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Low service over eave


Chris Bernhardt
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The overhead electrical lines coming to the home are too close to the roofline. There should be 18" minimum clearance.

Randy what is the degree of importance here? Fix it right now? I guess that is my real question cause I see them at 16" or 14". Now at 12" its going to be really hard for a roofer to work with out accidently comming close to contacting the conductors.

Chris, Oregon

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Chris, to me, this is a prime example of many of the "what-is-the-big-deal-and-why-should-it-be-fixed" dilemmas we encounter on a daily basis.

I write it because its what people are paying me for - find the defects and write 'em down. This example is so egregious, it would almost be unethical to write it up.

I'd rather get a phone call from a disgruntled or uninformed contractor or real estate agent defending my position, which I'm always prepared to back up with code, standard of practice, or whatever, rather than from an angry client who just had an electrician over to their new home to add a few lights but discovered he will have to charge them $500 for making the service lateral correct.

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Hi,

I write them up all the time too, but, being realistic, one has to make the client aware of the difficulties they'll encounter getting them corrected, so that they don't let a seller, listing agent, or their own agent minimize the issue.

Sellers, and their agents, will say that it's fine, because the power company hooked up to it. The sellers might not know any better, but the agents do. They say it even though any agent who's listing a home has also been on the other side of the deal and probably already knows, from attending past inspections, that it's wrong. They know that it's in a sort of catch 22 limbo that'll complicate their transaction, so they seem to do their best to steer the client past it and years later, when the client goes to sell, it rears it's head again.

Around here, it's not uncommon to find an older house that used to have 3 individual conductors coming to it from the utility pole, where the anchor bracket is bolted horizontally directly to the roof of the house with the wiring only inches from the roof at the bracket, less than a foot above the gutters at the eaves and the extra - what we typically call the "drip loop" lying on the roof or curled up above the bracket and weatherhead. With a lot of these, the mast projects barely a 18 inches from the roof and this was allowed when the house was built. We'll see a triplex cable anchored to that old bracket, barely off the roof, and wonder why the hell the power company would even connect to it. It doesn't do any good to call them up. The typical response is that they hook up to what's there and aren't responsible for making sure that a homeowner has a mast high enough to get the wiring the requisite distance off the roof. That, plus they've been given a blanket "by" and don't have to necessarily comply with the NEC.

When you explain to the client it's wrong and is a safety issue, they don't always understand why. Lots of them live in homes where they've got the identical issue and so don't all of their neighbors. You also have to make them understand that correction involves more than just moving the anchor point from the roof bracket to a bracket on the weatherhead mast - it might require replacement of the entire mast and meter socket, if the mast isn't beefy enough to support the whole weight of that triplex cable without bending, if the meter socket won't accommodate a beefier mast, or if the mast is too short to get the wires the minimum distance off the roof. All of that knowing that both agents and the seller will most-probably resist the client when he or she tries to insist that it be corrected.

In the grand scheme of things, given the cost of a home these days and the rapid increase in cost of homes, if a seller doesn't want to fix this, it's not the end of the world, because it won't cost the client that much to correct it, at his or her own cost, if it's not corrected as a condition of the sale. Just inform the client that it's incorrect, why it's incorrect, make sure he or she understands all of the issues involved with correcting it, write it up and don't waste any more time dwelling on it. You've done what you were paid to do, now it's the client's responsibility.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks Mike, that was the answer I was looking for.

I appologize if I ask seemingly silly questions that any seasoned inspector ought to know. Please continue to indulge me with honest answers. I have my reasons for asking certain questions that go beyond just getting an answer to that particular question.

And Randy you got it right. I am trying to clear up questions in my mind about how to properly handle inspection dilemmas.

Thanks,

Chris, Oregon

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An interesting side note most of you may already may be aware. . .utility companies do not follow the NEC - they have their own rules.

I inspected a place for an industrial electrician a while back. I asked him why the service lines from the street are many times so much smaller than the SEC into the main panel - you know, a no.2 aluminum line is feeding, sometimes two or three 150 amp meters on a triplex or duplex around here. Each of those 150 amp services has a 2/0 or larger line!?

The utility has calculated that no. 2 cable can easily handle two or three 150 amp meters. He says the NEC is often overkill on their ratings.

So, in essence, the utility could care less what they're tying to on a home.

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Originally posted by randynavarro

An interesting side note most of you may already may be aware. . .utility companies do not follow the NEC - they have their own rules.

I inspected a place for an industrial electrician a while back. I asked him why the service lines from the street are many times so much smaller than the SEC into the main panel - you know, a no.2 aluminum line is feeding, sometimes two or three 150 amp meters on a triplex or duplex around here. Each of those 150 amp services has a 2/0 or larger line!?

The utility has calculated that no. 2 cable can easily handle two or three 150 amp meters. He says the NEC is often overkill on their ratings.

So, in essence, the utility could care less what they're tying to on a home.

Outside lines can disperse heat much more readily than ones inside can, thus outside lines have higher amperage ratings than do inside lines of the same size.

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Originally posted by randynavarro

An interesting side note most of you may already may be aware. . .utility companies do not follow the NEC - they have their own rules.

Yes. Everything from the meter back toward the transformer is the responsibility of the utility company. They have their own rules and guidelines that sometimes conflict with NEC provisions. In such a conflict, the utility company regulations take precedence.

I inspected a place for an industrial electrician a while back. I asked him why the service lines from the street are many times so much smaller than the SEC into the main panel - you know, a no.2 aluminum line is feeding, sometimes two or three 150 amp meters on a triplex or duplex around here. Each of those 150 amp services has a 2/0 or larger line!?

The utility has calculated that no. 2 cable can easily handle two or three 150 amp meters. He says the NEC is often overkill on their ratings.

I disagree with the way he phrased it. The NEC uses a margin of safety -- not overkill -- and it's intended to regulate a completely different set of conditions. Remember that the NEC ampacity tables are designed to protect the *insulation* on the wires, not just the metal wire itself. It doesn't seem to be concerned with voltage drop at all. Since the wiring that's regulated by the NEC is likely to be bundled in cables, covered with insulation, contained in building cavities, etc, etc, those tables have to account for the myriad circumstances that might effect the ultimate temperature of the wires and that might allow damage to the insulation. As Jerry pointed out, the service drop is just a set of unsheathed wires in open air. That makes a big difference to the way they dissapate heat. I also suspect that the insulation on those wires is significantly more robust that the stuff that the NEC regulates.

If you look carefully into the utility company rules, you'll see that they're concerned with stuff like length-to-weight ratios, inertia from wind movement, ice build-up and the shortening-lengthening effects of outdoor temperature. In each of these cases, thinner & lighter wires are better than thicker & heavier wires. They've got to strike a balance between weight and voltage drop while the NEC can pretty much ignore weight.

So, in essence, the utility could care less what they're tying to on a home.

I think that's an unfair statement. The utility is performing to a standard that you're not familiar with, that doesn't mean it's a deficient standard.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . .utility companies do not follow the NEC - they have their own rules.

That's correct, they follow the NESC - National Electric Safety Code, which are the rules that apply to the installation, maintenance and operation of electric supply lines and facilities.

Everything from the meter back toward the transformer is the responsibility of the utility company.

Except for OH services. The SEC between the service drop and the meter base are the owner's responsibility (at least around here).

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So, in essence, the utility could care less what they're tying to on a home.

I think that's an unfair statement. The utility is performing to a standard that you're not familiar with, that doesn't mean it's a deficient standard.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Well, I wasn't dissing the utility, suggesting they have deficient standards. Heck, I don't even know what they are!!

I was just echoing Chris' original implication on this thread that the utility really doesn't care what comes after their cables.

I'm sure we've all seen examples of 'bad' service laterals; absence of drip loops, inadequate clearance of cables to roofline, service lateral too low to the ground, etc.

I use to think that the utility would not tie into a service that didn't meet the "current code" and I used to tell my client's this. I was wrong and now tell them its entirely the responsiblity of the propety owner to make sure everything's up to snuff.

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