Underground Wiring

In times of economic downturn, the electrical trade sees a lot of “underground” business.  Out of work electricians will do jobs “on the side” to keep some money coming in.  Without a business license, Administrator’s license, or Tax I.D., this work is referred to as underground.

This blog is not about that.

There is a wire product designed for direct burial, i.e. underground, application.

When direct burial wire was first marketed it was UL approved for direct bury, outside use, at 200 amps.  It was UL approved for only 180 amps inside.  Wire that was rated at 200 amps inside was not approved for direct burial.  The Washington State L&I Electrical Inspectors would not allow the use of the direct burial wire inside a manufactured home, even if it was only to go the 3 to 4 feet to the panel.

To use the direct burial product to hook up a 200 amp manufactured home required a great deal of extra work.  I had to land the direct burial wire in a splice box of an approved type and size, and then go from the splice box with the “approved for inside” 200 amp wire to the panel.  Eventually the wire manufacturer came up with a new product (termed “Triple Rated”) that could be used as direct burial wire as well as approved to go in the home.  At that point we were able to dispense with the splice boxes and the extra wire inventory.

I have wondered just how much manufacturing change was made to the wire to make it Triple Rated.  Perhaps all that was changed was the rating.  I don’t know.  But I wonder.

At this point I should point out that the direct burial wire that is NOT rated to go inside a home is still available.  Some “Do-it-Yourself” stores offer this wire at a much lower cost to homeowners wanting to do their own hook-ups.  If it is used to go inside the home to the panel, and the Electrical Inspector sees it, a home owner must go to a lot of extra work to make a correction.

On one occasion I was called to an R.V. park and campground.  They had dug up a waterline near the electrical panel where all the circuits went out to the various sites.  It was near enough that many electrical circuits had been cut.

The owner had hired someone to make underground splices on the severed wiring, but the job done had left much to be desired.  The circuits had been spliced across circuits.  It was not just a matter of re-labeling the panel circuits to represent what breaker now fed which camp site.  The various circuits were of varying voltage and amperage.

When I got to the job, the owner had made identifying remarks about the circuitry.  Comments like; “This circuit belongs to this breaker, turkey!”

I don’t remember how many hours I spent tracing out and identifying the proper circuits, but I’m sure that my bill was passed on to someone else.

I did get a new customer.  I did a lot of work for him through the years.  It was on that site that I and my apprentice cut a plastic pipe we thought was abandoned waterline.  Instead it contained a 100 pair telephone line.  This is a very good reason for adhering to the code for conduit type and use.  You know what to expect inside a conduit by the outside color.  Grey is electrical, white is water, yellow is gas, green is septic, etc.

We had to call the phone company to repair our mistake.

We paid that bill.