requires a permit and inspection. It may be that the rules in your area will not allow it to be replaced as it was but will require conduit and a mast through the roof. IF that is the case then running direct to the GE panel makes the most sense.
 
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Old 12-16-14, 10:17 AM
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Judging from this picture I believe the height of the existing weatherhead is fine.

http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/w1.jpg

If I were to increase the service to 200 amps, I'd do as Furd has suggested, but there isn't enough overhang to get the mast through the roof. I would bend an offset in a length of 2 inch heavywall conduit for the mast to pass by the edge of the roof to the proper height and secure with guy wires back to the roof. The service drop would then need to be relocated to a mast wireholder. Most smaller residential contractors don't have the capability to bend 2 inch heavywall and would follow the angle of the roof with EMT conduit or SEU cable to near the existing weatherhead location.
 
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Old 12-16-14, 10:46 AM
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Furd. Thanks for your time. I like the way you think.

I'm waiting for 2 different electricians to get back to me. I'll hear what they have to say and I'm not sure what local code is exactly, but I'll know soon. There's a limit to how far all go if not required by code. I'd like to avoid a roof mount.

I can't say if the panels inside were inspected, but the home inspector didn't say anything even though he had us move the laundry tube over 1 foot to meet code.

I like your DIY idea and I will discuss this with the electrician. I have a brick house. The service line (drop line) seems to be mortared into place with no drip loop or anything. Not sure if there's a better way. I was assuming I'd use metal conduit, but these days I'm not so sure. Any tips on how to best bring the conduit into the house and what kind of conduit to use would be appreciated.

I was thinking that at least I could start another hole and have it ready for the new drop line saving the electrician time, but in many ways I'd prefer reusing the hold hole. Beside weakening the wall anymore, there's not a lot of room from the inside to make the new hole. However, getting an electrician out here on shorter notice might require some time saving efforts on my part.

I don't know exactly what I can get away with doing myself, but the state requires that I have a state inspector check this kind of work before they will allow the power to be turned back on. I'll have to coordinate between the electrician, state, and power co.

Your second option might be okay because the line going out and down from the meter looks to be in pretty good shape. Then again, the cables might be corroded where it enters the meter from below.

I don't know if I could simply remove the 100A box and install a straight out junction for the purpose of making the cable longer, but this might be another way to avoid having to rip the cable from the wall and replace it.

So what have I been living on? I must have been under 100A all this time because I have certainly never thrown that big 100Amp breaker. As I said before I've never really thrown any of the circuit breakers either. Does this mean I don't have a need for a service panel rated at over 100Amp?

If I bypass the 100AMp and go right to the 200amp breaker will I then effectively have a 200amp breaker in my house? It is right to assume that the more amps I want for the service panel the thicker the gauge wire I'll need or is it all the same gauge coming in no matter what?



Casual Joe,

I appreciate your feedback and I'll keep what you say in mind when I see the electrician.
 
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Old 12-16-14, 10:50 AM
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There is a lot of personal preference involved. You're right, that old service cable lasted a long time. You can replace the old service cable with the new cable and install it back in the same place.

Most of the services I do are done in PVC and that one would probably not be an exception. It's rare a customer wants to spend the additional money for rigid metal pipe plus the bending like Joe mentioned.

So now you've come to the point in determining if you are going to upgrade your service size. You have a 200A panel fed with 100A.

It looks like the 100A disconnect and the 200A panel are right next to each other. You may be able to feed the 200A panel directly from the meter now.

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Old 12-16-14, 12:13 PM
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PJ,

I think I would actually prefer PVC conduit outside. It seals up nice and doesn't rust.

I did speak with one electrician just now. He's coming out tomorrow, but one thing he said is I could just run the same kind of service line and, as far as code goes, I wouldn't need conduit. I'll see what my options are tomorrow.

I really don't think I need 200A. I've been fine on 100A for 15 years. However, it might be something people look for when I sell the home someday.

I'm assuming I need a heavier gauge service line starting at the weather head if I want 200 amp power?

One issue might force me to get 200A service is that my service panel is rated at 200A. What's code have to say? I know when you run a 20 amp outlet you're supposed to used 12 gauge (20 amp rated) wire. Is it the same deal for wire gauge and service panels?

What's code have to say about how far the cable can run from the wall to the service panel? I'm wondering if I'll be alright once I bypass the 100A SD.

Thanks
 
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Old 12-16-14, 05:26 PM
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Guys, the more I think of this, and longer I wait for the electricians to get back to me just to give me a quote.... how crazy would it be for me to do this myself following Furd's suggestion? I'm not an electrician, but I'm very careful and meticulous when I work and this is pretty basic stuff.

As PJmax said, I'd need a service head, service cable, meter pan. Add to that conduit and a little mortar to seal up the hole I'd be making in the house. Looks like Home Depot or Lowes carries all this stuff.

I can't really imagine what I could possibly do wrong that an electrician or the state inspector wouldn't immediately notice and I can't imagine doing any worse than what's on my house now. The connections at the weather head and both sides of the meter would be done by the power company, right? Would I even have to strip the cable or could I just leave them with enough slack to cut it and strip it?

The only connection I'd even have to make would be the one to the service panel itself. Or I could do everything but that and just hire an electrician to look over my work and make the final connection while the power company is making all the connections with the power off. This sounds very do-able.

I'm off to do some homework...
 
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Old 12-16-14, 06:08 PM
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I'd need.... service cable, meter pan
Not service cable if you use conduit. It would be THWN individual conductors. In some areas the PoCo sells or issues the meter socket. In other areas you buy it from a retailer. You need to determine this for your area. In some cities such as mine only a master electrician can pull a permit so you need to find out if you are even allowed to do this.
 
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Old 12-16-14, 06:15 PM
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Ray2047,

The line, meter socket, and weather head are all available locally at Lowes (similar to a Home Depot). What's the best way to determine if a master electrician is required? Call the zoning office of my city? Call the Power Co? I'm certain a state inspector needs to be present before the power can be turned back on, but I wasn't told a permit was needed to begin this kind of work. Is this typical?
 
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Old 12-16-14, 06:23 PM
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You need to call the inspection department or local equivalent. Local rules vary so you need to just start surfing your phone.
 
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Old 12-16-14, 08:16 PM
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So what have I been living on? I must have been under 100A all this time because I have certainly never thrown that big 100Amp breaker. As I said before I've never really thrown any of the circuit breakers either. Does this mean I don't have a need for a service panel rated at over 100Amp?
You obviously don't have to upgrade to 200 amps unless you plan on adding significant loads to the service, a new 100 amp service would be the least expensive way to go.

Many localities allow homeowners to take out permits and do their own electrical work, but many of them draw the line at the service and require a licensed contractor to take out the permit and do the work. I wouldn't make any decisions till the contractors you called come out and give you a quote and some advice.

I'll have to coordinate between the electrician, state, and power co.
This is the contractors job, let him do it.
 
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Old 12-17-14, 02:49 AM
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There are probably at least a dozen different ways to accomplish this task. The very first thing you need to do if you think you might want to DIY is to find out if you are even allowed to DIY. This information should be readily available from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) which would be the electrical inspection agency in your local government. It might be a branch of the building department of the city or it might be at the county level.

Assuming that you are allowed (under permit, of course) the next step is to learn what the rules for service are from your electric utility. These will determine what products are acceptable as well as the necessary height of the weatherhead. From there it is amassing the materials and installing them, the conductors being the last part of the mechanical work. You would be the one actually connecting the conductors to the meter socket, not the utility. Connecting at the main circuit breaker in the panel could be left until the utility comes to transfer the service drop OR you could install a 100 ampere circuit breaker in the panel and transfer the existing wires from the Square D 100 ampere circuit breaker to the new CB. This would allow installing the new service conductors to the main circuit breaker while still maintaining power. If you do it this way you will have the100 ampere circuit breaker left over but I think it is a safer method. It is at this point that you would have the inspection made.

Once it passes inspection either you or the inspector will call the utility for the changeover. The utility will cut the drop from the existing service and either move it over to the new service (if it is long enough) or they will install a new drop. During this time you would remove the 100 ampere circuit breaker and wiring and when the utility crew is finished you simply turn the main circuit breaker back on. Simple...at least for those of us that have done it.

I would recommend that you buy the book Wiring Simplified and read it cover to cover if you think you might want to try this. Wiring Simplified is the BEST book for the layperson when it comes to understanding residential electrical systems as it not only tells you how something is done but also why it is done in the manner it is. The cost is about $10 give or take a couple of bucks and it is often available at the mega-mart homecenter as well as the corner hardware store. More often found in the electrical aisle instead of the books and magazines section it is also available from many on-line booksellers.
 

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