4 Gang Electrical Meter Socket

Details and Photos Depicting The Replacement of a 4 Gang Electrical Meter Socket

Dear Mr. Electrician: How does a 4 gang electrical meter socket box get replaced?

Answer:  Replacing a 4 gang electrical meter socket is a multi-step process involving homeowners, property managers, the local power utility company, the town building department, and an electrical contractor.  NOTE: Some text links below go to applicable products on Amazon.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I have replaced over two dozen multi-gang electrical meter sockets.  I have also repaired probably the same number by having new covers custom made, and reattaching the meter sockets to the side of the building.  I figured out a way to install new plywood behind without removing the old meter base.

I also sanded and painted the old ones using Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer and then Rust-Oleum Professional paint.

Below are photos and details from an actual 4 gang electrical meter socket replacement.  Included is a list of tools that were used as well as the materials necessary to complete the job.

An old 4 gang electrical meter socket box
An old 4 gang electrical meter socket box

In the photo above, the bottom of the main cover has holes from rust.  Water was getting inside of the section where the main feeder wires are connected.  The cover was rusting from the inside out.

LABOR TO REPLACE METER SOCKET

I installed a Siemens 5 gang electrical meter socket to replace the rusted four gang electric meter socket on a residential condominium building.  The underground electrical service was single phase 120/240 volts with a four hundred amp underground feeder from the power company’s transformer.

The underground electrical service consisted of three single conductor wires from the pad mount transformer that were directly buried in the earth.  They were sleeved with 2″ PVC conduit going up from the ground into the electric meter base.

New 4 gang electrical meter sockets are a vertical stack and would not line up with the existing tenant feed cables.  I had to use a five gang electrical meter socket so that it would line up with the existing cables that delivered power to each dwelling unit in the building.

For the entire job I figured about 40 man hours of labor which included the permit application, call for a property markdown, making arrangements with the power company to have the electric meter locks removed ahead of time and to disconnect power when needed, and purchasing and delivery of materials

Additionally, labeling of existing tenant load wires, driving two new eight foot ground rods, digging a trench and burying the new grounding electrode conductor, mounting the intersystem bonding termination, pre-cutting and painting of the new meter base back board, and advance notification to all of the dwelling unit occupants about the power outage due to the work being done.

And finally the removal and disposal of the old multi-gang meter socket, installation of the new 5-gang electrical meter socket, the electrical inspection, and billing the client with an invoice for final payment.

 CLICK HERE to see Multi-Socket Electric Meter Bases on Amazon

When I submit my electrical permit application to the town building department I include a short one page typed “Scope of Work” statement briefly explaining what work will be done.  This gives the electrical inspector a better idea before hand of what is going on.  If something is not right it is better to find out before work commences rather than fail inspection after the work is completed.

On this electric meter replacement job the power company required that the the work be inspected before they would reconnect the electrical power at their transformer.  So in addition to all of the other planning for that day, I had to arrange in advance for the electrical inspector to show up at the expected work completion time.

The actual time spent just removing the old 4 gang electrical meter socket and installing the new Siemens 5 gang meter socket base was approximately 3 hours using three experienced electricians.

We generally remove as much from the old 4 gang meter socket as we can while waiting for the power company to disconnect the power at their transformer.  Covers and circuit breakers are easily removed while the cabinet is live.

On one or two occasions the meter sockets were in such bad condition that I had everyone wait until the power was off before working on them.  Safety first.

View of the circuit breakers inside of an old rusted four gang meter base
View of the circuit breakers inside of the old rusted four gang meter base.

The above circuits were live and in use at the time of this photograph.

View of the inside of the circuit breaker enclosure on a rusty 4 gang electric meter base
View of the inside of the circuit breaker enclosure on a rusty 4 gang electric meter base live and in use.

The existing tenant load wires which provided power to the condos were in good working condition, though dusty.  When they are too short to connect to the new main circuit breakers, splices are made with split bolt connectors.

Tenant load wires entering the rear of the rusty four gang meter base
Tenant load wires entering the rear of the rusty four gang meter base.

The original installer used a 2″clamp type connector installed backwards without a clamp to protect the wires from the sharp metal edge of the knockout.

In the new installation I used 1 1/4″ chase nipples with locknuts and plastic bushings for each tenant load cable.  The 1 1/4″ holes were made using a knockout punch as the factory installed concentric knockouts did not align with the existing wires.

The culprit that causes the rust and the aging meter socket to pull away from the building is water.  I have found on a few of these meter bases that the top hub cover was not installed properly and was not caulked.  This allowed water to leak in.

Some other meter bases were only mounted to the side of the building using drywall screws which rusted from moisture in the air.  Other times water was getting behind the meter socket and caused the back side to rust as well as the wood underlayment to rot.

View of the top of the rusty 4 gang electrical meter socket
View of the top of the rusty 4 gang electrical meter socket

This particular 4 gang electrical meter socket was originally installed using drywall screws.  Drywall screws should never be used for anything other than drywall.  The screws rusted and as the wood siding became soft from water the screws pulled out.  This led to water getting onto the back of the meter base.  There does not appear to be any evidence of caulking along the top from the original installation.

Side view of the four gang electrical meter socket as it is falling away from the building
Side view of the four gang electrical meter socket as it is falling away from the building

You can see the remains of caulk that had been applied to the sides of the meter base many years ago.  If new mounting screws had been installed a few years before and new caulk applied to the top, this meter socket base would not have to be replaced.

The old rusty 4 gang electric meter base is removed and a moldy rotting backboard is exposed
The rusty 4 gang electric meter base is removed and a moldy rotting sheathing is exposed.

With the wood underlayment rotten from water it was necessary to install a new backboard that was screwed directly onto the wood studs.  On one or two occasions I found that part of a wood stud was rotted away as well.  In those instances I had to install a 2″ x 4″ against the side of the existing wall stud and screw it in place high and low where there still was good wood.

Moldy and rotting sheathing where the old meter base was mounted
Moldy and rotting sheathing where the old meter base was mounted.

In the picture above from the black mold stain you can see how water settled at the lower section of the wood underlayment.  Notice at the top just to the right of center you can see the old grounding electrode conductor through the hole in the underlayment.

This grounding electrode conductor was used to bond the interior metal water piping.  The water service pipe to the building was non-metallic.  The single ground rod was the only earth ground.

You can see on the left the electrical permit inside of a plastic bag taped to the side of the building.

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