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View Full Version : Looking for sympathy shamelessly (yes, I'm whining) - update, we have power.!.



MunchkinsMom
Apr. 26, 2011, 07:39 PM
For the past 3 weeks, some sort of short in the electical system in the barn has been tripping the breaker at the house (not the breaker at the barn). My DH did all he could do (replace breakers, replaced ground wires).

Our final test was to shut off the breaker at the barn and see if the breaker in the house tripped. Yup, it did.

What that means is that the short is in the line buried in the ground between the house and the barn :(.

The electrician came today and quoted us 1K to replace the line. His reasoning was that he will have to dig the trench by hand because he does not want to use a trencher and risk cutting through the water line. He also discovered that the nitwits that put the line in in the first place didn't use conduit pipe, so the insulation on the lines is corroding (he dug up about a foot worth where it comes up to the breaker box on the barn).

So, my DH decided that we will do it ourselves, dig a 3 ft deep (code) trench for the 300+ feet from the barn to the house. And this has to be done in one day, since we can't leave an open trench in the pasture for my horses to fall in and break their legs, and we can't keep the horses confined to their stalls for more than a day. And we have to dig by hand - and it is in the 80's here.

Anyone want to come over with a shovel and lend a hand? :winkgrin:

MistyBlue
Apr. 26, 2011, 07:49 PM
Well that sucks.

Is the current line 3' deep? If so, ditch-witch the trench 2' deep and then hand dig from there.

drewsbadboy
Apr. 26, 2011, 07:49 PM
I would if I lived closer! :D

I hope it gets fixed quickly. Last spring we had a huge trench dug to connect both barns to the new electric meter on the main barn. What a headache! And we were lucky- we had someone use a trencher.


Edit: "Thank you!" MistyBlue

Edit2: "Thank you Rodawn!" Sent you a PM with info

MistyBlue
Apr. 26, 2011, 07:52 PM
Pardon a 2 second off topic...
Drewsbadboy, just noticed you're newer here so checked out your site link. Your barn is *gorgeous.*

Sorry Muchkinsmom...back to the topic now...

rustbreeches
Apr. 26, 2011, 08:06 PM
So sorry to hear that. At least it is sandy thawed soil, not frozen clay. Did that make you feel any better? And possibly since they didn't use conduit, they didn't dig to code either. Maybe you only have 1 foot to dig! Just trying to think happy thoughts. I would seriosly consider going to the employment line at your nearest 7-11.

Somermist
Apr. 26, 2011, 08:11 PM
Well, I feel your pain! I hope the project at least goes without a hitch. Good luck.

Chall
Apr. 26, 2011, 08:31 PM
Oh for heavens sake. Cant you run a *new* line using a digger? Add a few right angles and put the new line far away from the water and the old line? I don't know anything about electricity (ie requires straight lines) but I'd talk to the electrician about that before I worked by hand.
Oh, and make him mark the line on the surface so you know where it goes (or plant rock steps on the surface so you always know where the new line now actually runs).

Edited to add:
While you are at it, can you run the new line so it avoids the pasture (i.e. runs around the outside) so you can service the line without having to stall your horses?

JanM
Apr. 26, 2011, 08:37 PM
Rent a ditch witch, or have someone come out and do the trench 2 feet deep, then put in decent diameter pvc pipe with both ends accessible (use 90 degree joints). Put good rope the length of the wire so you can pull the wire through after you finish, or put a big spool of wire on a hose reel so you can pull through as you attach the pipe. You can do this, and I would definitely get someone to do the trench while you put the pipe together, and then fill in by hand-that would be much quicker, and definitely doable in one day. Make sure the ends of the pipe are under cover on both ends, and you need to close it off somehow so water stays out and the wire stays in good shape.

Check and see if you need a permit for this, and definitely get the free locator service out to mark locations.

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 26, 2011, 09:03 PM
I'll run a few of these ideas past my DH, he can be stubborn sometimes when he thinks he knows it all, and I have to use all my diplomatic skills to make it seem like his idea.

Yes, the fact that it is mostly sandy soil (I hope not to hit any pockets of limerock) is a bit of a consolation.

I'm willing to bet that the old line is not 3 feet deep either.

I did exaggerate a bit, I paced off the distance, and straight line is about 120 feet.

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 26, 2011, 09:11 PM
Oh for heavens sake. Cant you run a *new* line using a digger? Add a few right angles and put the new line far away from the water and the old line? I don't know anything about electricity (ie requires straight lines) but I'd talk to the electrician about that before I worked by hand.
Oh, and make him mark the line on the surface so you know where it goes (or plant rock steps on the surface so you always know where the new line now actually runs).

Edited to add:
While you are at it, can you run the new line so it avoids the pasture (i.e. runs around the outside) so you can service the line without having to stall your horses?

Unfortunately, my barn is in the middle of one leg of the pasture, the horses have free access, so there is no way to not go through the pasture. This also cancels out the concept of "marking" where the line is with rocks - I moved from New England the rock capital of the world to this lovely almost rock free part of the world, I sure don't want to put rocks in the pasture.

Also, there are no other utility lines running through this side of the pasture, the main electric line is above ground across the pasture to a pole in the side yard of the house, and then in the ground for about 20 feet to the house. And we know all that line is in conduit pipe, as it was done when we had the additions done on the house. The telephone line is across the other leg of the pasture on the other side of the house - and the phone company did bring the ditch witch when they had to replace that whole line a few years ago.

tasia
Apr. 26, 2011, 09:40 PM
Get a second opinion. An electrician should be able to find where the short is in the line and replace that portion, not the entire line. Mine is also through the pasture and not in conduit. Good luck.

ladybugred
Apr. 27, 2011, 12:15 PM
Could you use a couple stepins and run some rope from fence to fence to keep the horses out of that section whille you work??

Good luck

LBR

Nes
Apr. 27, 2011, 02:17 PM
Ah no sympathies over here, my husband is an electrician so he has to do it all the time :).

I'm really confused about the certification for electricians in the states (as in, there isn't any), make sure you get someone reputable to do the repair work!

You don't actually need to take up the old line if you're just going to replace it...
(I'm assuming you don't know where your water line is then?)

katarine
Apr. 27, 2011, 04:57 PM
Leave the old line and replace it with a wire run to code, parallel to it and away from the water line. And beware putting the horses right back on it after it's done regardless- a three foot deep trench is going to be soft and squishy footing til it settles. When you're all done, drive the truck up and down the length of it to settle the ground.
Then, vodka tonics ;)

JanM
Apr. 27, 2011, 05:24 PM
The locator service will mark the water line, then ditch witch within a few feet of it on either side, then hand dig around it. Put the new line in pvc pipe with 90 degree angles to the surface, attach lines, plug holes in lines above ground and attach electric line-fill in ditch. Just detach the old line and leave it where it is, since it will eventually just rot away.

hosspuller
Apr. 27, 2011, 06:42 PM
Utility locate service will not locate any wire after the meter. You'll have to pay a private locate service to mark it. Also, unless your water line is metal or has a locater wire buried with it, the locate service will have a hard time marking it. They can run a metal fish tape into the plastic pipe to locate the water line if you can access one end.

Some electrical contractors have equipment to locate buried wire faults. You'll have to call around till you find one so equiped...

It might be a better idea to just install another power line in conduit to the barn.

tasia
Apr. 27, 2011, 07:06 PM
[QUOTE

Some electrical contractors have equipment to locate buried wire faults. You'll have to call around till you find one so equiped....[/QUOTE]

Ciraco electric. I needed them when my well pump kept tripping. They have the equipment. Unfortunetly my line was under my driveway, so I had to run another one. But they were great, ran a temp line until we found the problem.

Mukluk
Apr. 27, 2011, 10:03 PM
Well in this area I am no expert. But if you need manual labor, perhaps you could throw a party. Serve beer, hire a band (OK maybe a cheap one). Have competitions for fastest digger et al. Anyone who helps gets entered in a drawing for ($ or a service that you are happy to provide). That or you could try the Tom Sawyer technique!!!
Best of luck to you~

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 28, 2011, 01:00 AM
Thanks everyone.

Yes, we are leaving the old line (so I can have the fans running for the horses while they happily eat hay while I sweat), and putting the new line in, safely encased in conduit. Going to do our best to not dig up or break the existing line and the water line.

My DH reminded me of how the contractor broke the line to the barn when the were digging to lay the foundation for our additions, and it might be where they patched the line back together, and if I had half a brain, I should have notice then (6 years ago) that the line was not in conduit - ARG - I'm sure the folks that we bought the farm from took shortcuts.

And if they took shortcuts, I bet the water line (in pvc pipe) is in the same trench as the faulty electric line.

Now here is the weird part. Since the electrician was here, and he dug up that little bit next to the barn to see what the wire was like in the ground, the circuit has not tripped - so that is almost 48 hours later. Oh well, we are supposed to get rain tomorrow, I bet it starts shorting out again when it rains.

As to asking neighbors. . . I'm probably the youngest in my neighborhood, so asking any of them to help out is probably not a good idea.

I am thinking that I should get one of those easy-up shade things, so that we can at least be out of the sun while we dig, and just move it as we go.

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 28, 2011, 01:06 AM
Well, crud, I had a whole long post typed out, and Google Chrome crapped out on me, and I lost it.

At any rate, we are not going to take the old line out, and I suspect that it is in the same trench with the pvc pipe for the water line. So, finding the water line would not be easy either.

As to asking the neighbors to come help . . I'm the youngest person in my neighborhood, and I am no spring chicken, so that's not going to happen. And my daughter and her friends are all busy doing an outdoor cleanup day at the high school to get some community service hours that they need for graduation. Trust me, I was going to splurge on shovels for all of them.

My Two Cents
Apr. 28, 2011, 08:58 AM
How about water witching for your water lines? The guys we use for our backhoe work are amazingly accurate.

Chall
Apr. 28, 2011, 10:20 AM
Now here is the weird part. Since the electrician was here, and he dug up that little bit next to the barn to see what the wire was like in the ground, the circuit has not tripped - so that is almost 48 hours later.

Hmm, that's either great news or a little scary.:eek:
OK, electricians need to chime in here. *MY* understanding is tripping is a good thing. If a line is overloaded for its capacity, and draws too much electricity, the breaker trips. If there is no trip setup, the end machine/device would draw more and more power and melt the cords, or the master panel circuit. Circuit breakers/trips are there to prevent electrical fires.

I'd be careful about the ground around the now exposed wire, the wire may be leaking electricity.
OR
Maybe the ground around the wire was the cause of leaking electricity and has resolved the problem.:yes:
Take some pics. Google around, this worth the research.

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 28, 2011, 09:54 PM
Ok, my DH seems to think this should only take 2-3 hours, I think he is smoking his socks. He says he is not really worried about hitting the water line, he can fix it if we do, his main worry is once we get up near the house, as that is when we will be digging near the main underground line from the power company pole to the house.

I'll try to remember to take pictures of the old line when we do dig around it, the electrician covered it up.

It has been raining here today, so I wonder if when the ground gets wet if it shorts. I have not been out to check yet.

rodawn
Apr. 28, 2011, 10:56 PM
Um, make sure you disconnect that wire BEFORE you start digging. If the ground is wet and if the wire is leaking electricity, you might be in for a shock. :eek: Especially if your breaker is weakening from overusage.

And yes, the breaker tripping IS a good thing - it's the protection from the wire overloading, overheating and causing fire. If you know your line regularly trips the breaker and then suddenly stops tripping, then you're heading for a fire. Tripping the breaker too often starts to wear out the breaker. Plus, a constantly tripping breaker is a strong warning the line is overloaded. When the breaker fails, your last line of defence against a fire is gone.

It's a good thing you're getting this fixed now! :D

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 29, 2011, 01:36 AM
Um, make sure you disconnect that wire BEFORE you start digging. If the ground is wet and if the wire is leaking electricity, you might be in for a shock. :eek: Especially if your breaker is weakening from overusage.

And yes, the breaker tripping IS a good thing - it's the protection from the wire overloading, overheating and causing fire. If you know your line regularly trips the breaker and then suddenly stops tripping, then you're heading for a fire. Tripping the breaker too often starts to wear out the breaker. Plus, a constantly tripping breaker is a strong warning the line is overloaded. When the breaker fails, your last line of defence against a fire is gone.

It's a good thing you're getting this fixed now! :D

I agree. My husband replaced both breakers the one at the barn that was not tripping and the one in the house panel that was tripping, so I'm not worried that it is worn out. That was 5 days ago that he replaced those.

I'm not looking forward to being out in the Florida sun for several hours digging.

LauraKY
Apr. 29, 2011, 08:02 AM
Someone needs to show you how to use two pieces of hanger to find water and electric lines. I was a disbeliever until my neighbor showed me.

http://www.ehow.com/how_6582847_water-line-clothes-hanger.html

I don't use the straws, just hold the hanger loosely in my hands. Start with a known pipe or electrical line to make sure you're doing it right. Just criss cross perpendicular to where you think it is and mark with spray paint. Done!

I just told a friend yesterday how to do it, she spent all day finding pipes on her property. I was rather enthralled the first day or two also.

I am NOT pulling your leg. Try it.

LauraKY
Apr. 29, 2011, 08:08 AM
In both Maryland and Kentucky you can call the state (Miss Utility in MD and 811 in KY). Doesn't FL have the same program? I wouldn't trust a hanger to the main power cable!!!!!!

katarine
Apr. 29, 2011, 10:13 AM
oh dear Lord: By all means go wandering around digging with a shovel by what may or may not be the main source of power to the house.

You guys are BEGGING to get hurt. Maybe Bravestrom can loan you a Great Dane to really spice it up.

Loony tunes, you guys are, just LOONS. Please don't go get electrocuted. It's a lot less headache and heartache to, I don't know...HIRE it done by a pro. And a good one.
Signed,
Wife of Master Electrician. and no, I'm not going to ask him to tell you what to do. That's what pays our bills, him getting paid to do his job.

ladybugred
Apr. 29, 2011, 10:54 AM
Some things are worth paying money for. This is one of them.;)

LBR

Seriously tho, good luck and BE CAREFUL!

ayrabz
Apr. 30, 2011, 08:52 AM
I hope all this goes well for you!!! What a pain!!

Side note: its also scareing me....I've tried to learn all I can from threads I've started on the subject of wireing the barn, as well as threads others here have shared....(Katarine, I do understand your position, but thats why I personally come here, is to learn from the members like you/your hubby who have much more knowledge and can help me understand these things...doesn't mean I WONT hire a professional, but it sure helps when those in the know here chime in and help to edumacate me so, I know (!!) what to ask, and price, and what I'm talking about!)

As in: its also scareing me, because tomorrow I'm heading to the farmette, and meeting electrician for the barn wireing Monday morning! He's been so patient and helpful ? in putting up with all my questions and concerns (which, yes, again, Katarine (!) I brought to the table with my contractors bidding the work, thanks to the information folks shared/suggested here)

Anyway..yep..has been patient, but then I read these threads and realize...crap...if anything WAS put in 'wrong' I wouldn't know it!

for instance: I think? ALL outlets will be the GFCI whachamacallit stuff...but barn builder/fencer guy said that can? be problematic for the electric fence, as in tripping on/off a lot. Anyone with any opinions on: if it should be of that type outlet or another type just for that one?

anyway, Munchkinsmom: good luck, and hope this is a safe, easy fix for you!!

JanM
Apr. 30, 2011, 09:50 AM
Now I'm afraid for you, and I agree with Katarine. With the added factor of the house power I don't think this is even remotely safe for you to do on your own. If there's one chance in a thousand of hitting a big power line then it's not worth it. I don't care if you have to make payments, or borrow money, it's not worth death or injury. I know the savings and speed is important to you, but you could get pros out there and get it done quickly and safely. Please don't risk this. Besides-you said you have to finish it quickly by hand digging, so what happens if you run into problems and don't finish quickly enough? I bet a professional with a couple of workers and a ditch witch could do this project in a few hours, and they have locating equipment available too.

Could you rent or borrow enough temporary panels to screen the work area off?

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 30, 2011, 03:35 PM
Never fear, I'm still here! My husband had the trench close to the house dug by the time I got up this morning (and no, he didn't come anywhere close to the main line to the house), and I started at 10AM, and finished the complete trench by 3PM - so he did underestimate the time a bit - hahaha.

Right now he is out putting the conduit and wire together, we threaded the wire through the conduit from the barn to the fence, so that once he has it all glued together, I get to go back out and fill in the trench, so I can let my poor horses out.

Luckily they hang out in the barn during the day anyway, so they are not totally mad, right now they are just resigned to confinement.

And it was a good thing that we didn't try to Ditch Witch it - some drunken fool layed the water line, and our nice straight line ditch did go right over part of it. With the angle that the water pipe was going, in relation to the house, barn and well, made absolutely no sense to me. So, the new power line will go 3 feet under that water pipe (that is not very far below the surface I might add).

FYI - the professionals that came to look said they would not ditch witch either, due to the risk of hitting either the existing line (which we came no where near, so lord knows what direction that goes in, but I can say it is not a straight line from the barn to the house) or the water lines, they were going to dig by hand also.

At least now I know it is done right!

And yes, we have services, the power company, phone company, etc, that will come out and mark the existing lines. It takes them weeks to come and mark.

JanM
Apr. 30, 2011, 06:55 PM
That's very good news! I'm glad all went well and I was my usual alarmist self. I'm so glad you'll be safe and secure, and have a quality electric installation done well. Isn't it amazing what you can find out about utility and other construction screw ups by taking things apart.

That's too bad about the locator service. I've been lucky with the locator services where I used to live, since they only needed about a week's notice. In one case the big locator service didn't show in a few days, so the sprinkler installer called and each individual utility provider had to come and mark everything individually.

A friend's relatives built a very expensive house with stucco outside. When they had to strip the stucco off and replace lots of major wood supports they found out that the window flashings were duct tape. So at least your goofs by the builder or whoever are now known and fixed.

MunchkinsMom
Apr. 30, 2011, 08:47 PM
And now the trench is filled in. With the help of my wonderful neighbor. Right after I had posted the last update, my neighbor called (this is the one that was in the hospital for two months that I posted about on an OT day back in January) who called because she was bored and wanted to chat. So when I told her what we were doing, she said "why didn't you call my husband to help?" I said because I figured he was busy with her, she said, heck, we are getting sick of each other already. So I told her to come on over with her husband, and we women would visit while the men-folks did the labor.

So her husband helped fill the trench while we visited, and then we had them join us for dinner.

My husband will connect all the new line tomorrow, so tonight bed check will be by flashlight, that should be entertaining. And after spending all day in the barn, my youngest mare did not come back into the barn when I took off the fly masks and doled out the cookies. I think she is afraid I will incarcerate her again!

Oh, I forgot to mention, my nosy male neighbor stopped in while we were digging the trench, and I said to him "If you come in here, you better grab a shovel". Of course he didn't, but he did stand there chewing the fat while I dug. I've learned to not stop what I am doing, I can multi-task, and let him yammer.

MunchkinsMom
May. 1, 2011, 03:30 PM
And the job is done! I have power in the barn, no more whining from me.

And after viewing some of the photos of the tornado damage, I feel that my whining was totally uncalled for.

Dinner by flashlight was entertaining, I discovered that while my horses know if they see the flashlight in the field that it is time to come in, it is entirely a different matter when the round orb of light is shining on the ground in front of them. So I had to put the flashlight in the tack room and bring them in practically in the dark.

It's all good!