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Old 06-11-2015, 02:03 PM
 
11 posts, read 11,916 times
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I own a home built in the early 60s. Recently, at the suggestion of the home inspector when buying the house, I had an electrician change out the original fuse box. The second portion of the work to be performed is the replacement of the wire that attaches to the outside of the house and runs to the power meter. The electrician tells me that the completion of this portion of the work will involve an inspection from the power company to ensure that it was completed properly. He has expressed some trepidation about this inspection, saying that there is a possibility that they may take issue with the fact that the fuse box is not within the specific coded proximity to the meter (3 feet, I believe). He suggests that I don't tell the inspector that the fuse box was just replaced but act as if I bought the house that way. He says that inspectors typically grandfather older homes and box/meter placement, as long as both haven't been replaced at the same time. He says he opted not to move the placement of the fuse box because of a hidden wire in the dry wall of the ceiling that runs from the meter to the fuse box. He explained that removing this wire would have required considerable carpentry work and cost. He also says that there would have been an issue of creating a junction at the location of the current box for all the existing house wiring to any newer location. He says that the coding issue that the inspector may have relates to the fact that in case of emergency there would be no shut off switch between the location of the meter and the fuse box. Thus, even if the fuse box is completely shut off, the hidden wire in the ceiling would still be live. He says that there would be no way to install a shut off outside between the two because the current ceiling wire has three wires and not an additional grounding wire. Thus the same issue with tearing out/replacing the hidden ceiling wire.

Obviously I want to ensure the work is done properly and safely. However, at the same time, I don't want to add significant additional cost to already expensive electrical work, particularly if this is a nitpicking coding issue and not a credible danger . I'd like to believe that my situation is not unique, that thousands if not all houses built prior to the enactment of this bit of electrical code was written have a similar set up--a fuse box that is not in an approved proximity to the meter and with no external shut off switch.

Does anyone know anything about this stipulation and the potential danger of not having the work done to current code? Also, even if the inspector agrees to grandfather the house and pass the work, am I possibly setting myself to revisit this again in the future if I try to sell the house?
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:31 PM
 
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The issue is that there has to be a circuit breaker within x feet of the meter - otherwise there is no protection on the main line in your house between the meter and the panel. This is potentially very dangerous - you REALLY don't want an unprotected 200 amp line short circuiting in your crawl space.

All recent meters have a breaker built in but older ones do not. I had to have my meter replaced as well when I had the fuse box replaced due to this issue in order to meet code.
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:59 PM
 
Location: Raleigh, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WowNoWay View Post
The electrician tells me that the completion of this portion of the work will involve an inspection from the power company to ensure that it was completed properly. He has expressed some trepidation about this inspection, saying that there is a possibility that they may take issue with the fact that the fuse box is not within the specific coded proximity to the meter (3 feet, I believe).
In my older version of the NEC, it says the Service Disconnect has to installed on either the outside of the building, or inside "nearest" the point of entrance of the service conductors. It does not specify a distance.

The homeowner is usually responsible for all cabling from the meter socket inward, which is inspected by the town/county, not the power company.

Quote:
Originally Posted by orulz View Post
All recent meters have a breaker built in but older ones do not. I had to have my meter replaced as well when I had the fuse box replaced due to this issue in order to meet code.
Some newer electric meters have a disconnect switch included (to be able to shut off power remotely for non-payment and/or move-in/move-out). No meters have circuit breakers inside them.
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:04 PM
 
Location: Raleigh, NC
3,123 posts, read 3,777,124 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WowNoWay View Post
I own a home built in the early 60s. Recently, at the suggestion of the home inspector when buying the house, I had an electrician change out the original fuse box.
If you are going from, say a 60-amp fuse box to a 200-amp breaker panel, there is a slight chance the cables from the transformer to your house may need to be replaced (by the power company). They should be able to tell you if the existing cables can support the higher amperage.
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:04 PM
 
Location: Morrisville, NC
7,635 posts, read 9,956,256 times
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There is a maximum allowed length of unfused conductor, which sounds like the meter base to breaker box will be more than that. The simplest and safest thing would be to have the electrician install a meter base with built in main breaker. That way there should be no issue.
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Old 06-11-2015, 06:41 PM
 
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NEC code -- meter base to main panel has to be within 3 feet...that mystery wire in your wall is your main feed coming from your meter supplying the main panel. the issue, as Orulz stated, is it can be dangerous.....
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Old 06-12-2015, 08:06 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherifftruman View Post
There is a maximum allowed length of unfused conductor, which sounds like the meter base to breaker box will be more than that. The simplest and safest thing would be to have the electrician install a meter base with built in main breaker. That way there should be no issue.
I believe that this was what the electrician initially proposed and the way I would ideally like to go. However he said that on further inspection it would not be possible because this set up would require a grounding wire on the supply wire that runs between the meter and the fuse box. I believe this is where the whole 3 wire verses 4 wire dilemma came up. As I understand it, the fourth wire is typically a grounding wire that the older, embedded supply wire does not currently have.

Assuming I am properly interpreting the problem, can anyone confirm that this lack of grounding wire would also be something to require a complete replacement of that supply wire?

Thanks for everyone's feedback--very helpful. I still have a hard time believing that this problem is unique for me. Aren't there older homes out there that have existed for decades with a distance greater than 3 feet between meter and fuse box, possibly without a meter base without a built in breaker, without any problems?
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Old 06-12-2015, 08:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don6170 View Post
Some newer electric meters have a disconnect switch included (to be able to shut off power remotely for non-payment and/or move-in/move-out). No meters have circuit breakers inside them.
I meant the meter box - not the meter itself. As you mention, I had to have that replaced with one with a disconnect in order to meet code.

In my case, the house had 100 amp service and an approximately 25 foot wire between the meter and the box, with no disconnect. The 100 amp service was borderline inadequate but I was living with it so to speak.

What pushed me to do the fix was that the meter box had severe corrosion and was losing neutral. Cleaning the contacts did not fix the issue.

When the electrician replaced the meter box, he replaced it with a 200 amp, 12-circuit unit with disconnect. This essentially became my main panel. He added a 100 amp breaker and made the interior panel into a sub-panel. After that he added some ground spikes.

While I had the electrician on site, I had him replace the inside panel too because it was an outmoded rats nest of ugly DIY wiring. As you mention, he also had to replace the wire between the inside panel and the meter box with a 4-conductor one of slightly larger gauge (evidently gauge requirements are a bit different now than they were in the 1930s.)

I was in for $2000 at that point so I stopped there, but in the future I plan on moving some of the larger circuits such as the air conditioner, stove, and dryer to the outside panel, gaining some headroom on the inside panel, and replacing some of the tandem breakers on the inside panel with single-circuit units.
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Old 06-12-2015, 01:56 PM
 
485 posts, read 588,562 times
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the electrician is required to move the old box to the 3' rule when upgrading the main panel. He is not supposed to install a new main panel without making it up to code. If he installed a new panel without moving it, he is in violation (and so is your house). He told you to tell the inspector that you bought the house like that so he would not get in hot water.

Just so you know what you have-or do not have---4 wires are:

2 "hots" at 120 volts each--that equals 240
one ground
one neutral
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Old 06-18-2015, 03:10 PM
 
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Can anyone tell me where these codes are documented? I looked on the city website and there are a number of free publications that provide coding rules, but I am unable to find this specific rule. As before, I want to ensure to have this completed in a way that meets code and is safe.

Am I to understand that even if I have the supply wire replaced between the meter and the panel in order to have the prerequisite 4 wires and then have a shut off installed at the meter that my house would still be in violation because the panel was not relocated?
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