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Thread: Meters

  1. #1
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Question Meters

    How many, if any, of you remove the meter cover to examine the wiring inside the meter? This is not something I have ever done and an electrician once told me that inspectors would not be licensed to do so. Over two years ago I inspected a house that came back yesterday with double tap on the meter which I would not have known unless I pulled the meter off. Of course the first thing her electrician said was that it should have been caught by her inspector and she should send me his bill.

    I pulled the report and the report clearly states, "Service panel in closet needs to be serviced and possibly replaced due to physical damage, paint over spray on breakers and wires, and several breakers show signs of arching. Recommend having a licensed electrician provide repair estimates prior to closing. Electrician may find additional items in need of repair not noted on this report."

    Although it doesn't specifically state anything about a double tap in the service meter, didn't I cover that with the last two sentences? Thoughts? (pic is what the client sent me along with the $1300 bill).

    For the future, how could I have caught this and should I be removing electrical meters?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Meters

    Quote Originally Posted by K Robertson View Post
    ...should I be removing electrical meters?
    NO WAY, NO HOW! Not anywhere around these parts, anyway.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Meters

    What John said. Besides, I'm guessing you have the same clause in your inspection agreement like all or most of us that states the BUYER needs to contact you before having repairs made on any disputed items and that failure to do so results in her waiving all rights to a claim. From the way I'm reading this, it doesn't sound like you heard about this until after the electrician repaired it and she gave you the bill. And, that verbiage in your report about your findings and recommendations seems pretty clear cut to me.

    Maybe you should ask your client what the other electrician said when she brought him in prior to the the close of escrow (per your recommendations) to inspect the same items. Is there any reason the electrician didn't mention it then? If you do this face-to-face, the look on her face will be priceless.

    She's just pissed that the electrician found something else of a high dollar value and he planted the idea in her head the you are somehow responsible. Don't you love it how somebody tells the customer "your inspector should have caught that".

    Last edited by Nick Ostrowski; 06-21-2009 at 06:15 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Meters

    First and foremost, unless you have the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for removing and installing a meter, you put your life at risk.

    Second, utilities have rules concerning cutting and removing meter seals. Unless you are a qualified electrician AND have permission it is illegal to cut the meter seal, let alone remove the meter.

    It shouldn't be difficult to determine a meter has been double tapped. The presence of a panel behind the meter or further inside the house AND the addition of another panel obviously not fed by the first or something not fed from the panel (where does the conduit out the bottom go, for example) should have been a clue.

    There are other problems here as well you couldn't have caught because you don't belong in a meter can. However, the presence of the conduit out the bottom should have been a signal that further evaluation is needed. It is uncommon to find a meter can smaller than 320 AMP that has double lugs.

    From my perspective there's enough wrong in the meter can it would be hard to believe anything on the other end of the conduit could have been anywhere near being an acceptable installation. Where'd it go?


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Meters

    K.
    The important thing to do is, RESPOND to the letter. Do not just dismiss it as trivial or unimportant.

    Myself, I would respond to it as if someone had asked me about another inspector/ contractor, try not to be defensive.
    Be concerned, but not sympathetic to the client.

    Send them a letter, in the letter state:
    Thank you for bringing this to my attention
    Fill out this questionnaire
    As soon as I receive it back, I can begin to resolve this for you.
    Thank you for your cooperation

    Ask them
    To explain what their concern is.
    Do they have any concerns other than this, if so what are they.
    To explain, what they think should have been done.
    Why, they think you are responsible.
    What they think you should do.


    Many times, by reading the questions, they will realize that their request is not valid, and nothing else will happen.
    If they do answer the questions, that can help you to better explain your position.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Meters

    I agree with some, maybe most, of what Bill said.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    First and foremost, unless you have the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for removing and installing a meter, you put your life at risk.
    Yes, that is true, but not even electricians or power company employees do that.

    SHOULD that be done? Absolutely!

    IS it done? Rarely!

    Second, utilities have rules concerning cutting and removing meter seals. Unless you are a qualified electrician AND have permission it is illegal to cut the meter seal, let alone remove the meter.
    THAT is your MAIN defense for not opening up the meter.

    It shouldn't be difficult to determine a meter has been double tapped. The presence of a panel behind the meter or further inside the house AND the addition of another panel obviously not fed by the first or something not fed from the panel (where does the conduit out the bottom go, for example) should have been a clue.
    If ALL one was doing was evaluating the electrical system and following circuits and panels, that MIGHT be true, however, for home inspectors who are looking at EVERYTHING, they should not be expected to trace what wires go where, that is, after all, THE JOB of the electrician.

    There are other problems here as well you couldn't have caught because you don't belong in a meter can. However, the presence of the conduit out the bottom should have been a signal that further evaluation is needed. It is uncommon to find a meter can smaller than 320 AMP that has double lugs.
    The presence of the conduit out the bottom IS NOT a signal that further evaluation is needed. If it were, then most homes in South Florida would need further evaluation. That conduit out the bottom goes to the panel, or, in this case when from the meter, to the service equipment.

    Without having removed the meter cover it would be logical to presume that the conduit going out the bottom is feeding the service equipment.

    From my perspective there's enough wrong in the meter can it would be hard to believe anything on the other end of the conduit could have been anywhere near being an acceptable installation. Where'd it go?
    My perspective is that if you found TWO different sets of service equipment in different locations, you probably would have written it as a panel which should not have the grounds and neutrals bonded together, when in reality, in this case, you really had two different sets of service equipment in two different locations and THAT would have been the problem.

    However, without having the advantage of the knowledge gained by looking inside the meter can, your description of the problem would have been different than what was really present.

    That is, of course, presuming 'that other' service equipment was wired as it should have been, if it had been wired as a non-service equipment panel, that would not have appeared to have been a problem, it would have been considered as having been a remote panel off the other service equipment / panel - however it was wired.

    You reported "Service panel in closet needs to be serviced and possibly replaced due to physical damage, paint over spray on breakers and wires, and several breakers show signs of arching. Recommend having a licensed electrician provide repair estimates prior to closing. Electrician may find additional items in need of repair not noted on this report.", if your client DID NOT ADDRESS that before closing on the property, that is HER expensive lesson to do as her inspector (you) told here to do.

    If SHE CHOSE to put that off until after closing and to assume the cost herself, she has done just that.

    Or if she listened to her agent and just took a minimum (or no) money to cover a minimum repair, then she should be complaining to her agent.

    When you respond to her, you might want to ask some questions to clarify her stance, and even find out who told here *not to address the reported problems now, but to wait until after closing*, and, if it was her agent as it likely was, then suggest she call her agent and find out why her agent did not want those items addressed before closing ... we all know the answer to that, but she does not: because addressing those before closing would delay, even scrape, the deal, meaning she would have to work harder for her commission money or not get it at all.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Meters

    Thanks everyone. Sounds like I did right. I just came from the house and here's the "rest of the story". The second line went directly to the AC cut off box. The line to AC breaker that was in the panel in the closet had been cut behind the wall (where I couldn't see). The new line run directly to the meter which explains a) why I never saw a second service panel and b) why I would assume that the line from the AC Breaker in the panel went to the AC. Yea, they had it really screwed. I gave her a 50% off certificate to use on her next house or give to a friend and told her next time follow the advise given in the report to hire an electrician before closing.

    Thanks to everyone for their input. I was worried for a moment (only a moment though).


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Meters

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Yes, that is true, but not even electricians or power company employees do that.
    I do! And so do the linemen that I encounter in the field.

    I would try not to generalize those in the field. It is unfortunate that those you encounter are so cavalier about this. Do you come across this very much?

    I will only make taps or set meters with my 1000v lineman gloves and eye protection.

    And yes, I am on a list of approved electricians who are allowed to do this work.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Meters

    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
    I do! And so do the linemen that I encounter in the field.

    I would try not to generalize those in the field. It is unfortunate that those you encounter are so cavalier about this. Do you come across this very much?

    I will only make taps or set meters with my 1000v lineman gloves and eye protection.

    And yes, I am on a list of approved electricians who are allowed to do this work.
    Yeah, but you are in NY where they also speakie English too.

    I could have my hands amputated and still count the number of times I've seen that on my hands ... ... Look Maw, No hands! ... Yep, and no times that I've seen that either.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Meters

    Hi. Good responses. I would also like to add that the meterbase in the photo is on the verge of having a catastrophic failure---I've seen the meter lugs come apart in the process of pulling and setting meters, which then exposes the installer to a large fault current as the conductors in the enclosure are likely unfused (depending on geographical area---in NC there are rarely ever fuses, breakers or other disconnecting means ahead of the meter in a residential setting). What you have is utility secondary coming straight off the transformer---and it takes a lot to kick one of those. Because of the absence of protection of the line and load meter conductors, even removing the meterbase cover is potentially much more hazardous than working with most enclosures on the load side of the meter. Of course you will also have lengths of unfused conductors on some properties, (short runs are permissible, but sometimes, especially in older construction, there may be several feet of unfused service conductors between the meter and the service disconnecting means), but to really get a good look at the meter terminals, you have to exert force on the terminal lugs in addition to simply removing a cover. Be careful out there.........GM


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Meters

    In Virginia, I'm pretty sure it is a felony to remove the seal placed on the meter base unless by Power Co. personnel or emergency responders in an emergency situation, typically firemen on a firecall.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  12. #12
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Meters

    Obviously I do not know the rules everywhere but everywhere I have lived no one but an electrician or the electric company can cut a seal on a meter.

    If concerns were found other than what you listed but you stated that other concerns may be found AFTER they hire an electrician to do a more thorough evaluation for repairs then I would say you are covered. That state in is every section of findings in my report. Some do not like to say a more thorough evaluation be done by the appropriate tradesman but it is a given that they will if they are there to check out your findings anyway before quoting prices for repairs. No tradesman is just going to take your word for a fact that this or that needs repair. Is is going to run circuit tests, breaker tests if he feels it necessary, panel eval, service eval etc.

    I like the fact that I know that almost all tradesman are going to do their own eval of the situation.

    One thing I will say about the AC is that the wires from the breaker in the panel should have had your electric tester clamped around them to see what the draw was. Then that would have been caught. But in saying that you covered yourself with the possibility of further concerns with a more indepth eval when the electrician got there after all you found many concerns that through the red light switch on.

    Yes, the inspector is the first point of contact if concerns are found. Once they sway from that route you are no longer liable for anything. You have no idea what may have been done once you leave that home.

    I had a woman call me a year after an inspection saying I should have caught double tapped breakers in the garage panel. I took pictures of that panel when I did the inspection (they were not there). She was having problems at the time of the inspection with breakers tripping. The home owner had some work done and eliminated some wiring to a stand alone garage and they double tapped three other breakers to eliminate the problem wiring to the garage. She had never followed up with a more thorough eval before repairs to figure out exactly what was going on. The breakers were tripping for a year and then she had it fixed and then tried to collect from me.

    Fact is she never followed up with any of my concerns, a more indepth eval, and she never contacted me first. Oh well, new panel and a lot of new wiring etc etc etc. That was 12 to 1500 in work. No, I did not eat it.

    Again, the meter thing....Forget about it...You do not cut the seal to a meter box.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Meters

    Pull the meter itself, Hell NO! Think about the calls from pissed off Sellers because they came home and everything has to be reset. A freezer that didn't come back on for some reason.
    If I get suspicious I might pull the socket cover. That isn't always possible either since our utility puts lockout tags or keyed locks on the sockets.
    Two years later? Who knows who's done what there in that time frame.

    www.aic-chicago.com
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Meters

    Cut the seal and remove the meter? No way!! Too dangerous and a good way to the local officials and power company on your tail.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Meters

    Does the power company have no resposibility for the condition of the wiring inside the box they sealed shut?


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Meters

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Does the power company have no responsibility for the condition of the wiring inside the box they sealed shut?

    Nope.

    Or very little.

    Referring to when changes are made as in the posted photo.

    Some electrician/handyman/homeowner may have removed the seal, installed the new wiring, then the power company meter reader notices the seal is missing at some point and may or may not install a new seal, or call for a new seal to be installed (as I doubt the meter reader carries seals and is authorized to install them - at most they probably report missing seals).

    Then, yes, *it should be* the power companies responsibility to check what is inside before applying a new seal, but ... it was the responsibility of the person installing that wiring to obtain permits and inspections and (regardless of whether permits and inspections were obtain) do it correctly.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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