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Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 7
Junior Member
I was reading a few topics on meter seals, and how electricians are not allowed to break them. I have witnessed some utilities actually having electrical contractors carry meter seals. The utility gives them a color, and if you are to do a change out and the meter person arrives and sees the color of the seal for a contrator, everything is okay. Are any of you offered that same opportunity when you have to disconnect the meter for a few moments? And also, have you ever got in trouble for breaking a seal, when you are not supposed to? I am not talking about breaking the seal intentionally for theft of service. Any thoughts on this would help. Thanks.
~Nick Ogden

N. Ogden
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
Every power company has different rules for this.

As an example, Florida Light and Power will allow an electrical contractor to pull a meter, but only after cutting the service free at the weather head.

They will not allow meters to be pulled hot.

In the area I am officially only a power company guy can break the seal, in reality we do it all the time.

I suggest you go to the web site for the power company you work with and they will most likely have the rules posted.

Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 615
In my city, we buy power from ComEd and the city owns and maintains the utility. We get better rates ($.62 vs. $.88 last I checked) and it is much more reliable. I grew up in section of town where our side of the street was ComEd and across the street was City power. I can remember many outages that the other side of the street was not out. I think they were 10 times more reliable.

But getting to your topic, if you cut a tag for city power, it is a $75 fine and they enforce it. I think $225 for a second offense. If you need access you have to call in and in 20 min. they’ll have a person out to pull the meter. But it works best if you preschedule everything. Kind of a hassle, but at least they are responsive. I don’t mind as much as others. You have to (get to) charge a little more for the hassle, and panel changes are more expensive, but once you learn to work with them, it’s just another routine. It forces you to have to work their stuff dead, which is always a good thing, plus it evens the playing field because everyone has to do it that way. The other thing I like about it is that it intimidates the out of town competition.

ComEd on the other hand is a free for all. You never know what to expect from them. Sometimes they want to see the inspection sticker before they’ll hook up, sometimes not. I once had them come out for a service change and tell me they didn’t know how to shut off the power, so I’d have to do it live. Tags have never been an issue with them. We always used to cut, do our work, never look back and never hear anything about it. My brother even had one guy give him a hand full of tags, same color as theirs. We usually employ a strategy of opening the tag in such a way that it can be put back together. I do that just to avoid any potential problem in case you happen across the one guy that says you can’t do that. To be honest I have heard so many conflicting stories from them (yes their own people) that I don’t worry about it. The absolute majority say just call them when we’re done and they’ll replace it.

[This message has been edited by Jps1006 (edited 03-05-2004).]

Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 159
CRW Offline
Are you in a suburb north of Chicago? I remember working there, Winetka, Willmette, Glencoe, I can't remember which one, and they had local power from the town instead of Com Ed like Chicago and everywhere else. There was a huge fine if you tampered with the meter. In Chicago we did whatever we wanted, Com Ed never seemed to mind. One time though, we had to wait for them to come and remove a bunch of locks on a real old 6 gang meter base/fuse box in a basement. We were going to sawzall it apart live if they didn't show up.

Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,143
I was surprised - The first time I pulled a meter to change a panel in Kenosha, (WI), I called Wisconsin Electric - and was told as long as they were properly informed, there was no problem.

Similar thing when I changed Grandma's panel outside of St. Louis, MO - her PoCo simply told me "Don't pull it under load (DUH!) - we'll re-seal it when we check it next month"

Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 615
No, I'm in Naperville. That's who supplies the residents with power.

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 35
I've broken seals on meters before, but you have to notify the poco as soon as possible.
I've opened meters to check utility voltage, and, as long as you contact the metering department, there won't be any problems. That is, if you're an electrical contractor.

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
Welcome to ECN, [Linked Image]
As a PoCo employee, I'm not spared from being "read the riot act" when breaking seals of various types without having asked first!. [Linked Image]
But with sealing and tamper-proofing like it is over here, you'd never get anything done, if you went strictly by the book.
Electrical Inspectors usually seal our meters, but I do have a PoCo tool for crimping the seals, I just never use it, i prefer to get those that are supposed to do it, to perform this task, as it keeps me out of Hot water. (sort of)

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 558
In my area,all I have to do is call the poco and tell them I need to pull a meter and give them the meter #.

Some of the guys on the service trucks used to give me seals but none have offered in a while.

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 2,527
In a lot of places, it goes without saying that what’s on the books and what is verbal understanding can be two different things.

Utility employees in recent times have gotten instructions on being more careful with meter seals, probably because revenue-protection departments have traced some power theft to seal tampering. It’s handy though when electricians and utility troublemen can ‘make each other’s jobs a little easier.’

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