On Sunday, Brian had started to attach the meter base but ran into issue when the self drilling screw blew its threads. We found that in the 3″ square steel tube (the metal that makes up the H-brace of the north endcap) the self drilling screw threads only end up holding about 1/2 the time; in the 2″ steel tube, they hold the vast majority of the time. Even though its walls are thicker, the 3″ tube must be made of softer steel.
So first task Monday was understanding the issue and finding a solution – we decided on ‘through bolts’ instead of threading screws into metal. Then a trip to the hardware store for purchasing the items for the solution – a 6″ drill bit, 4.5″ bolts and nuts (to hold the bolt from the inside).
Awesome, awesome day. The pictures say it all.
A day of frustrating questions. One decision of the past few days has been whether we want to install our electric breaker panel directly underneath the meter base or offset to the left of it. If we were to install directly underneath, then the box ends up centered on the 3″ metal beam we discussed on Monday. Just as a reminder, this is what we’re talking about –
The meter base is attached directly into that metal brace; hence the issue with the screws and the soft metal. If we were to attach the electric box directly below the meter base, the metal beam would steal wall space where we need to bring the wires through. As you can see in the image below, a large portion of the space (through the wall) is taken up by the vertical H-brace beam and the 2×6’s to either side of it.
Therefore, we decided to attach the box offset to the left of the meter base. Here is where the frustrations started.
- Went to local electric supply to get the rain-tight hub for coming into the top of the breaker panel and whatever other conduit/fittings to put the panel slightly below and 15″ to the left of the meter base. The staff there wasn’t sure but suggested that it might not be allowable to come into the top of the breaker panel unless it was directly below the meter base. It might be required to come in the side toward the bottom so that if water entered through the conduit somehow, it would not shower the breaker panel from the top. Based on a conduit fill calculator, we figured 3/4″ conduit of some kind should more than do the trick for (3) 2AWG service conductors.
- We bumped into an electrician we know and he said it was not problem to go into the top so long as the hub was rain tight. He suggested a Myers hub for the top since they are known to be bulletproof in terms of water infiltration. He also recommended 1.25″ conduit for those conductors and other 8AWG we’d need and said don’t forget about the grounding bushing for the conduit.
- The inspector said that the idea given by our electrician friend would work but we needed to check with PNM, the local electric company, to confirm that they were ok with the panel being installed to the left of the meter base (?!).
- We called B, our contact at the electric company and left a message.
Up to #3, it felt like we were making progress in the right direction. But we know B is overwhelmed a lot of the time and has a poor track record for returning calls (think several weeks). We obviously don’t want to wait several weeks so we are going to cross our fingers and hope for good news (or any news) on Thursday.
Two other approaches we took amidst all this was to try and work straight from the code; alternatively to refer to our “Wiring A House” which Brian has used as a reference for working on his homes ever since he bought his first house. The book, unfortunately, only focused on penetrating the wall directly behind the meter base and installing the electric box inside the home. And the code was more or less inscrutable. Finally, an attempt was made to drive around and look at other house’s service entrances for guidance.
By the end of the day, it had become clear that attaching a Myers hub to the top of the panel might not work because it was designed for a different kind of hub that attaches with 4 screws. Additionally Myers hubs don’t appear to work with EMT conduit (the lightest metal conduit) due to EMT’s straight threads. Moreover – given the cutting/taper-threading that would be required with heavier metal conduit – it seemed like PVC conduit might be the simplest approach. No need for a grounding bushing then either as only metal conduit needs to be grounded. Now we just have to make sure the standard aluminum rain-tight hub for the breaker panel is allowed to connect to PVC….
A great day! Brian spoke to B and conferred with an electrician….the end result was that we punched a hole in the top of the right side of the electrical box and did a straight connection to the meter base. No top entry or elbow needed. We also received instructions on how to properly weatherproof the penetration.
Next the conduit was cut and the panel mounting location established:
We are very clear on our next steps – cut the service entrance conduit to size, thread the end, assemble the mast on the ground and then tilt it up into place while someone furiously clamps it to the wall. The hardest part right now is getting a solid block of time to work together. Since we were both needed at work most of the day, the house project had to wait.
Our 6-7pm hour was reserved for learning the rumba. Boy, we are exciting people.
It was 65 degrees! It’s a good thing we are nearing the end of this project. Beautiful Saturdays like this one just make me want to play hooky. That’s probably the hardest part of a long-term project like this – you take your days off when you must, like when someone isn’t feeling well or the weather is bad. But taking that day off doesn’t mean you’re free to do whatever you want – because you aren’t feeling well and/or the weather is bad!
So when the moments come along where I just want to take off for something fun, it feels a little irresponsible to the project. Additionally, if I know we took a fun evening last week, I feel really guilty for wanting to take a night off this week. We just have to keep at it and soon everything will come together. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…
Back at the house – We started by drilling the hole in the house, behind the electrical panel, where the wires will go in. This used all the juice from BOTH of our drill batteries. We then hit a very unfortunate event – the battery charger doesn’t charge fast anymore (or rather the batteries don’t want to charge fast). so we found ourselves without drill power.
Since we were done with the hole, we proceeded to weatherproof all the screw panel/meter base openings with nuggets of butyl tape and fully attach the panel. We also figured out the new placement of the top piece of service entrance conduit (the half with the offset). This had to be done because an electrician had suggested at least an inch clearance between it and the roof overhang and we had 1/8″. We took the conduit off and called it a night.
Had our drill batteries been charged, we would have been able to attach the new bracket and reattach the top piece of conduit right then and there.
We went to Tucson for business supplies. Unlike our first trip to Tucson, we did not take any wrong turns and we had all seamless transaction experiences. We were in and out of the city center in about 80 minutes and we made it home by 4:30pm. We took care of grocery shopping and dog duty….and picked up garbage off the property that had gotten loose from our garbage can. The pictures below will explain how that happened.