Loose electric meter is dangerous (C) Daniel Friedman Inspection of the Electric Meter, Service, & Ground: Safety Procedures for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors

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Electrical meter inspection safety advice. This article describes common safety hazards & defects visible at the electric meter and meter pan or panel. .

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Inspection of the Electric Meter and Service Entry Cable

Let's start the steps of inspecting a building's electrical service at the meter and SEC cable. What can se see that is important, without touching or testing anything? Quite a lot.

Pay special attention to water entry at the service entry cable, at the top of the electric meter enclosure, and at the wall penetration where the SEC enters the building as these conditions can send water into the electrical panel where corrosion creates unreliable equipment and water is a hazard.

Frayed service entry cable at electric meter (C) Daniel Friedman

Readers of this article should also see these other building inspection safety articles:  Safety for Building Inspectors and  Septic Inspection Safety and also STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS - INSPECTIONS, CODES

These electrical inspection suggestions are not a complete inventory of all electrical safety procedures nor of all electrical components that should be inspected; these notes focus on identification of conditions that may present special electrical hazards for the electrical inspector. Contact Us by email to suggest changes, corrections, and additions to this material.

Fatal Shock Hazard Warning: Inspecting electrical components and systems risks death by electrocution as well as serious burns or other injuries to the inspector or to others. Do not attempt these tasks unless you are properly trained and equipped.

  • The frayed service entry cable (left) and lost wire-clamping seal around the service entry cable at the top of the electrical meter box (left) send wind-blown rain into the enclosure.

See ELECTRIC PANEL RUST for a study of water entry, rust, and corrosion in electrical panels presented at the 1992 IEEE Holm Conference.

Service entry cable not cauled at wall (C) Daniel Friedman


  • Capillary action sends rainwater following the outside of a service entry cable right into the building if the cable is not sealed at the wall penetration (photo above right).
  • The bottom of the electrical meter enclosure acts as a funnel to collect and send rainwater into the interior of the service entry cable where it is conducted as if in a plastic pipe, right into the top of the electrical panel located below this point inside the home.

    A photo later in this article shows the water entry tracking stains at the SEC in the main panel.

Loose electric meter is dangerous (C) Daniel Friedman

  • Dropped sheet metal screws & loose electric meter boxes: be careful about dropping a metal screw into or onto live electrical parts.

If you see that the electrical meter box is loose on the building wall, do not touch it.

A loose mounting screw can fall into the meter box, shorting electrical components there and leading to a house fire. -- Arnold Road Poughkeepsie NY house fire - J. Aronstein & D. Friedman.

See ELECTRIC METERS & METER BASES for procedures used for inspecting these outdoor components.

Handling Immediate Threats to Life and Safety at a Building Inspection

If in the inspector's judgment equipment is an immediate threat to life and property, such as a boiler whose flue connection has fallen off, we recommend that dangerous equipment be shut down and the appropriate people notified. See Shutting Down Unsafe Equipment. In some cases "appropriate people" includes not only the client and building owner, but also building occupants.

ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR SAFETY PROCEDURES describes important basic safety procedures, clothing, and equipment for home inspectors and electrical inspectors.

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