the stormy truth
IS YOUR ELECTRICAL SYSTEM A TICKING TIME BOMB
Every year, Kansas City, the Kansas City Metro Area, and its surrounding areas are plagued by heavy storms, tornadoes, and high-speed winds. Last year alone, over 1000 tornadoes touched down in the region, dealing more than $13 million in damages. We are never going to be able to stop tornadoes, but what we can do is ensure that your home is as prepared as it can be and that your family remains safe.
The Kansas City Metro Area and surrounding towns and cities all have specific electrical codes. Generally, the 2017 version of the National Electrical Code is used. This complex group of regulations is updated every three years to reflect new safety standards. It uses a lot of technical language that’s difficult to follow.
In this article, we want to break down that code into a more straightforward language to help you understand how to tell if your electrical system is up to code. When you know what the code requires, you can make sure your home is equipped to deal with the storms.
Main Service Line
This is where your electrical system begins. The main service line runs from the power pole across to a mast on your home (called a weatherhead), or underground through a conduit.
The weatherhead supporting your main service line must be reinforced to support at least 900lb of tension. Because of their construction, mobile homes typically require a separate pole to hold the main service line, with a short run of line down to the meter service.
Your weatherhead must be at least 12 feet above ground level, and any underground service line must be run through dedicated, sealed conduit up into the meter service.
If your meter is being upgraded, moved, or replaced, current practices encourage the main service line to be placed underground, rather than overhead. An underground line can’t be maintained as easily but is much less likely to be damaged in a storm than an overhead service. Most power companies will pay to have a service moved underground, up to the first 135 feet. Before approving and projects that involve the main service line moving, make sure you check with your contractor to see who will have to pay.
Your main service line terminates at what’s called your meter service. This is where your power company monitors the amount of usage it bills you for.
In some areas, the entire meter service (the box, cabling, meter, and pole or mounting brackets) is supplied by your power company (Evergy, for many). In other areas, the company will only provide the meter, and your contractor will supply the box, cable, and mounting.
Your meter service must be mounted to the outside of the building, attached to a wooden support mounted between studs, closest to the main service line. Alternatively, it can be mounted on an approved pole as close to the building as possible. It must be placed between 42 and 60 inches above ground level, or 78 inches if near a driveway or walkway.
There has to be at least 3 feet of working space around the meter, with no windows, doors, or equipment installed nearby. Any gas meter must be installed at least three feet away from the main electrical service and any electrical equipment.
All meter services must have a dedicated grounding rod made of solid copper.
Any meter service mounted on a pole, rather than a building must be attached to a stake made of galvanized steel or Unistrut (see pictures opposite).
All new and upgraded services must have a main disconnect (a heavy-duty breaker that can cut power to the entire home at the meter service) either in the meter service box or in a separate box attached to the same pole.
Main Electrical Panel
Your main panel is the heart of your electrical system, taking the power that comes into your home from the meter service, and moving it to every circuit, outlet, and switch. When power surges come into the home and trip a breaker, that power needs somewhere to travel, to prevent damage to the panel itself. In our home that means a ground line, which allows excess electricity to be sent harmlessly into rods buried in the ground.
Electrical code requires that all electrical panels have grounding:
GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) must be installed:
Most new electrical work, particularly any changes to the meter service and panel, must be inspected before your power company will reconnect the supply. In most areas, a licensed electrician is allowed to perform the inspection, followed up by approval from the power company. In some, a licensed inspector is required.
What Can I Do?
Many installs that pre-date the current electrical code are grandfathered in, to prevent forcing expensive upgrades to working systems; that doesn’t make them safe, however.
If you suspect that your system may not be up to code, it’s essential that you have it inspected by a licensed electrician, like those at Bickimer Electric.
All of our expert electricians are fully trained, licensed, bonded, and up to date with all current electrical codes.