Electrical Service-Weatherhead

January 8, 2009

electweatherheadLook at the weather head on the tip of the mast. It should be intact and in one piece. Look for conductors to potentially be rubbing exposd metal surfaces here. If they are rubbing or have been rubbing (even if the plastic is not rubbed through) this situation needs to be corrected as this could cause a service outage as well as be a safety issue. As you can see in the picture of the weather head, the plastic sheath has rubbed off and is exposing the aluminum conductor. Even though the weather head is isolated from the metal structure with a rubber insulator, water could create an electrical path between metallic surfaces causing a electrical short. This condition should be addressed by a licensed electrician.

Key inspections and action items:

  1. Visually inspect the service drop entrance into the weather head for wear, distortion or damage.
  2. Contact an electrician for correction.
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Electrical Service – Mast

January 6, 2009

electrical-service-mastAt the house, the service cable will attach to a metal mast and enter a conduit through the weather-head. This conduit will serve a meter base. Inspect the mast and conduit to ensure it is mounted solidly, not pulled away from the house or overly distorted. A distorted mast is usually the result of undue stress on the service drop that may have occurred due to fallen tree limbs or debris that fell on the service cable. The masts are designed to endure quite a bit of stress and strain so it was probably a significant event to pull or bend the mast before the line was snapped (if at all).  This condition needs to be corrected as this could pinch or nick the conductors in the conduit. Additionally, this distorted mast can allow moisture or varmints into the house creating more issues. Consult a professional electrician regarding repair or replacement.

Key Inspection Points

  1. Ensure Mast is secure and not pulled out of line.
  2. All roof attachments are secure and not causing leaks in the roof.
  3. Inspect for cracks or openings in the conduit that may be allowing water into the meter base.

Electrical Service Entrance

January 4, 2009

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During an extreme weather condition where the loss of electricity is widespread, individual service lines are consider lower priority than lines serving a community or neighborhood. For this reason, your home may be without services for an extended period of time if your only problem is the service entrance cable. Keeping you service cables free from tree limbs and obstructions will reduce your risk.

electrical-entrance2On the outside of the house, look for the location the electrical service arrives at the house. If you have a large black cable originating from a nearby utility pole, your service is considered aerial in lieu of underground. If you have underground service no routine or inspection is required. For aerial service, typically the utility pole is within 20 to 50 feet from the house. Visually follow the path of the cable to the house.

Look for a clean unobstructed path in which the cable travels to get to the house.   If there are tree limbs or other items pushing the cable from its natural path to the house, this condition should be addressed. If there has been limbs rubbing the cable, use binoculars to inspect cable sheath to make sure it is still intact. If trimming is required; a minimum of 18″ to 24″ area of free space should encircle the cable. If tree trimming this area has never been performed, this could be quite involved, but after you perform it the first time, yearly inspections and pruning will be simplified. DO NOT TOUCH THE CABLE WITH ANY DEVICE THAT COULD CONDUCT ELECTRICITY. Never use a metal object to move the cable. If you do not have appropriate trimming tools, consider hiring a professional tree trimmer. If you choose to perform the work yourself, only perform the work on a clear dry day. If there has ever been any large limbs fall on the service line, ensure the service line is still a minimum of 10 feet above the ground at its lowest point. If the service wire (drop) is too low, there is usually a reason for it as previously fallen tree limbs may have caused the damage. electrial-entrance31

A similar inspection of telephone and TV cable (CATV) should be performed as well. Different from the electrical service provider, the cable and telephone suppliers will trim the trees around their service lines between the house and the service poles, but it may be difficult to get them to perform this work just because the foliage is heavy. Typically, they only perform the function if there is degradation in service or they are on site for another reason. In other words, you can wait till it breaks and call them out to fix the problem or you can trim it yourself if the foliage around the lines need trimming. Normally there is no dangerous voltage or high current associated with the CATV or telephone line, but follow the same precautions as with the electrical service.

Additionally, both the CATV and telephone lines should retain a space cushion of approximately 12″ to 18″ below the electrical service drop in its parallel path to the house. It’s okay for the CATV and telephone lines to touch each other but not the electrical line.

Key Inspection Points and Action Items:

  1. Visually inspect the electrical service drop for cuts, chips, flakes or bare spots.
  2. Trim trees and shrubs away from the line.
  3. Ensure the electrical line is at least 10′ high at its lowest point.
  4. Repeat inspection and correction process for the CATV and telephone service drops.
  5. Contact the appropriate utility (or electrician) if the the service drop(s) are in need of replacement.