Meter Lug Burn - bad meter?

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  #1  
Old 12-22-01, 03:58 AM
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Meter Lug Burn - bad meter?

Repairs have just been completed on my burned meter lug and meter. I suspect the meter was the cause and I am appealing to the power company to reimburse my repairs. I would appreciate any opinions or insights, and especially help correcting my terminology so my appeal letter will be well worded.

Background: Problem began with dimming lights for no apparent reason, no loads other than lights. It would last 5-10 minutes, recur ever couple hours or so, lasted 2 days before we checked the meter and saw smoke. Pulled meter, called power company.

Description of Meter Lug (Challenger, 4 years old, Power feed comes in from pole to the top lugs, through the meter and through bottom lugs to house.)

Incoming long metal 'bars' are all pristine (shiny metal). Outgoing metal bars (l-shaped) are darkened, not charred or burned. Plastic/bakelite is shaped like tic-tac-toe board. Top sections (incoming) are perfect. Bottom (outgoing) left side is moderately melted, Bottome (outgoing) right side is severly melted, smooth, no charring, no arcing, just melted. Each 'lug clip' has a smaller lightweight horseshoe shaped retaining clip that holds the tips of the clip together. The top (incoming) lug clips are pristine. The bottom lug clips are darkened only and one is charred. The small retaining clips are melted at the tips and molten metal from them is deposited on the larger clips.

Description of Meter: Top 'prongs' pristine. Bottom left prong darkened and has spot of melted metal attached but is otherwise clean. Bakelite charred out and gone 1/4" all around prong. Bottom right prong badly charred with molten metal attached. Bakelite charred out and gone 1/2" all around prong. The entire glass globe is splattered on the inside with a brown liquid appearing substance which pooled at the bottom, and appears to have solidified

Repairs/Opinions: Power company electrician said problem is usually meter lug at fault, but ours didn't show typical signs which he described as some kind of ?circling pattern? and/or arcing around lugs. He had never seen a meter with the described splatter. He installed jumpers pending meter lug replacement. For five days while we awaited parts, power worked fine with the jumpers and the old lug. Private electrician who replaced meter lug doesn't have an opinion on what caused it and it is my impression he isn't very experienced with meter lugs. Power company has not yet replaced meter or collected old one, so jumpers are still in place.

My opinion: Since metal parts of meter lug are perfect except for the lightweight clips where the tips of the meter lugs attached to the outgoing side of the meter, and inside of meter is obviously fubar, I believe heat originated inside a faulty meter and the meter lug failure was secondary. I just don't know how to put this into words effectively and believably to convince the power company to reimburse.

Any opinions, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 
  #2  
Old 12-23-01, 06:04 AM
Wgoodrich
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The meter base is the power company's cash box. In most jurisdictions [counties/cities] it is forbidden for a customer to enter a meter base that has been sealed by the power company. I know you are probably thinking that your house was on fire and this was an emergency. The following action is normally the only legal means of action in the situation that you discribed.

SHUT THE MAIN POWER OFF AND GET EVERYONE OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR SAFETY SAKE. This would have effectively reduced the heat in the meterbase allowing the fire department to take over upon arrival.

Proper proceedure in a case of smoke from a meterbase is to do the above then call the fire department. Usually the Local Ordinances in that jurisdiction provides the fire chief as an AHJ. This gives him authority to pull a meter or cut a service drop when in his opinion an emergency exists. If the smoke is contained within the meter base and no sign of damage to the structure is present then fire department will confirm the main power is shut off and call the serving Utility company to have the incoming power to the meter base causing that meter base and dwelling to become de-energized until repairs have been made.

Once the power has been de-energized then the owner and / or electrician must purchase an electrical premit for the repairs requried. Then the repairs are to be made by a licensed electrician is licensing is rquired. Once the repair have been made the AHJ [electrical inspector] is called for an inspection approval. Then once an inspection approval and power to panel authority has been issued by that AHJ to the power company, the serving utility then re-energizes that meter base and therefore you dwelling will then have power. Some utility companies will furnish you new meter base to use during your repair proceedures for you to use to replace the damaged meter base. Some require you to replace the meter base at your cost. If you had damage as you discribed the meter base should have to be replaced instead of repaired.

From your discription you broke the seal, pulled the meter, made some temporary repairs, re-energized the dwelling. Now you are still having trouble having a damaged meter base and are concerned about a minor loss of cost of electricity that you feel the power company is responsible for re-imbursing you for that monetary loss of electricity.

If we look at what you have discribed and looked a normal proceedures generally accepted. The meter base when originally it was installed was installed by the home owner or an electrician hired by the home owner. Most often when there is a loose connection causing damage where the small clips hold the larger clips tigth to the bars of the meter itself, this is caused by someone during the original installation installing the exact thing you have installed. JUMPER BARS ACROSS WHERE THE METER IS SUPPOSED TO BE. These jumpers during the original installation spread the clips that are supposed to create a tight connection when the meter is plugged in. Over a period of time this spreading of the receiver spades causes the loose connection to deteriate. This deteriation may be over years of time or over days of time depending on how much the clips were spread by the installation of those jumper bars.temporarily installed at some time whether it be during initial construction or when a customer didn't want to pay for electricity over a period of time. Some time or other these jumper bars most likely were installed in that meter spreading the receiver clips and causing your damage as you discribed.

Now you are probably saying this did not happen. Is there a way that you can prove that jumpers were never installed in that meter base spreading the clips causing the loose connection and the damage you experienced? What if the power company provided a picture of the jumpers you have in there now. Wouldn't a hearing authority think if there in there now then they very well probably were in there before substantiating the theory that is being portrayed.

I am not saying you did this. I am saying at this point you have broken the normal and generally accepted proceedures and took matters into your own hands.

Don't be surprised that the delay of hte Utility company is a delay proceedure until their legal councel has time to advise whether damage and theft of electricity should be charged against you because you cut the seal that was showing security measures from unauthorized personel from entering that meter base.

If it were me I would be contacting the the AHJ [electrical inspector] and the serving utility company with quiet demeanor and ask what they can do to help you get your service repaired in the proper procedures.

If you don't do what I just suggested there is a chance that while you are building a case to recover a few dollars. Those others involved may be talking to the prosecuter, police, AHJ, fire department in an attempt to build a case against you for far more than you can imagine.

Possibilities are a civil case charging you for loss of electricity used but not metered. Charges for the following may also be possible. Theft, theft by deception, trespassing, wiring without permits, wiring without ever received an electrical license. Many more legal actions could be brought up against you that I have not thought of.

The power company or law enforement may not do anything. I have seen it all done over the years. Never did I see the Utility Company lose a case when the filed legal action.

My best advice to you is to go talk to your electrical inspector and you electrical utility company and your electrician and see what you can do to get this situation resolved as quietly and smootly as possible. If you do nothing then I suspect someone will be visiting you soon and it won't be Santa Claus.

I know you may take offense to what I have said. Someone need to say it and I seemed to be the only one that said it. Not a pleasant thing to read, but you needed to know what may be sneaking up on you without your knowledge.

Go try and get this resolved in the right manner before they come to you in a not pleasant manner.

Be careful this one may bite you instead of you biting them

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #3  
Old 12-23-01, 01:47 PM
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Thank you very much for taking the time to reply. Let me clarify some things in my original post that you may have misunderstood. We did not do any repairs ourselves, at all. The only repairs done were done by the power company, or a hired electrical company, with permits. We followed proper protocol to the best of our abilities. The only imaginable thing that could be said we did wrong was to cut the tab and pull out the meter to stop the burning, which in our view was the only concievable thing to do, we couldn't let the house burn and the closest fire station is 15 miles away. There is no warning label or protocol instructions on the meter seal, its just a tag with the name of the power company. We had no idea that this was some sort of violation. WHILE my husband was unplugging the meter, I was already on the phone trying to reach their emergency number. I was stuck in a "press 1, press 2 cycle which was pretty hopeless since the only phone working was a dial phone (all others are cordless, and the power was out...) There was no theft of electricity. The power company rep responded within an hour, and it was HIM who installed the jumpers, not us. The private electrician responded the same day, and did nothing until the parts came in a week later. There were no temporary repairs done by anyone. Everything was aboveboard and done with permits according to proper protocol. In fact, it was thepower company rep who suggested that we file a claim.

What we are seeking reimbursal on is several hundred dollars to replace the entire meter hookup (?terminology? all the stuff in the meter can), not a few dollars to recover electricity.

I appreciate your response. With the above in mind, could you help me out with some terminology and an opinion as to the cause of the problem? Thanks so much fo rtaking the time.
 
  #4  
Old 12-23-01, 03:14 PM
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Sounds like you have most of the description already. Although it seems to be a faulty (loose or high impedance) connection between the meter and the meter pan.
I don't do much residential, but usually the home owner is responsible for the meter pan, and the utility provides the meter into the homeowners socket. The connections are not visable once the meter is in the socket, so it would be difficult for someone to have predicted this occurance.
It occasionally is a problem when awaiting the meter, the contractor may place shorting straps across the meter pan lugs to provide temporary power or testing within the home. It is only sometimes a problem because the shorting straps spread the lug apart slightly and results in a poor connection when the meter is slipped in to place.
Generally the meter pan and associated problems are on the homeowners "dime" with the utilities approval for the repair.
 
  #5  
Old 12-23-01, 05:37 PM
Wgoodrich
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What you wrote in response to me is the best information and protocal activity that you can present to the Utility company. What you said defends your actions in your mind, provides your movements to try and do it properly by hiring a pro to do the repairs an have permits and inspections. What you have said in your reply to my thoughts is probably your best weapon to seek reimbursment. Submit what you said to the Utility company after adding what you feel is your thoughts as to it being their liability.

One word of warning. Whenever you pull or install a meter into a meter socket that is under a heavy load you stand a chance of that meter blowing up like a bomb in an explosive manner. There are training films showing utility service company employees who have been badly injured in this type of electrical accident. Not a pretty sight if that meter blows.

What Handy Ron said says it best as to the expected response back to your claim. I suspect they will say almost to the letter what Handy Ron said to you as their defense.

Just be sure to approach them before they approach you. It is best to be the plaintiff than being a defendant. Remember the saying that a best defense is an offence.

Let us know how you come out

Wg
 
  #6  
Old 12-25-01, 05:22 PM
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Hopefully your electric company is different from ours.

The home owner is responsible for all material and wiring excluding the connection from the pole to the service head or top of the meter panel.

The homeowner is responsible for purchasing and installing the meter panel.

Thank goodness you're safe.
 
 

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