i need to help a friend switch from a 125 amp to a 200 amp main panel do i need to contact electric co before i pll the meter?? thx
This is no place to help a friend. For one thing, you can not touch that meter without fines that could cost who knows how much, not to mention the high risk of explosion/ arc blast while putting the meter in.
There is a lot more work to do than just slapping in a panel. The upgrade involves changing the panel, changing the incoming service cable to one that supports 200 amps, upgrading the wire to the main water pipe and ground rod if needed, changing to a meter can that is rated for 200 amps, upgrading the mast/ conductors, and making sure the mast is up to current codes (rain head, minimum clearance, point of attachment), and of course the permit and inspection! The power company will not even consider doing anything with your service till they get a permit number and approved inspection. The very least that will happen to you if you pull the meter is get the fine. Changing the panel without doing the other work mentioned would result in a dangerous installation. Don't do it.
Spencer's a licensed electrician. So he's just laying a bunch of scare talk on you because he thinks only electricians can pull off wiring, right?
WRONG! I'd consider myself as being on the "extreme end" the DIY spectrum with respect to residential wiring. Hell, I'll tackle darn near anything.
But pulling a meter? Nope, no way! Spence is 100% correct. This is the ONE task -- hooking up a new or upgraded service with the POCO -- for which I always engage a feller with a license who can negotiate the pitfalls and hassles with the POCO, not to mention the local regulatory requirements.
So am I actually capable to doing this work? Yep, I think I am. But will I ever break a meter seal? Nope, never.
Guess we shouldn't have pulled those dozens of meters over the past 10 years. Call TXU in Dallas and they will say, "you want us to do what?"
My electrician didn't bother pulling the meter before a service upgrade. He just clipped the incoming power line and wirenutted a powerstrip to it to power his tools for the day! That seems to be the method around here. But he's a pro with the proper, insulated tools for that. I'd never attempt it!
It depends on the local POCO. Some of them allow licenced & approved electrical contractors to cut and reconnect at the POCO connection.
Texas, it's different when we pull meters as electricians. You don't want Harry Homeowner playing around with an energized meter and the power co would not be happy either.
"For one thing, you can not touch that meter without fines that could cost who knows how much, not to mention the high risk of explosion/ arc blast while putting the meter in."
This is rarely true.
You are allowed to pull the meter for maintenance of your equipment.
It is NOT 'theft of services' in any way.
Who upgrades the feed is subject to local laws.
In Virginia the POCO installs everything up to the meter pan, on their nickel for upgrades.
They sometimes even supply the enclosure and meter base so that you use their preferred one.
After shutting down the main there is no load on the meter contacts and it can be safely removed with no danger of arcing and flash.
The entire main including grounding electrodes and grounding electrode conductors will need to be upgraded.
If the new mater is placed beside the old one you can even install jumpers from old to new, then place shorting bars in the new meter base and plug the meter back in to the old base.
If you plan carefully power will be out for less than one hour.
After a final inspection by the AHJ the POCO will cone out and run any new lines required, including a new weather head and feed to the new meter, and remove the old equipment (feed and meter base.enclosure).
In some places the owner is responsible for the feed from the weather head down.
I really doubt many power companies would be happy with a home owner opening up the meter can, without at least notifying. There is a bit of danger to pulling a meter and even more so for an inexperienced homeowner. Even a professional should at least where appropriate safety equipment. What if it is an old 60 amp meter base with deteriorated service cable and rusted metal parts? It is possible for a terminal to break off and give an explosion show until the line fuse blows.
In the midwest areas we call the power company about the upgrade. Their first question is "What is your permit number?" They then come out to kill the drop on the upgrade day or provide a pigtail in advance. Even to connect the pigtail, you are technically not supposed to pull the meter (removing the tamper tag) A lot of us do anyway and put the tamper tag back together with needle nose pliers. If someone tries to do a panel without a permit and pulls the meter, they better hope it is not meter reading day because it would result in a $500 fine.
The OP stated "I'm pulling the meter and changing a panel from 125 to 200 amps". I seriously doubt he/she plans to do much besides put the new main panel in and suspect no permit is involved.
I am on the utility side, I don't recommend pulling or stabbing a meter. I know people who have tested the arc rating of their Fire Retardant clothing and safety glasses arc and projectile rating and 600v gloves. It is rare but when bad things happen in a meter can a lot of vital areas of the body are usually in close proximity. Most utilities have no problem sending someone out to pull a meter that I know about.
" really doubt many power companies would be happy with a home owner opening up the meter can, without at least notifying. "
What makes the POCO "happy" is not high on my list of concerns.
Every state law I have ever looked at allows the meter to be removed for required maintenance by ther owner of the property (or there agent).
It is NOT as hazardous as has been stated here.
Without load the chance of any arc is zero.
Fire departments have a much harder problem: no way of removing all loads.
That is they for the most part they have learned to never pull meters.
I have gloves and gear for dealing with 7.2kV and up, but 120/240 V (called 'low voltage' by the linemen) is not nearly as much of a hazard.
You are more likely to be injured falling off the ladder you are on than from 120/240 V itself.
Local policy and who is responsible for what determine how the work is done.
[I]That is they for the most part they have learned to never pull meters. [/I]
Actually our department is forbidden to pull meters. They're instructed when necessary to kill only the main service disconnect. (Leaving any tripped breakers for the fire marshall to check afterwards).
But regardless of what the proper proceedure for killing power to the main panel, there's as spencer points out, there's most likely way more work involved in upgrading service than just hanging a 200A panel on the wall.
Just weighing in from another obscure section of the country. Rural western Maine.
My town does not HAVE a permit process for electrical work, so all the permit discussion is irrelevant. If you call the power company and ask them to come turn off the power so you can replace your breaker box, they will send someone out who will do so. However, if you ask for permission to cut the seal and pull it yourself, that will also be allowed, a note will be made and the meter reader will re-seal it next time he comes around.
IF you choose to have the poco cut the power, the entire "inspection" process when you call for it to be reconnected consists of the poco guy himself checking to make sure that you have all the necessary grounds and a proper service disconnect. They do have some company-specific rules/preferences with regards to the installation of NEW services, but replacing/upgrading an existing one seldom meets with any more than this basic inspection.
The biggest danger I can imagine in pulling the meter is not being electrocuted. As someone pointed out, it's 120/240. People survive getting shocked at that voltage every day (and yes, I know, some don't). However, a dead short on the poco side of the meter base would be nearly-unlimited current. My only fear of doing this has been based on that scenario. Perhaps the last guy who worked in there, the one who hooked up the meter base to begin with, screwed up somehow and the incoming wire isn't tightened down sufficiently, and during my removal of the meter, it will work its way out and hit either the side of the box or one of the other wires?
Perhaps the meter base has been overloaded, the terminals got really hot, the insulator material that holds them in place has become brittle, and during my removal of the meter, one of them will break off and again hit either the side of the box or one of the other wires?
I do it anyway, as I feel it's my risk to take, but I do believe this could happen.
Re-energizing, what if whatever you replaced while the power was off happens to be defective from the factory? I always turn off the main breakers then do a continuity/resistance check of the LOAD side of the meter base (meter removed) to see if anything is shorted, but what if something weren't COMPLETELY shorted and just happened to break down when higher voltage (120/240 as opposed to the 3V from my meter) was applied? Again we're talking about nearly-unlimited current (10-20 thousand amps), rapidly-expanding air molecules (from the heat from the spark) and a nice refreshing shower in molten metal.
Again, I do it anyway, but the risk is always in my mind, and I can picture it happening some day.
I do have a concern with the original poster doing this work. I've said in here a billion times I think it's great when people REALIZE that they don't quite know something, and ask. I think asking all the right questions is just as good as knowing all the right answers. The original poster, however, seemed quite convinced that a 200A panel could just be thrown in place of a 125A panel, and didn't so much as ask about the size of the wires going up the mast (mast? wow, around here we just have SE stapled to the side of the building!) I make no negative judgment against those who "don't know", but those who "think they know, and are wrong" are dangerous.
DIY.. Call the utility and get the meter pulled and I stand by that because it is easy to have a case of head up butt and forget to flip the main. There are also very few DIY'rs that know what looks right and what does not look right in a meter can with lugs that might get loose in the meter can.