Underground Electrical Service

When an electrical conduit develops a gap as the photo depicts below the meter box, this opening can let water inside the conduit. In this photo , apparently for some time.  This is not a good situation.  Any small pin holes in the covering of the electrical cables will cause deterioration, especially when the main conductors are aluminum, which is normally installed.

Also since there is a separation of the exterior protective conduit, this indicates that there is also pressure pulling the electric cables downward- that could affect the integrity of the electrical connections within the meter box. The meter box is the place where the underground cables are connected to the house.  It is where an additional cable is fastened and is connected to the main service panel usually within the house garage or basement.

More often than not, when a conduit settles, as viewed in the photo, soil within the trench was insufficiently compacted during construction. The soil grade will settle normally around a house over time . That’s why one should wait a couple of years before planting shrubs or  landscaping.

Often the soil settles 6 to 12 inches but is not a concern as long as the trench was properly compacted during the installation.  In this case the soil must have settled about 4 inches after the underground conduit was installed, judging from the distance between the soil and he foundation paint.

As soil settles it puts pressure on the underground conduit protecting the service conductors. Eventually the pressure became too great for the connection under the meter box — you can see that the conduit completely separated, and may be still  slowly pulling apart.

This situation will eventually will become a problem. The three large cables between the conduit and box are the electrical service conductors. They are carrying the electrical load to the house.

Looseness in (or damage to) the neutral service conductor can cause wild fluctuations in voltage. Anything different than what is considered normal can cause many problems. Appliances and fixtures don’t want too much or too little voltage – motors can literally burn up and light bulbs will burn out. Obviously, since the electrical connections are not visible during the home inspection, further evaluation is advised here by a reputable electrical contractor.


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