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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Going Underground

Stephanie Staton
Hobby Farms and Hobby Farm Home Editor

I might have mentioned before that my husband is an equipment operator with a few toys of his own. (Cue backhoe!) Given that his toys aren’t so small and require plenty of headroom, he’s had too many close calls with a wire running from the corner of the original house to the electrical pole than my nerves can handle.

Despite our farmhouse expansion plans, the locations of the pole and the electrical feed at the corner of the house made it next to impossible to raise the line to a safe height. Rather than risk an unpleasant tangle with the backhoe, we opted to lower the line. Yep, you heard me right: We lowered it. In fact, we buried it.

Before any of that could take place though, we had to disconnect the current feed to the house, install a new electrical pole and request temporary electrical service, which meant the only power was at the pole—the house was dead in the water, so to speak.

In order to power the house and camper (our temporary residence until our home is livable), we had to run extension cords to two available outlets on the pole—an interesting setup when you need power for so many different projects. We worked this way for several months, fighting over cords and getting exasperated when helpers unplugged the camper. (Hello, I have food in the fridge and freezer!)

Finally, it came time to get the electrical ready for inspection—all wires for plugs, lights, alarms, et cetera had to be run and connected to the panels before we could get approval. (The plugs don’t actually have to be in place—just the wires.) Meeting code was no walk in the park. Using a local certified electrician who understands your county or municipal codes is invaluable and saved us a lot of time and headache—trust me, I speak from experience and not necessarily the good kind.

Temporary-permanent electrical connections carries the power from the pole to the house—it’s the connection our permanent electrical will use but is designated as "temporary-permanent” until we receive inspection approval for final electrical. To prepare for the temporary-permenant connection, hubby used his trusty toy to dig a 40-inch-deep trench from the pole to the house, and my brother helped hand-dig the areas close the pole and the house’s foundation. The line bisected the driveway, meaning we had to jump the trench to reach the house. Because we can’t leave the trench open for the electrical company to feed the wire through before hooking up the temporary-permanent electrical, they laid conduit in the trench and fed a piece of string through it for the electrical department to run the wire.

The guys also installed PVC pipes running perpendicular to the conduit, protruding up through the soil in two places for the technicians to verify the conduit was in place with the proper materials. (If you decide to take on such a project, talk with your power company before moving or changing any lines. Restrictions and regulations vary from state to state and county to county.)

As part of the regulations for installing the underground lines, the conduit also needed to run to the top of the pole—a task hubby took on before contacting the utility company to come run the wire. Once again, check with your local provider before making any changes to your electrical lines. Incremental costs beyond the standard for installation, including requests for underground lines, locations other than those specified by the utility company and changes in specific voltage are often the homeowner’s responsibility—and items not done to the company’s satisfaction might have to be corrected at your expense. The utility company should be able to provide guidelines for what you need to have done before a technician arrives and what to expect as far as costs—our service provider actually has an online manual for the process that we were able to follow step by step.

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Going Underground

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Cool!
Kayla, Southern, IL
Posted: 8/13/2013 4:03:40 PM
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