October 24, 2011

Electrical Upgrade, Done!

This is one of those projects that was absolutely necessary, took a lot of time to do, cost more than we might have wished, and has largely unseen results. Needless to say, there is something to show you, because we've gone from this....

Our old electric meter used to be
on a telephone pole out by the road.

... and this ...

Power lines as they used to enter the house from overhead.

.... to this ......

New electric meter. Cables come
up to the box from underground.

Dan chose this type so that he can run a line for his welding machine, and eventually we can run electricity to a workshop and barn if we want.

We also upgraded from this...

Old circuit breaker panel located behind the stove.

... to this ....

New circuit breaker panel located in utility room

Besides upgrading all the equipment, power to the house has also been upgraded, from 60 to 200 amps. The immediate effect is that our light bulbs burn brighter.

Dan did most of the work himself. He got the specs from the power company, consulted an electrician, got his permit, installed the new boxes, and then called out the county building inspector. His work passed with flying colors, so all that remained was for the utility company to move the lines.

Burying them....

View of the action from my kitchen window

... was the expensive part, but since the old lines ran through a tangle of tree branches it was either that or cut down the trees. Actually, it's a minor miracle that tearing winds or ice storms hadn't already knocked those lines out at some point, because according to the power company, they are only responsible for the lines up to the meter. The home owner is responsible for everything from the meter on.

So, my yard's a bit torn up but a big job is out of the way. It actually started two years ago, when we discovered that we still had some knob and tube wiring that needed to be replaced. The only thing that's left now, is installing the fixtures, switches, and outlets we will want in the new kitchen.

The irony of all this is that really and truly, we'd like to get off the grid altogether. Why didn't we do that instead? The answer to that isn't simple, except to say that we live in an area where neither solar nor wind are consistent enough to be utilized as an energy source on a regular basis. We've been researching other alternatives, but have no definitive answers yet.

The faithful observant among you may have happened to notice that the house color behind the new meter box was blue instead of white. I'll show you why soon. ;)


  1. Wow! That will make the kitchen upgrade easier...you won't pop a fuse when you're running the drill. ;o)
    Hugs for the hurt to your pocketbook for that.

  2. Congrats to you and hubby! Great work he did:)One thing I have noticed in my research of alternative energy is that even if you had the right location for either solar or wind....the cost is very prohibitive for the average family. Maybe things will get better in a few years. Everyone wants us to move to being less reliable on electricity and fossil fuels, but they don't make it a true option for most.

  3. Renee, that's a fact. We did think ahead for this project however, and set aside the amount we'd need from last year's tax refund!

    Stephanie, excellent observations, and something that is exceedingly frustrating for folks like us. In the end, the entire "green" movement seems to be nothing more than another advertising scheme.

    The other one that bugs me is the government rebates for installing such systems. Rebates sound good, but the problem is that one has to be able to afford to pay for the system upfront. The rebate is just a partial reimbursement for $$ already spent. I can't help but think that if they really wanted to help either us or the environment, they would offer grants to help pay for it rather than rebates.

    In the end, my conclusion is that big business and government either:
    1) don't care about environmental problems, or
    2) don't really believe there is a problem.

    If #2 is the case, then the environmental issues they want to regulate are just one big hoax.

    Neither conclusion is confidence building.

  4. Leigh, my area rates in the last percentile of where solar is said to be useable. They rank us with Seattle in cloudy days, but I can honestly tell you that is so not true. We are creating more than enough electric with solar and have not even hooked up the wind turbine yet. Solar panels create electric even on overcast days. It is true. If the sun rises, it makes electric. It might not be optimal but it does generate enough. So dont believe these studies and reports. After all, the electric company, the state, and the government doesnt want you to go off grid ;) They cant tax off grid power, yet.

  5. How nice to have the electrical business almost all done. I'm curious to find out about the house color. xo

  6. Oh - I so remember rewiring the old farm house and getting electricity out to the pasture pumps, the milk house, the milk barn as well as the big barn. There's nothing like new wiring and flipping a switch on dark mornings to feel less isolated.

    Now I wish I had kept the ceramic knobs for a hanging now but back then enough was enough. I really didn't want to be reminded.

  7. Such a savings by Dan being able to do the work himself. Way to go!

  8. Don't you just love being able to cross another task/repair off the list? Yay, for getting the major part electrical work done. The rest sounds just like the little stuff. That's a huge job too! We once had to bring in new hydro upgrade to a previous residence and bury the line to the barn. What a relief to get it done.

  9. Leigh - I am so happy for you!! That must be a huge load off your mind! Glad to hear Dan was able to do most of it himself. Hooray!

  10. I'm so happy you got your electric updated. Dan sure does take on a lot of the work. Good for him!!!

  11. Jane, thank you for that! Dan has been thinking we really need to talk to someone who actually uses these systems rather than what we read from the experts, including sales folk. The end user is the best resource!

    Sherri, I'm painting! I'm hoping to finish up the trim in the next day or so, and I'll get photos then.

    Cathy, I know you can relate! We actually saved all the ceramic knobs, tubes, and other odds and ends. I'll be ready to do the barn for sure, but we have to build it first, LOL

    CaliforniaGrammy, oh yeah! We saved about $4500 by doing it ourselves.

    Nina, yes a big one not only in terms of a job done, but for safety issues as well. Very much a relief.

    BRF, thanks! It was a job we dreaded for sure. It's a major relief to have it done!

    Barb, thanks! You know, sometimes we discuss hiring someone to do things, but in the end, he's always glad he does most of it himself.

  12. That's a good thing to have scratched off your to-do list, but ouch on having the power company run the underground cables. That was one benefit of new construction - they did that part for free. I believe it was the only thing anyone did for free! Of course, we'll be paying them money every month for a long time...

    I will be eagerly awaiting the story behind the blue house color! :)

  13. Your power quandary reminds me of my dietary quandary a number of years ago. I had become a vegetarian after reading Diet for a Small Planet, but after a few years, I realized that my dietary demands had almost become a second job. I decided that being vegetarian wasn't as important as being balanced.

  14. We went through this same process when we moved onto this place 15 years ago. Not one of the projects I would label "fun!" But so necessary. At the same time, we did put in the solar system we could afford. It provides us with our electrical energy for about 50% of the time. Cut your electric bill in half? Not so shabby!

    In the same way we could (should) have vehicles built to last longer, get more miles per gallon, alternative sources of energy could (should) be economically available for everyone. Unfortunately, because of evil greed the powers-that-be are making sure that doesn't happen.

  15. nice. I just found you and am looking forward to reading more!

  16. Welcome to the twenty first century Leigh,lol. For a min there i was ready to count you as being Amish! Richard

  17. Kari, that's a big job to get done at no cost! Of course, they want you all to be satisfied customers. :)

    Sharon, very well put! It is about balance, isn't it? And not making more work for ourselves than is worth it. The dilemma over solar or wind (for us) is cost versus output. I try very hard not to make everything in my life a money issue, but with limited $$, it has to make sense. Of course with the upgrade and brighter lights will come a higher bill!

    Mama Pea, actually that's a great idea. I take it your solar is tied into the grid? Very true about the ruling class. For all the talk about environmental responsibility, they seem to be the biggest stumbling block :o

    Susan, hello and welcome! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

    Richard, LOL. Actually it's my husband that wants the electric. I lived 2, 3 years off-grid a long time ago and never missed it. I think one of these days he'll figure out the best way to make his own.

  18. What an improvement for you! 60 amps to 200 is one heck of a power boost for you and you'll be able to have on more than one thing at a time. Congrats!


Welcome to 5 Acres & A Dream The Blog! Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation.