Ping Bruce Bergman

Ive got an electrical issue you might have information on.
When I installed my manufactured home, I didnt want any overhead
lines, so all my utilities are buried. My meter is mounted on a
typical pedistal, with a 100 amp main, and a 20 amp used for
electrical to my shop.
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I installed everything to code, all passed properly of course, but I
didnt put in an extra conduit or two...damnit. And the pedistal is
located about 50 feet away from the back of the home at the property
line. I did this so I could in the future, fence, and not have to have
Pacific Greed and Extortion come into the yard and deal with dogs.
There is a spare 50 amp breaker at the homes breaker panel, that used
to serve the A/C, before I converted to swamp cooler, which Ive been
using to supply power to the shop, via RPC, etc etc and also is the
sole breaker for my welding area. Its now 20+ yrs old, and as Ive
started tigging aluminum, Im running into supply pops the
breaker when I get much over 140 amps of tig welding power going. Im
sure that its weak from age and use, and needs to be replaced.
If Im going to have to expend or scrounge, its time to look at
supplying the welding area better. With only 100 amps of service at
the pedistal, Im a bit screwed, but I have to do what I can. I was
tigging an aluminum assembly (intake manifold for NO injection) for a
friend, and was popping that breaker just about the time Id get a good
bead started.
The pedistal was installed in a concrete pad, so removing it and
replacing it is going to be a PITA. I actually dont know what the amp
rating of the pedistal is, I only know there is a 100 amp breaker in
it that feeds the house. There is room for additional breakers, both
110 and 220. There are no stickers visible and Ive not pulled the
meter and the covers to check. If I recall after 20 yrs, it was a
Zodiac (?) brand
Im in an unincorporated area, so county rules (Kern) follow state regs
and are interpretted with the usual rural blind eye
Some questions if I may be so bold...
1. How do I determing the total amp rating of the pedistal? Id hate
to melt down the buss.
2. Can I simply put in another 60 or 100 amp breaker..assuming the
buss will handle intermitant loads?
3. Would it be kosher to mount a weather tite electrical connector to
the outside of the pedistal, and run SOW over to the welding area? A
run of about 30 or so feet. I have at least that much "0" or #2 SOW
I of course would (and have done so) put a sub panel at the welding
area. I could hole punch into the breaker section and install rigid
conduit and run it over to the welding area as well. I have plenty of
sutible 4ga wire that I could run, but since the heart issue..Id
rather not be trenching by hand this time of the year espesialy.
4. Do I have to rip out everthing and in$tall a new pedi$tal, and if
$o..what would you $uggest for 200 amp $ervice, and where do I
$crounge one? I would NOT be changing the service at the home. The
100 amp main breaker has never tripped
Mine, IRRC correctly was purchased at Home Depot or similar and the
name was Zodiac or something that started with a Z. The wife has all
the manuals/docs filed someplace and she is back East for a while.
Both tig welders are rated at 100 amp, 220, and while I can run them
normally just fine with most materials..aluminum is requiring me to
draw far more power than Id normally use for any of the welding I
normally do.
I thought I had a pretty good grip on normal electrical issues, as I
had a C7-C10 for a number of years, but this is way outside of my
expertise. I dont know if its even code to tap into the pedistal above
ground. Shrug.
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Unicorn. IIRC, they're out of business. Not too bad equipment except for one big problem: Most of them use discontinued (read: Not Cheap) Zinsco Type Q breakers, which is probably where that Z got stuck in your head.
The cheap and dirty trick is to see what size wire the main lugs are rated for - if the lugs are rated for 4/0 wire it's probably a 200A pedestal, though I doubt it was 200A because the ped is just too small. If it's only got 1/0 lugs it's probably only 100A, 125A if you push it or fudge around with derating factors.
Other than that, you have to ask the utility what their incoming feed wires are rated for. Don't try to cheat and use a ratings chart, they deliberately cheat and undersize the AL feeder wires out to the curb - simply because they're the Power Company and they can. ;-)
Don't count on it - most of them are really good guys, and they'll tell you what they want to see done. But a pissed off building inspector can be your worst nightmare, and they can keep pulling your chain endlessly if they really want to - and you can ignore them but they won't go away.
You have to do what they want, smile and bear it. Because until they sign off on the Final, they have the authority to tell Edison to yank your meter and turn you totally off...
Probably, but check with the local utility guys. They can look and see how big the Dilithium Crystals are inside the old pedestal.
You could run SO cable over there, though I strongly suggest to wait till the County Inspector signs off the work and leaves before you rig it up. But if it's semi-permanent I'd hire some happy Green-Card bearing laborers to dig a trench from 'here' to 'over there'. And while the hole is open, drop in extra pipes for power and signal wiring.
You can probably find a used 125A or 200A pedestal locally at any "breaker broker" - they're like a junkyard, but for power panels and switchgear. They go rip the panels from buildings being demolished and save the useful bits for rehab and resale. Standard junkyard policies, 25% to 50% of new price, and they usually allow for a short warranty period if it turns out to be a dud.
Two local ones I know of: Bernard & Sons 16123 Cohasset (east side VNY) Van Nuys CA 818/787-9303
AAA Breakers, 17646 Sherman Way, Van Nuys CA 818/708-1850
Pedestals have all the stuff in one compact package, but you'll pay for the convenience. See
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(Products - Pedestals or Products - Commercial Pedestals) if you have a broadband connection handy - they are local.
The 200A Commercial Pedestals go in easily, I've done several.
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even have a 3-phase version.
Or buy a new surface-mount 200A underground "All-in-one" at Home Depot, and you can make your own mounting stand for it out of sucker rod or big square tubing (Metalworking Content) and a chunk of 1/8" plate for a backboard. It will look like a pile of shit in comparison to a real pedestal, but it'll be cheap. You will either need to concrete encase plastic conduits where they come above ground, or use rigid and transition to plastic at ground level.
You can build it all (either the new pedestal or your makeshift one) next to the old pedestal, and when you are ready to switch over you rip out the old pedestal. Place a plastic handhole right over where the old underground utility riser is, and splice the feeders. Or if there's already an Edison handhole there, land your new conduit into it and it's super easy.
Depending on the model of old pedestal, you can tap off the backside and mount a big Hubbell-Lock pin and sleeve receptacle - but remember not to drill through into an unfused feeder busbar (inside those two pieces of 3/4" PVC conduit in the back corners of the breaker section) or much excitement will soon begin...
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
Many thanks Bruce. Good food for thought. Much obliged
Btw...its PG&E here..Pacific Greed and Extortion. I much rather have had Edison....sigh ....I think.
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