Electric house meters can only be installed by power companies. Homeowners, however, can install the meter base. The electrical meter is part of a meter loop, which also contains a weatherhead and breaker box. Meter loops must be built and installed to specifications set by the power company. If the installation does not meet specifications, the power company will not furnish power to the house. Most power companies provide drawings on how they want the meter loops built and installed.
Request a copy of meter loop specifications from your power company, ask if any permits are required, and learn if the work can be done by an unlicensed electrician. If the city, county or power company requires that the work be completed by a licensed electrician, you may be able to pay a small fee for one to oversee your work.
Select a location on a side or back of the house nearest the power company's cable or line to install the meter loop. The meter loop must be a minimum of 3 feet from windows and doors.
Connect the meter base to a weatherhead, or weathercap, with 2-inch diameter rigid galvanised steel (RGS) conduit. The meter must be installed at a minimum of 5 feet and a maximum of 6 feet above the ground. The weatherhead should be approximately 11 feet above the ground and no less than 10 1/2 feet.
Cut the conduit to a length to meet these requirements and thread the cut end with a 2-inch pipe die. Pipe dies can be rented if you don't have a set.
Connect the weatherhead and meter base with the piece of conduit. Attach a breaker panel to the bottom of the meter base with a RGS 2-inch nipple 6 inches long. Fasten the entire meter loop flat against the wall with a sufficient number of conduit straps.
If the weatherhead is higher than the roof overhang, a hole will have to be cut in the roof and soffit. Before attaching the weatherhead, push the conduit up through the holes. Install suitable flashing around the conduit at its entry into the soffit and its exit onto the roof to prevent water leaks and entry of mice and squirrels.
Connect a No. 6 black wire to each of the lugs at the top of the meter base. Run these two wires up through the conduit and out the weatherhead. Most power companies require that 30 inches of each wire be left hanging out of the weatherhead; this gives them enough length for connecting to their service line. By loosening the screw on each side of the weatherhead, the plastic centre can be removed. This makes it easier to thread wire through the holes.
Connect two more No. 6 black wires to each of the bottom lugs in the meter base. Run these wires through the conduit nipple and connect them to the two top lugs in the breaker panel.
Run a continuous piece of No. 6 bare copper wire from the breaker panel through the meter base and out of the weatherhead. Connect it to one of the silver screws on one of the neutral bars inside the breaker box. Loosen the screw in the centre of the meter base, slip the wire under the washer and retighten the screw.
Drive an 8-foot-long ground rod into the ground under the breaker panel. This ground rod needs to be 5/8 of an inch in diameter if it is made of galvanised steel or iron and 1/2 inch in diameter if it is made of copper. Attach a No. 6 bare copper wire to the bottom of the neutral bar in the breaker panel, run it through the bottom of the breaker box and fasten it to the ground rod with a ground rod clamp.
Call your power company for an inspection of your work, to make connections at the weatherhead and to install the meter in the meter base.
Most power companies furnish the meter base and meter. If the meter loop does not extend through the roof, the wiring can be installed before the meter loop is fastened to the wall of the house. If electricity is delivered to your house through underground cable, the weatherhead is not needed. Power is brought to the meter underground by the power company.
Specifications for a meter loop from your power company may differ from what is written here, so be sure and check with the company before starting this job.
Tips and warnings
- Most power companies furnish the meter base and meter.
- If the meter loop does not extend through the roof, the wiring can be installed before the meter loop is fastened to the wall of the house.
- If electricity is delivered to your house through underground cable, the weatherhead is not needed. Power is brought to the meter underground by the power company.
- Specifications for a meter loop from your power company may differ from what is written here, so be sure and check with the company before starting this job.