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Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 85
I'll give a brief synopsis of the nightmare I've been stuck in for 2 going onto 3 days.

The job consists of upgrading a 600 amp service to a 1200. Existing pad mount transformer to be swapped out for new 300 kva. existing 4" pvc conduits to electric closet 3x. Remove old main disconect, replace with 1200 amp rated m.l.o panelboard with 2 breakers one 600 amp, one 800 amp. The 600 amp will be the ocp for an existing meterstack with 8 meters adjacent to the main disconnect. The 800 amp breaker will feed through a c.t. cabinet to an 800 amp M.L.O cabinet with a few 200 amp breakers and a few 100 amps, and a few spares. The 800 amp panel is for te building owner to run a machine shop, the meter stacks in turn feed 5 other bays with various other tennants.

The 600 amp service only used 2 of the 3 existing pvc u.g. conduits.Upon national grid removing trans, and letting us have acces to the conduits, we determine 3rd conduit frozen. call roto rooter guy, to clean out conduit.

After finally wrestling the new MONSTER 1200 amp tub into place and pulling in 2 of the 3 sets of feeders. its about 5 pm, no roto rooter guy yet.....was suposed to have wiring inspection about 1/2 hr ago so i could power the building up cause its cold. Finally the roto rooter man cleans out the ice and rocks ahhh yes rocks, we passed a rope and mandrel through about 6 times to clear the pipe ourselves also. we finally get our final set of feeders in for the day. its about 7:30 cold and dark out by now.

We set up an extension cord to a unit heater within the bay of the sprinkler riser and our new ct cabiet to keep it warm overnight.....

Morning 6:40 first guy arrives gen is not running and will not fire back up, apparently it ran too low on oil.dohhhh. So day # 2 off to great start no power for lights, tools or temp heat. shop is sending new generator out about an hr away. Crew is working feverishly to land the final pull of 600 mcm's into 1200 panel from transformer, finally they get them done ring them out before tying into trans former, all is good. trans former gets made up all is on track...feed to new 600 amp tap can on end of meter stack is not pulled in yet ( about 10 ') the ct. is wired completely, its about 10:45 am we're in good shape... the last wires to be trminated is the new tap can on the end of the meter stack from the 600 amp breaker. finally done, all grounding is done call for inspection at 11:15 am... inspector shows up at 12:45 all looks good, utility is on site already ready to put fuses in at pole and let us confirm phase rotation. we had to have the utility guys swap a phase then all checked out. fire up the 800, and the three sets of panels and busduct's off that far so good. fire up the meter stack....all powers up ok check voltage on the bussing in tap can...all seems to be good. one of the tenants runs out says lights and computers smoking!!! another tenant says his unit heater in warehouse just smoked....checked all phases in tenant panels missing a phase, and 120 volts on

Shut off 600 amp breaker start pulling apart meter stack, find that the neutral buss bar isthe center buss bar, and not the top as it was labeled by the factory. So here we are day 2 a bunch offried electrical equiptment heater transformers mostly and ballasts in lighting..and a few fax , telephones,computers at least 5 pc's, maybe one that operates a metal fab machine. coffee makers, etc... not such a great day to be me. The lesson i learned so far is meter everything before turning on a sigle breaker #1, don't always believe the markings the factory puts on its equiptment... i guess. have roto rooter on speed dial.

Another thing that got screwed up on day one that i forgot about was the wire for the 3 u.g. pulls. i had 2 helpers walking it out inside and labeling it. for some reason im not sure why, but they ran every cut about 2' longer than the last, which threw off the wire cuts. i had 3 reels, for 3 conduits, each reel had 4 lengths (supposed to)

They get to reel # 3 and have enough wire for 1, and a half which is no good, so I had to get another 96 ' of # 600 mcm...boss not too happy. especially when he sees all the wire cuts on the ground cause the wire wasn't cut to the same proper length. so the lesson here should be not to have helpers work on anything so critical. i've learned alot in 2 days, and i'm sure im gonna hear about it alot from my boss. sorry about the long post hopefully i can laugh about it later... hopefully you guys can take something out of my mistakes, or at least have a small chuckle and be thankfull it wasn't you

Last edited by renosteinke; 01/15/09 01:45 PM. Reason: added spacing to ease reading
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Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 764
Jeez… I needed a couple of extra strength Excedrin after just reading about it, so I can only imagine the pounding headache you must have had by the end of the day!
Hopefully today will be a better day.

Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 152
Early on in my career I learned the lesson you just learned, never, never, take anything for granted, it's what separates the experienced from the not-so-experienced. Sorry for the frustration and the hot water you are now in. On the bright side things can only get better. Good luck

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 947
twh Offline
so the lesson here should be not to have helpers work on anything so critical.
That isn't your fault. You have to work with the tools you have, including company provided help. You simply cannot do everything yourself.

I worked under a lead hand who said everything three times. It's amazing to see a journeyman electrician be told where to put a device three times and still put it in the opposite corner of the room. Now, I tell my helpers everything at least four times, because three obviously isn't enough.

Your bad luck is to have everything go wrong on one job and have the worst possible results.

On the bright side things can only get better.
I wouldn't count on that. Things can always get worse. It just won't be such a surprise next time.

Thanks for the story. I shared it with a co-worker and I think we both feel a little better about our own jobs.

Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 853
Whoa!!! To boot you forgot to mention that it was about 9 F with a stiff breeze.

The wire issue (short) I have been both 'Perp' and 'Victim'.

They probably meant well, but......
That is a hard thing to get thru some heads, Most logic is 'we have to stagger them in the Term/Gear.
Wrong."just do as your asked and I'll explain later".

Some how this would have been better if it was April.

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 316
WOW - It's amazing how when "under the gun" how many little things that can go wrong end up going wrong. The biggest thing about a job like this is to keep a cool head and have a plan of attack from step 1 to the last step
When I gave my guys an order to cut cables from a reel to a certain length, I always explained how the cable was measured and how many cuts I HAD to have from each reel. They always knew that the cuts needed to be exact. (I learned this from when I screwed up cutting cables as an apprentice)
I see the biggest mistake as not taking the time to verify the voltages on the meter stack PRIOR to turning on the circuit breakers to the tennents spaces. ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING!
When I did power outages like that the one you did,I used to check everything myself with my own meter then I would have another qualified person check everything with another meter just
to be positive everything was OK prior to firing anything back up. I used to do outages where we worked round the clock, start to finish. I did find problems like things were crossed up, but by using the double check method it was discovered before firing up.
I'm not trying to berate you here, trust me we ALL make mistakes.
The big thing is everyone went home safe and as long as you REMEMBER this job, it is now what we call EXPERIENCE! Trust me the next outage you work on this memory will come flooding back and you will know what to do to and what NOT to do.

Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 85
This job is now in the books...And always in my memory. I posted a few pics of it on, along with a few other jobs, I've done with more sucess. As far as being cleaar as glass about cutting the wire I accept that I wasn't crystal clear..Next time I know better..
This was a relatively cheap lesson, nobody was hurt, and the amount of damages was relatively low compared to what may have been. I am very thankfull that there weren't any offices with lots of computers and fancy electronics etc. the total loss was 6 power supplies from pc's, 7 ballasts, and about 6 unit heater transformers, also 2 fax machines and a phone. I felt like I was in a south west airlines commercial, cause i wanted to get away!! But i will never forget ever what i learned. the extra 10 minutes it would have taken to verify every tenant panel would have been easy, and cheaper in hindsight than rushing to restore power and heat

Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 85
I put up pics of this install on check out the tap can pic...

Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 335
I guess this wouldn't be the right time to tell you guys I'm a local gov't electrician and had the last 2 days off (which I spent watching ball games and drinking beer).

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