4 Gang Meter Base Replacement

Details and Photos About The Replacement of a 4 Gang Electric Meter Base

Dear Mr. Electrician: I live in a condominium community.  While walking my dog I took notice of my 4 gang electric meter base on the side of the building.  It has a lot of rust and looks very old.  Is this something that I should contact my property association about?

Answer: Yes absolutely contact your association or property manager to have this looked at.  The problems that you see on the outside may indicate more severe issues inside of the electric meter base.  Below are pictures of a 4 gang electric meter socket base that I was called to look at and then replace.  NOTE: Text links go to products on Amazon.

View of an old four gang electric meter base
View of an old four gang electric meter base.  The bottom of the main cover has holes from rust.

Labor to Replace a 4 Gang Meter Base

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

For the entire job I figured about 40 man hours of labor which included driving two new ground rods with a new grounding electrode conductor and intersystem bonding termination, permit application, electrical inspection, call for a property markdown, arrangements with the power company to have meter locks removed ahead of time and to disconnect power when needed, pre-cutting and painting of the new meter base back board, advance notification to all of the dwelling unit occupants about the power outage due to work being done, labeling of existing tenant load wires, removal and disposal of the old multi-gang meter socket, and installation of the new multi-gang meter socket.

When I submit my permit application 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.

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

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.  These 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.
Close shot of the tenant load wires entering the rear of the rusty four gang meter base
Close shot of the tenant load wires entering the rear of the rusty four gang meter base.  The original installer used a 2″ squeeze 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.
View of the top of the rusty four gang meter base
View of the top of the rusty four gang meter base.  This particular meter base was originally installed using drywall screws.  They 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 4 gang rusty electric meter base as it is falling away from the building
Side view of the 4 gang rusty electric meter base as it is falling away from the building.  You can see the remains of caulk that had been applied many years ago.  If new mounting screws were 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.
Medium shot of the outside wall where the old meter base was mounted
Medium shot of the sheathing where the old meter base was mounted.  You can see on the left the electrical permit inside of a plastic bag taped to the side of the building.
A view of the work site with mark down flags and paint to indicate the location of underground utilities
A view of the work site with mark-down flags and paint on the grass to indicate the location of underground utilities.  The building was built in the 1980’s.  With proper maintenance there would be no need to replace this electric meter base.  The gas piping is very close to the electric utility and would probably not be allowed today.  The gas pipes look as though they could use some maintenance as well.  On the left side between the bush and the window is the new meter base in a box and covered with a plastic sheet.
A new primed and painted backboard to support a new meter base
A new primed and painted backboard to support the new meter base.  The new board was installed using primed deck screws.  I also caulked the top and sides of the opening before putting the new board in place.
View of the new meter base on saw horses getting prepped for the installation. A two inch hole was made in the bottom with a knockout punch to accommodate the existing 2" PVC conduit coming out of the ground. Reducing washers are used to protect the concentric knockouts
View of a new meter base on saw horses getting prepped for the installation. A two inch (trade size) hole was made in the bottom with a knockout punch to accommodate the existing 2″ PVC conduit coming out of the ground. 3″ x 2″ Reducing washers were used to protect the concentric knockouts from breaking loose.  This photo is from a different meter base replacement in the same neighborhood.

Temporary power for our tools is usually derived from another nearby electric meter base circuit breaker or from a willing homeowner.  A portable generator could also be used for temporary power, but they tend to be noisy.

The existing tenant load wires and the grounding conductor to the water pipe are sticking out of the wall. A reducing washer is sitting on the PVC conduit connector ready for the new meter base.
The existing tenant load wires and the grounding conductor to the water pipe are sticking out of the wall. A reducing washer is sitting on the PVC conduit connector ready for the new meter base.  The #2 aluminum wires were too short to reach up to the new main circuit breakers.  Short pieces of wire were added by using split bolt connectors rated for aluminum.  This photo is from a different meter socket replacement in the same neighborhood.
The installed 5 gang meter base to replace the old rusty 4 gang base.
The installed 5 gang meter base to replace the old rusty 4 gang base. Note the new intersytem bonding termination to the left of the PVC conduit.  A five gang base was used to accommodate the existing tenant load wires.  When the power company returned to restore power from the transformer, a meter person also arrived and installed brand new electric meters.  Stick-on numbers were added later on the black circuit breaker covers to indicate which breaker and meter were for each condominium.

To help preserve the new meter socket installation I caulked the top where it meets the building with clear outdoor gutter and flashing silicone caulk.  I also caulked around the top hub covers.  Those are the two areas I have found that water is likely to enter.  The 23/32″ CDX plywood backboard was primed and painted to help it last longer.  I always cut the board and primed and painted days before the replacement so we could focus on getting power restored as quickly as possible.

The completed installation of a new 5 gang electric meter socket base
The completed installation of a new 5 gang electric meter socket base.  The meter person from the power company put the new seals and locks on after installing the new electric meters.  I added some stick-on numbers to the black circuit breaker covers after this photo was taken.
The old ground rod with the utility connections on it
The old ground rod with the utility connections on it.  I left a loop of #4 green grounding conductor wire there in case the other utility companies wanted to connect to that rather than the intersystem bonding termination.
One of two new ground rods with the grounding conductor connected to it.
One of two new ground rods with the grounding conductor connected to it.
The green insulated copper underground grounding electrode conductor that is connected to the ground rods
The green insulated copper underground grounding electrode conductor that is connected to the ground rods.
The other ground rod with the #4 copper wire connected to it
The other ground rod with the #4 copper wire connected to it.  I doubled the wire end over for better contact.  I drove the ground rods and put the grounding conductor in the ground a few days before so that we could focus on getting power restored to the building as quickly as possible.  I used a rotary hammer with a ground rod driver attachment to drive the ground rods.
A picture of the job site with tools and materials spread on the grass
A picture of a typical meter socket replacement job site with tools and materials spread on the grass. I always laid down a plastic sheet to keep the tools from getting lost and from getting wet.

Tools Used to Replace a Four Gang Meter Base

Tools on hand for the meter base replacement included a hydraulic knockout punch set, hole saws, reciprocating saw, circular saw, oscillating saw, cordless pistol drills, cordless angle drill, caulk gun, impact driver.  Also needed was a socket set, ratchet, and torque wrench to tighten the electrical connections.  Allen wrenches were also needed in addition to lineman pliers, Knipex high leverage diagonal cutters, screw drivers, Channellock pliers,  Half round files, knife, four foot ladder, and a work table.  Also used were a shovel, 4″ trench shovel, pick ax, pry bars, paint brushes, wire brushes, sandpaper, painter’s scraper to remove old caulk, extension cords, GFCI portable outlet box, goggles, gloves, and a hand truck.  I also had bolt cutters and a large crimper available.

The remains of the old meter base ready for recycling
The remains of the old electric meter base ready for recycling.  Looking at the rusting pattern inside shows that water was mostly entering from holes in the back rather then from the top cover.  However I have also seen instances where the top cover was the culprit.

Materials Used to Replace a Four Gang Electric Meter Base

Materials for this job included one 5 gang meter socket – Siemens #SP4511RJB,
four 2 pole 100 amp Siemens circuit breakers, exterior primer, exterior paint, 23/32″ plywood, 2 ground rods, two ground rod clamps, #4 copper grounding wire, #2 aluminum THWN, aluminum rated split bolt connectors, rubber tape, black vinyl electrical tape, aluminum anti-oxidant compound, four 1 1/4″ chase nipples with locknuts and plastic bushings, one 3/4″ chase nipple with locknut and bushing for the ground wire entering the rear, 2″ and 2 1/2″ deck screws,  1 1/2″, 2″, and 2 1/2″ x #12 sheet metal screws, GE silicone 2 Gutter and Flashing caulk, intersystem bonding termination, small cable straps for ground wire, a button Romex connector for the ground wire, green electrical tape, white electrical tape, fender washers, stick-on numbers, foam backer rod, cheap plastic tarp, pieces of wall insulation to stuff into the wall, and duct seal to fill the chase nipples to reduce the amount of cold air going into the wall.  I also had a can of Rust-OLeum industrial gray spray paint on hand for touch-up.

My post on concentric knockout removal may be useful to you.