Step 3a – Temp Power Pit and Utility Trench

I’m highly motivated to start getting some utilities going on the lot since I am currently living without electricity, water, and sewer (septic)!  The first one to knock out was the water, which involved digging down next to the meter box to expose the stub and connecting my RV hose.  I will be installing a hose bibb and rerouting the water line with PEX piping in the near future, but until I get electricity going it simply isn’t a priority.  As I laid out in the previous post, the first part of the temporary power installation involved digging a pit to the specificiations laid out by the power company.  Here you can see how I’ve done just that, and if you look closely on the opposite side of the pit from the stubout, you can see that I have also hammered in a 10 foot copper grounding rod.  A 4’x4’x26″ pit didn’t seem like a lot to dig but when you have to tackle a thicket of blackberry vines and a rock quarry before you even get to the dirt it was quite the chore.  That having said, there is something about working on your own land that can make even the most labor intensive or menial task highly enjoyable and rewarding.  In addition to the pit, I dug an 18″ deep utility trench from the power pole to a smaller pole near my trailer.  This way, I won’t have to have long extension cords running everywhere.
Once the digging was complete, I assembled the two poles and attached the conduit.  It took a decent amount of research to figure out exactly what kind of conduit to use and what method to connect it all.  I’ve spent months researching the IRC (residential building code) but the NEC (national electric code) is an entirely different animal.  It took an extra week of mistakes and learning and setbacks, but now I have a system set up that will serve my purposes and (hopefully) pass inspection whenever it is the inspector decides to get out here.  For those interested in the specs, I have 2 #2 Al ORD conductors running across the ground from the stubout to the pole (they will be buried) for the hots and 1 #3 Al for the neutral.  These run up 2″ conduit (required to have an ‘end bell’ piece on the end, through an offset and into the bottom of the 100 amp meter socket.  I had to use the offsets because conduit isn’t very malleable and I had to get around the panel.  Alternatively, I could have used an L shaped piece of conduit and attached to the side of the meter base but I think my way looks better.  On the other side of the meter socket I have #2 Al SE cable through more 2″ conduit running down to the service panel.  I have a 30 amp single pole breaker for the trailer, a 20 and a 15 amp both to be used for the future septic system, a 20 amp for the outlets for tools, and a 15 amp to be used in the future for interior lighting.  I’m running UF cable (#10 for the 30 amp, #12 for the 20’s, #14 for the 15) from the breakers down 1.25″ conduit back to the pit and then it picks back up in 2″ conduit in the trench.  The reason for the oversized conduit is so I can run the main service cables through it when I connect permanent service.  I ran the 2″ conduit up near the trailer where I returned to 1.25″ and ran it up a smaller 4×4 post into a 4x4x2 junction box.  From there it branches off into 2 different directions.  One branch continues up the post to the 30 amp trailer outlet.  The other makes a turn around the post and down another side to the outlets I will use to power my tools. The septic wiring will be completed when I install the system in the next week or two.  The last thing I need to do now is wire the UF cable to the breakers and outlets and then I’ll be ready for an inspection!

Step 3 – Temporary Power Pole

There are many reasons why I need to get some electricity running at the lot as soon as possible.  It will power my tools.  It will power the lights and heat in the trailer I will be living in.  It will charge my phone and computer.  It will even power the pump that will run the septic system.

So how do I get electricity rolling?  First, find out which power company services your area.  Luckily for me, the Puget Sound Energy company that services Point Roberts has an excellent website that lays out all the steps pretty clearly.  They have very strict procedures that must be followed and they lay them out in easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.  Here’s what it says….

Step 1 – Call the Construction Service office and inform them you will be installing temporary power.  This allows them to prepare by ensuring the proper framework exists to provide the lot with power.  This may include a line extension, adding a transformer, etc.  Luckily for me I didn’t need any of these things but it was still a good thing to check and it gives them time to prepare for my permanent service, which they said may require them to add another transformer.

Step 2 – Obtain an electrical permit – According to the building department for my county, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries is in charge of issuing electrical permits.  While their website wasn’t anywhere near as slick as the power company site, I was able to navigate my way through a few hiccups and eventually get my first permit!

Electrical Permit

Step 3 – Call 811 – Someone will come out to the lot and use spray paint to mark all existing underground cable locations marked to prevent digging into one of them.

Step 4 – Install the meter base/ socket – Here’s where things get a little more fun.  As you saw in the 1st picture, the power company laid out exactly how they want me to construct the meter base and install the meter socket.  They even added another picture for more detail….

Detail

As I explained in the introduction, many people think this stuff is so complex and that it should be left to professionals.  What they don’t know is that many of these “professionals” don’t even take the time to read the instruction manual.  They simply rely on past experiences with other power companies and follow the same routine.  This can result in mistakes which must be corrected, then a fee must be paid for it to be reinspected.  As you can see, the instructions provided on the power company’s website are precise and crystal clear, so I’m quite confident that I can do a better job following them than someone who didn’t take the time to read through them.  The first step was to tackle the blackberry vines that had invaded the 4 foot square area behind the power stubout where I would build the power pole.  I also located a meter base and 6 circuit service entrance online at good prices.  I decided on a 6 circuit because I will need one circuit for the 30 amp RV power, one for the septic pump, one for extra outlets for the RV (there are outlets in the RV that run off the 30 amp circuit but with an electric heater and plenty of electronics a little extra will be nice), one for temporary lighting inside the house when I get to working on the interior, and the last two for powering tools.