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 applicable products on Amazon.
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. The new four gang sockets are a vertical stack and would not line up with the existing feed cables so I used a five gang meter base.
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.
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.
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 in place high and low where there still was good wood.
In the picture above 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.