This past Thursday, Joyce mentioned that the bathroom light was not working, perhaps it had burned out. None of the other lights in the bathroom were working either, so I went down stairs to check the breaker. The breaker seemed fine, but some other circuits also appeared to be out. Took the wiggie out to the chiller (which had exposed 220v lugs), and learned that one of the legs was dead. So pulled the cover off of the main panel, and tried testing directly on the main lugs.
. The left hand lug had power, but the right hand lug was dead. I could get power from the cable itself. I had no way turning off the power to investigate further, so called in an Emergency Service Request to National Grid, and started to wait.
Once NatGrid pulled the meter, we would have no power, nor lights. Started thinking about alternate power sources – maybe buying or borrowing a generator, or running a lead cord to the neighbors house. Or maybe an inverter attached to the car – (why should the Prius owners have all the fun?). Then I remembered my jump start unit which has a 110v inverter built in. Put an LED bulb into a clip up lamp, and now I have a temporary work light.
NG still had not shown up, so I figured making lunch would get them to show up. No luck, so I called them, and they said the rep was on his way. A few hours later, called them again, and was again assured that the rep was on they way. Since it seemed likely that I would need to replace the main breaker, I wanted to get the old one out (once the meter got pulled) and take it to the electrical supply house (which closes at 5).
Started fresh on Friday morning, this time although they had the ESR, they thought we were waiting on an inspection. I explained to them that they have to pull the meter, then I can do the work, and then it gets inspected. No problem, truck is on its way. At lunchtime, I called them again, and they talked to the dispatcher, yup, truck on the way. (The depot is about three block from my house on the SAME street). Finally about 3, the tech calls me. I explain the situation, he explains that he got a “between 8 and 4″, on the work order. We agreed the people in the call center are idiots. He arrived shortly after that, and did not like the look of the service entrance cable – then he pulled the meter – not good. Clearly the water had been coming down inside the entrance cable, and had done quite a job on the neutral connections in the meter.
He “glassed” the meter box and hung the meter with some clips, to save time when we we ready to resume service (nudge nudge, wink wink). He would not tell me to put the meter back in myself, since that would be wrong….
Finally, with the power out, I could start figuring out how bad it was. I started disconnecting the main breaker – the bad leg had clear signs of arcing and was partially melted!
Got the main breaker out (it was not in good shape), and went down to Troy Light, where I originally got the panel 30 years ago. Alas, the original maker had sold out to another one, who then also sold out. This breaker fed from the top, and the replacements fed from the end, so even if they had one (they had 200amp, but not the 150 I needed ), the existing service wires would not reach the new location.
So we had to go to plan B, a new service panel. And since I was doing a new panel, and the original entrance cable was bad, upgrading to 200amp was in order. All of this was going to take some time (and some new tools, so there is an up side to this project), but clearly the jump start unit was not going fill in. Then I remembered that when I had the service to the south wing turned off (as it was now being fed from the north wing), National Grid just took a final meter reading and closed the account. The meter was still in place and the service live. So along with the stuff for the new service entrance, I also got 20′ of SER cable and a 100 breaker for the south wing sub feed. I grabbed on of the unused main breakers from one of the other south wing panels, and dropped it in to live panel, and used the SER to jump to the other panel, and now we have power back (at least 100amps worth). This should hold us until I can get the new service cut in.