New Electric Panel

New Electric Panel

Let’s take a break from the beam project for a moment. I often post incremental progress on our many simultaneous undertakings, but I’d like to be able to have each post be about one topic. It was that line of thinking that had me holding off on posting about our upgraded electric service. See, it was supposed to be simple. For one, we hired someone to do it. To be more specific, we hired someone in July. I held off posting about it because I was waiting until it was finished, so I could have a start-to-finish post on one topic. I didn’t realize we were in store for an epic saga of electric company obstinacy. If I had, I’d have posted along the way. Instead, here in December, I’m going to give you one big post about how we got our electric service upgraded. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of the dates.

The story starts with us selecting contractors. We had met Percy, our electrician, at an open house hosted by Marcus and Cathy. They had hired Percy to do their work and from what we could see of it, he’d be perfect for what we needed. At the time we were hoping it would be possible to get the radiant heat installed this fall, and so getting new electric service was a priority. Percy quoted us the new 200 amp service with a new breaker panel and whole-house surge suppressor and we hired him.

Right on time, Percy and his assistants arrived and spent a day and half installing the new equipment, moved all the breakers into the new panel, and put the service pipe on the side of the house for the new service to connect to. Everything was done very well. Lots of clamps securing everything, neat connections and professional work all around. We originally had two meters (for the two flats) on the side of back porch. Because we’re eventually removing and replacing the whole back porch, we wanted to put the meter on the house itself. After some discussion with Percy, he put the meter box about three feet from where the old one was.

Percy told us that ComEd (our power company) would be out in a couple of weeks to hook up the new line from the pole. Two weeks came and went but there had been some storms that had knocked out power for people so we waited a bit longer. Then, one Saturday morning I got a phone call that someone from ComEd would be there to perform an inspection in a few minutes. I met the inspector along the side of the house and he succinctly told me that the location of the meter wouldn’t work. It was too close to the neighbors house, too close to their meter, and it was too close to the property line. I should explain here that we have a sidewalk along each side of the house. One (on the South side) is our sidewalk and one (on the North) is our neighbors’. The meter box was along the neighbors’ sidewalk, and our house sits right on the property line. It never occurred to us this was a problem because the old meter was along that side as well.

The inspector left and we called Percy. He said he would call ComEd and get it straightened out. He explained that he could appeal but it might take several weeks. We told him that was fine and waited. Eventually, in late August or early September, he was told that it would in fact need to be moved more than three feet from the neighbors’ meter. That meant that Percy had to come back and spend a whole day moving the box and the pipe three feet over and re-run the cable.

A week or so later the inspector from ComEd came back and this time Percy met him there. He said that while it was now far enough from the other meter, and he could forgive the distance to the other house, once a meter was put into the box it would be over the property line (by approximately three inches), and he couldn’t pass it. The only place the meter could go was the other side of the house, along our sidewalk. With no recourse, Percy came back and spent another day and a half again moving the pipe and meter box, this time to the opposite side of the house, adding a cutoff switch in the basement because the meter box was now more than five feet from the breaker. Because the line from the alley was still connected on the other side, he had to run temporary wires around the back of the porch to connect to the new pole.

The inspector was due out, but we never saw any sign of him. Instead we got a letter from ComEd that because we no longer had a working meter (just the box for it) they were going to disconnect our electricity. Sarah called ComEd and we were told not to worry about that. They said the inspector had not approved it because the wire that would connect from the house to the alley would run past the window on the porch. She explained that the porch was going to be removed, but they said unless we could tear it down now, that didn’t matter. Finally, they agreed that if we boarded up the window it would be acceptable.

The inspector finally came back out and reluctantly, as if searching for any excuse to deny it, approved the work. We thought that now, finally, we were in the clear. By now it was October. The next visit from ComEd was supposed to install the new wire to the alley, but the guy that arrived looked at the house and told us they couldn’t do it because there wasn’t enough room to safely put a ladder against the side of the house, and then left. A few days later a man arrived from ComEd to install the new meter and told us he couldn’t because the wiring around the back of the porch wasn’t safe. We explained it was temporary, but he said he couldn’t install the meter and left.

A series of phone calls to ComEd got a visit from the foreman who reiterated that they couldn’t safely put a ladder against the house and the only way to do it would be to bring in a scissor lift. They measured the clearance and determined it wouldn’t fit through the back gate and wouldn’t fit between the house and the neighbors fence at the front.

We asked it it could be brought through the garage, since we have an overhead door that opens to the yard. He wasn’t sure how tall the lift was and said he’d let us know. Further phone calls revealed it was too tall. Finally, Sarah told them we would remove the section of the back fence adjacent to the gate so they could bring in the scissor lift.

Removing the back fence

Removing the back fence

All of this brings us to early December. I pried off the concrete along the edge of the sidewalk and dug out the post for the fence, which unlike much of our house was actually done well, with a concrete footing nearly three feet into the ground. I finally had to use a 2×4 to lever the thing out of the ground and a sledge hammer to break off the concrete. The next day, the crew from ComEd showed up and used a ladder. They were apologetic about the previous people that told us to dig up our fence, and even helped Sarah put it back in place so she could pour new concrete.

Re-poured fence footing

Re-poured fence footing

Finally, we have new 200-amp electric service. We didn’t wind up getting the radiant heat installed this fall because we didn’t have permits yet and we weren’t far enough along in the other work. Other than meeting code requirements, we probably don’t even need it. However, after countless phone calls and seemingly endless frustration it’s done. Percy, having spent quite a bit of his own time, money, and material dealing with their bureaucracy is considering legal action, but we just want to put it behind us and focus on the next piece of this massive puzzle.

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One Response to New Electric Service

  1. Oh my! Sorry to hear that you got that kind of run-around. The two of you have the patience of an angle!

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