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-   -   Do I need a new service line? (http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/do-i-need-new-service-line-97138/)

BataviaJim 03-03-2011 01:53 PM

Do I need a new service line?
 
5 Attachment(s)
An electrician wants to charge $2000 for work that I'm not sure is needed so I'm looking for advice.


Recently I had a neutral problem at my panel. Under heavy load (1500w) all the circuits on that side of the main would lose voltage about 10v drop. All the circuits on the other side would gain voltage, about the same amount. Lights on the loaded side would dim, on the other brighten.


I had a similar problem before so I figured what it was, but I'm not one to fool with the main panel so I called an electrician. The guy I had before is retired so I checked the phone book and picked a company that was licensed, insured, BBB, etc. They got a tech out the same day, he measured the voltage changes and agreed it was a neutral problem. He checked all the individual panel connections, which were good, went on the roof and checked the PoCo feed, also good. He pulled the meter and found a slightly loose connection from the panel to the ground. Tightening it solved the problem, or at least the immediate symptoms. He charged $290 which seemed high for a little over an hour's work, but I was happy to get it fixed right away.


Next he took more measurements unloaded and loaded. He came in and said that there was still a 5v drop on my service line at the pole, and my feed from the PoCo lines to the meter was deteriorated. He said everything from the PoCo feed to the meter should be replaced new pole riser, insulator, service cable, meter base, and wire from meter to panel. He would also check the inside ground connections and bring them up to code. Total cost: $2027.


I'm not convinced this is necessary. His rationale was the age and appearance of the service line, and the claimed 5v drop there under load. My house is 50 years old and that's the original service, so it does have some age. Photos are attached. You can see cracks in the wire.


Here's what I have now inside the house under load:
  • No dimming or brightening lights anywhere
  • The single loaded circuit shows a 5v drop - 119.5 to 114.5, with a 1500W appliance on. (My panel is on the other side of the garage so the line is 80ft long)
  • Other circuits on the same main don't show a drop
  • Other circuits on the other main don't show a surge
I'll get another estimate before proceeding, but I'd like to get an opinion from this group first.

1. Does it seem like I have any remaining neutral problem? From some Internet research I get the impression that a 5v drop on a loaded circuit is not excessive, especially one that length. But I'm not sure.

2. If there is a 5v drop under load at the service line, does that justify the job?

3. Based on age and appearance, does it seem appropriate to put in a new service line?


4. If so, is the cost reasonable?


Thanks very much for any advice.

AllanJ 03-03-2011 02:31 PM

I don't know how much it should cost but all the connections including the screws holding the wires on the breakers, the set screws holding the neutral and ground wires on the terminal strips (busses) in the panel should be tightened if needed. Also flip each breaker off, unsnap it from the panel, ans snap it back in. This cleans the contact underneath and, if the breaker appears loose, check for a deformed or burned contact underneath and change to a different slot if so.

A professional will be needed to retighten the big lugs where the service wires from the meter and roof entrance head enter the panel.

The service entrance as you have shown it looks okay to me. The cracked insulation on the wires up on the roof does not need attention.

Check for voltage drop at the service wires (measure between hot and ground) just before they enter the big lugs in the panel. This will narrow down whether the 5 volt drop is happening in the service wires or further upstream towards the pole transformer versus in the branch circuit or further downstream towards the appliance.

The connections, generally bars screwed or riveted togehter, at and under the main breaker also need to be checked for looseness, heat damage, and/or oxidation. This is also best left to a professional.

Speedy Petey 03-03-2011 03:09 PM

Based on those pictures, and the age of the equipment, IMO I would say a service upgrade IS in your best interest. If not now then sometime soon.

From those pics it is impossible to say if there is still a neutral problem.

Depending on where in NY you are $2k is reasonable.

BataviaJim 03-03-2011 04:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AllanJ (Post 601776)
I don't know how much it should cost but all the connections including the screws holding the wires on the breakers, the set screws holding the neutral and ground wires on the terminal strips (busses) in the panel should be tightened if needed. Also flip each breaker off, unsnap it from the panel, ans snap it back in. This cleans the contact underneath and, if the breaker appears loose, check for a deformed or burned contact underneath and change to a different slot if so.

Thanks.
I should have mentioned that the panel box was replaced 3 years ago (all new breakers and new cable to the ground) so it's in good shape. Everything else electrical is original. The electrician said he did check all panel connections while troubleshooting the neutral problem, and they were good.

...

Quote:

Originally Posted by AllanJ (Post 601776)
Check for voltage drop at the service wires (measure between hot and ground) just before they enter the big lugs in the panel. This will narrow down whether the 5 volt drop is happening in the service wires or further upstream towards the pole transformer versus in the branch circuit or further downstream towards the appliance.

The electrician checked there and above, and he said that the 5v drop is at the top. I'm not sure how to confirm that myself -- I'm reluctant to touch my $30 multimeter to the service wires. Is that safe? (I have a vision of me in flames shooting off the roof. :furious: )

Quote:

Originally Posted by Speedy Petey (Post 601795)
Based on those pictures, and the age of the equipment, IMO I would say a service upgrade IS in your best interest. If not now then sometime soon.

From those pics it is impossible to say if there is still a neutral problem.

Depending on where in NY you are $2k is reasonable.

Thanks. I'm just outside Buffalo, NY, far from NYC. When the guy was writing the estimate (he used a job-rate book) my wife and I speculated that it would be on the high side of $500. We wouldn't have been surprised at $1,000, but over $2k was a stunner.

BataviaJim 03-03-2011 04:20 PM

More info
 
2 Attachment(s)
In case it matters, the service wire goes into the garage wall. See photos.

Apparently the current code doesn't allow that. A new service would have to go outside the wall. I think enclosed in pipe all the way but not sure.

Saturday Cowboy 03-03-2011 04:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Speedy Petey (Post 601795)
Based on those pictures, and the age of the equipment, IMO I would say a service upgrade IS in your best interest. If not now then sometime soon.

From those pics it is impossible to say if there is still a neutral problem.

Depending on where in NY you are $2k is reasonable.



agreed replace

Speedy Petey 03-03-2011 06:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BataviaJim (Post 601828)
Thanks.
I should have mentioned that the panel box was replaced 3 years ago (all new breakers and new cable to the ground) so it's in good shape. Everything else electrical is original. The electrician said he did check all panel connections while troubleshooting the neutral problem, and they were good.

That makes a BIG difference.




Quote:

Originally Posted by BataviaJim (Post 601828)
Thanks. I'm just outside Buffalo, NY, far from NYC. When the guy was writing the estimate (he used a job-rate book) my wife and I speculated that it would be on the high side of $500. We wouldn't have been surprised at $1,000, but over $2k was a stunner.

He used a job rate book to price a residential service change??? That tells me he uses flat-rate pricing. Those guys are almost always way high.
Considering this is only 100A, and is a mast service and the panel does not need to be replaced, I'd say $800-$1k is about right.

BataviaJim 03-04-2011 01:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Speedy Petey (Post 601899)
He used a job rate book to price a residential service change??? That tells me he uses flat-rate pricing. Those guys are almost always way high.
Considering this is only 100A, and is a mast service and the panel does not need to be replaced, I'd say $800-$1k is about right.

Yes, his company uses flat-rate for everything. They pitch it as a positive -- known cost up front.

Your estimate is more in line with what I expected, though at this point anything under $1500 would seem like a bargain.

Speedy Petey 03-04-2011 02:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BataviaJim (Post 602320)
They pitch it as a positive -- known cost up front.

That is the ONLY positive, for you at least.


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