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Need advice: overhead electric wires to barn
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Tom A    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:01:17       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Over the weekend we had a power problem and the electric company came out and replaced the line from the transformer to our house. 3 original all-copper cotton wrapped wires replaced with one fat plastic-covered aluminum one.

Got talking to the lineman and asked about the need to replace the wires on "my side" of the box from the house to the barn and various outbuildings. He said it would be a great idea because the cotton covering was impregnated with asphalt or rubber and they are fire hazards, especially when they've been up as long as mine have (and in pretty poor shape, too). He also said I should get a private electrician to do it 'cuz the power company would charge a minimum of $300 an hour.

It seems like this isn't rocket science...isn't it something I could do myself? I've wired new in-house circuits before, so replacing existing lines seems easy enough, and I don't charge near $300 an hour!

What kind of wire is needed to run 15 amp circuits overhead, and what kinds of materials costs am I looking at? I'd run to 4-6 outbuildings with a total run something like 600-900 feet depending on whether I carry some new lines to extra buildings.

Any advice or suggestions?


RayP(MI)    Posted 06-09-2003 at 17:44:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
If you're really convinced you need to replace the wires, I strongly urge you to go underground. Get the clutter and potential problems of the overhead out of the way. Also if you're rewiring, replace with the heaviest wires you can possibly concieve you'll ever need. There's no problem with a small fuse feeding heavy wires, and if for some reason, you need to connect a larger load, you're all set - just install larger fuse! (Up to the capacity of the new system!) Like one of the guys below suggests, you might want to put in a welder, or compressor or other large load. Also, if your present wires are separate, and not twisted together, and not likely to bump or rub together, and are far enough overhead to not present a hazard, there's no good reason to replace, unless you really need greater capacity. I'll never forget the time I drove my Father-in-law's combine out his neighbor's drive - ended up eyeball level with one of his overhead lines. Didn't hit it, but almost got tail-ended by FIL following too close in the grain truck! Good reason to go underground.

REA man    Posted 06-09-2003 at 14:09:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
If it was me, I wouldn't do anything. There's nothing wrong with that copper wire. Let the insulation flake off. It won't hurt anything. Unless your wires slap together or they're hanging low, don't worry about them. Even if they do get together, all it's going to do is trip your breaker.
If you insist that you must do something, get some #2 or #4 triplex. The power companies throw away miles of the stuff every day and would probably let you pick through their dumpster for some.
15 amps is not much of a load. Unless you want to upgrade for load purposes or you're convinced it's dangerous, why bother?

Willy-N    Posted 06-09-2003 at 19:33:39       [Reply]  [No Email]
Good point I would worry less about the over head stuff and check out the inside wireing for problems. Mark H.

DeadCarp - up to the weat    Posted 06-09-2003 at 11:22:37       [Reply]  [No Email]
The whole country use the NEC (National Electrical Code) as a minimum and adds for local things like earthquakes, air-conditioners etc. Wiring is usually the homeowner's responsbility from the fixtures up thru the breaker panel and including the weatherhead, then when that's in and approved, the power company connects the juice and ties their drip loops to the weatherhead. Now, this is important cuz it organizes your plan of attack. For example, if you want to rewire your whole house without disrupting service much, just buy and install new stuff in new holes, including a new weatherhead. Once it's done, the power company puts your new service in business and you can tear out the old if you want to. If you might add a welder or something at some future point, it's good to install the bigger breaker panel now :)

Since long overhead runs aren't part of the homeowner's responsibility, in your shoes, i'd do it that way too - concentrate on getting everything safe and spiffy in the buildings
first, then let the big kids play with the big volts & transformers.

but I think it is my resp    Posted 06-09-2003 at 11:30:26       [Reply]  [No Email]
Guess I wasn't clear:

The power company brings the big line to my house. Inside my box, after the juice is in my house, there's a 15 amp 120 volt breaker labelled "barn and outbuildings." From that breaker there's a line that goes out of the house (through a second weatherhead) to a "telephone pole" in the middle of the farmstead. From that pole (mine, not the electric company's) lines go to the barn, shop, chicken coop, and garage.

All's I want to do is replace those overhead wires, from the house to the pole and the pole to each of the buildings. I've cleaned and tightened connections in boxes in each of the buildings. Still want to rewire the barn with newer wire, but that's a different project.


DeadCarp    Posted 06-10-2003 at 07:50:06       [Reply]  [No Email]
Okay it is on your side of the box - thanks for clearing that up - if you're feeding outbuildings for just lights and an occasional power tool, maybe there's an easier answer yet. Why not bury the lines? No worries about wind and weather and clearance anymore. We have power to the shed, woodshed, heater shed, yardlites and dock (to get a receptacle across the road) and it's all at least 1 1/2 feet underground. I used that UF romex AND pulled it thru a piece of black plastic pipe so in case i get rollin with a post-hole digger or shovel, i'll bounce off something before i whack right into it. Then if it ever needs replacement, it can be pulled thru the black pipe again, both ends are showing. One inch black pipe (irrigation pipe i think it's called) is about $13 for a hundred foot roll, and i use it for carrying hot water and everything. BTW, if you're gonna bury alot, you can take the share off a tractor plow and use just the plow frame to dig a fast trench. Be sure and take some pictures while the trenches still show.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 16:06:53       [Reply]  [No Email]
Yes ,I understood you there on the outdoor wires running to the buildings out back.Dead Carp thought you was talking about breaker box to powerline transformer.But always consider the load at the end of long wires like that .Light bulbs,Small fans and light loads will do OK maybe .But deepfreezers.refrigerators and things like that will suffer from low voltage. For that wire run at 15 amps ,,(I THINK)12 guage romex will do fine .3 wire,two conductos and bare ground.Romex is sold more often so you get better price deals.250 ft rolls are common.But,,Better let the other guys check this info first.Like one guy said.It is your wire,it is copper and if it is no danger to you just leave it up.

toolman    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:42:32       [Reply]  [No Email]
if you have long runs ,the hardest part will be tighten up the wire here it has to be a min.11 feet above the ground , and that stuff can be heavy, look for a rope puller to attach to take up the slack.

Willy-N    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:28:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
Here is a site with a lot of help. You could also just re/do it the way it was with new wire. It lasted a long time that way and with new wire you will get a lot of years use again. Mark H.

Jimbob    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:04:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
If you can pull a home owners permit, you can do it yourself. Make sure your electrical inspector does not have their own rules that exceeds the National Electric Code (NEC). You can review your design with the inspector. Sometimes the inspector can be a jerk that wants his electrical buddies to perform the work. It is easier for an inspector to have known electricans perform the work due to the inspector knows a quality job will be performed & the inspector does not have to 'work' as hard.

When you state 15 amp overhead wire, you need to be more specific:

1) Is the overhead wire for 120 volts or 240 volts?
2) Is the overhead wire 'twisted' together (duplex or triplex type) or single conductors to an insulator(s) that acts as an attachment point?
3) What is the fuse or circuit breaker size to each out building?
4) Is your existing a drop from the out building overhead wire attachment point using a rainhead & conduit (pipe) to feed the wires to an electrical box or simply a service entry wire that looks like two or three wires in one. Some of these old service entry wires are an old cloth looking type multi-conductor wire.

If you have the overhead wires as seperate conductors & the wire is not overloaded, you are in good shape needing the drop replaced from the overhead wire to the building on each side (overhead wire feed point from power source & supply point that is the power drop to the out building).

Dennis    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:00:00       [Reply]  [No Email]
I have the exact same situation here and I will wait until you finish or get finished so I will know how to proceed. I learn from other people's experiences as it is safer and cheaper that way. Good luck and keep us posted.

PS: New panel/breaker boxes might be in order too.

Mike D.    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:55:34       [Reply]  [No Email]
We have the same problem. I will someday run water & electric underground. Right now I have a stretch of 12 gauge romex running out to a building. It is suspended by the old porcelin insulator on the house and building. It is temporary. It has been there for 12 years now, through several BAD storms. Not code, and not real pretty looking, but it is effective nonetheless.

Tom A    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:00:40       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks Mike, good to hear from you.

The thought of doing it that way has crossed my mind more than once. But I'm also thinking that if I'm going to go thru the work hanging the stuff, I might as well buy the right cable...unless it is too unreasonable.

I am starting to think that *anything* may be better than the old stuff that is up there now. I litterally see bits of old insulation flake off and fall periodically.


Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:05:36       [Reply]  [No Email]

YES! You can do it yourself.Our team of experts will advise you every step of the way.Be bold!

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:08:17       [Reply]  [No Email]
Becareful of long runs and wire size.Voltage drops can ruin your life.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:17:35       [Reply]  [No Email]
Read all you can on the subject.Most of the info you need is online for>>free.becareful of cutting a ground or common wire because of safety.Read that rule. here is a start often the guy in the hardware store who sells you the stuff says things you dont want to believe but it may be accurate advice.Just check it against online experts.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:20:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
Look up left here to see the list.One says TOOLS ,click there then look for HANDYMAN .It has good info too.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:25:55       [Reply]  [No Email]
Now that we have gotten their attention,Someone who really knows what they are doing will find this and offer good advice.Have a nice day.Do not fear the unknown.Just use rubber gloves untill you become an expert on this technology.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:41:13       [Reply]  [No Email]
I kinda got to thinking about this..Depending on where this place is.You may or may not be allowed to do it yourself.There may be some forms of restrictions imposed upon you by a governmental agency who cares more for your well being than your bank account.So you may ask around the area on which law applies to you.Then if you are free of restrictions you may boldly proceed to do what you want with what you rightfully own.

actually, I have a philos    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:57:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
learned long ago during my Army career:

"It is easier to get forgiveness than permission."
My land, my buildings, my wire. *Maybe* as soon as the government starts to make my house payments, they can tell me how to get stuff done...and even then, I don't think so...'til then, I make the decisions.


Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 08:18:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
Permits/regulations.I worked for a residential electrical contractor a few years back.It is a sort of welfare system for those who have connections with the powers that be.At the expense of the taxpaying ordinary citizen.Many move to the country to get away from just that.

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 07:40:09       [Reply]  [No Email]
I kinda got to thinking about this..Depending on where this place is.You may or may not be allowed to do it yourself.There my be some forms of restrictions imposed upon you by a governmental agency who cares more for your well being than your bank account.So you may ask around the area on which law applies to you.Then if you are free of restrictions you may boldly proceed to do what you want with what you rightfully own.

One more Important note..    Posted 06-09-2003 at 16:22:04       [Reply]  [No Email]
I never will suggest this, however I built complete power generation plants as a manager. I also installed perhaps 50 substations & other downline power equipment to operate entire automotive assembly plants, hospitals, oil & steel foundries, etc.

I just perform my own wiring just for me at just my house & outbuildings. I do not want a permit. No way can an electrical inspector propose a better system nor find a problem with what I install.

I am an expert. If you or any others do not know electrical distribution like the 'back of your hand'.........get an expert or at a mininum a home owners permit for a proper inspection. This stuff kills & starts fires if improperly designed & installed. Use a GFI in the outbuildings, cheapest insurance you will ever buy!

Clod    Posted 06-09-2003 at 19:59:45       [Reply]  [No Email]
We may not all be experts ,,But we are all moving in that direction.I mean if the guy has a fire we could rule out the advice that caused it.I do understand though..You can have some big problems with faulty wireing.We was on a roll on this one though.

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