Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chapter 100...How To Install Underground Electric Into Your Property

Off Grid...Chapter 100

This week was a very "big" week for Mike and I. We are staying "Off Grid" but for the value of our property we are bringing electric from the electric company into our property. It took us two years for us to get an electric easement but it's finally done. Normally I don't like to "air our dirty laundry" and bring up drama but we are finally at the end.

Let me give you some background. Who knows maybe some of you can learn from our experience.

All electric in Tennessee is a co op. Each person who receives electric from the co op is a member. If a property doesn't have electric and there is a recorded right-of-way, like ours has, the owners, our neighbor, has to sign an electric easement before the electric company will bring in electric. And this is when our headache began. Before Mike and I bought our property we knew we had two things to make right. One, we had to replace the old bridge with the new culvert to have better access. That was no trouble. As long as we paid for the culvert the County would install it on the County road. Two, we needed our neighbor to sign the electric agreement so we could bring power into our land. They refused. The couple wanted our land and they didn't want us here. Anyway, Mike and I knew we had a legal battle on our hands when we made our offer for the property...we adjusted our offer accordingly. Two years after our battle began we finally have a court order for electric to be brought into our property. Without anymore detail let me give you some advice in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation.

If you buy raw land in TN:
1. Make sure you have access to your land like an easement or a right-of-way. Make sure it is recorded with the county and make sure it has widths on it.
2. For underground electric you need a 20 foot easement and for overhead electric you need a 40 foot easement.
3. It is Case Law in TN that no member of the co op, like our neighbor, can refuse electric service to another neighbor. Too bad our first lawyer didn't know this.
4. Civil Courts in Tennessee are not required to have anything recorded during their sessions. Make sure you bring your own court reporter with you. This will keep the Judge honest.

OK, that's all I will say about our case. I'm sorry to bring it up but I wanted you to know why we are bringing electric into our property and why we are doing it now. Mike and I will continue to live Off Grid and produce our own power. This week's story is about bringing electric from the main highway and to our barn.

Up at the house Mike and I are staring another project...yeah I know...what else is new, lol? We brought some extra tile back with us from FL. Originally we were going to use it to build a shower but since the shower company stood by their product and replaced our shower we didn't need it for that. So we are going to puy tile on the floor and up the wall where our wood burning stove will go. This will protect the floor and the wall from the heat.

Here is Mike cutting tile:

Our tile is laid out the way we want to install it.

OK, we hear trucks down below. Jimmy and 3 of his guys are here to help us install our electric. We have to dig a 4 foot trench from the barn, out our gate, through the right-of-way(row), down the County road and to the new pole.

Here is the ditch being dug out while Randy installs 10 foot sections of schedule 20 pipe and glues them together.

We have 318 feet from our barn to our gate, another 300 plus feet down our row, and another 300 feet on the County road. The first 500 feet of wire, the junction box, and the transformers are supplied by the electric company. The rest is up to us.

We know there is another culvert that crosses from our pond side, under the driveway, and to the creek. The guys thought they got around it...until they hit it with the backhoe. Yup...we sprung a leak. They tore out part of the old culvert and now we have to replace it before we can continue.

About 75 feet is dug out and we have a mess.

Two of the guys went to the Farm Supply and picked up the new culvert and brought it back. Now that they are back we can get it installed. We have one 10 foot section and one 20 foot section.

Installing the new culvert and attaching it to the old culvert.

They continue down our driveway digging, installing the pipe, and putting flags on for the electric.

Mike and I go back to the house do do some tile work. We picked out the 9 tile we want to use for the floor and we numbered we remember where they go.

Now the fun part. We have to cut our vinyl on the floor. We need to install the tile on the concrete and not over the vinyl.

Mike cuts the floor and starts to pull the vinyl up.

Pulling it all up.

I change the blade in the scraper and start scraping the glue off the floor. Thankfully there is only glue around the perimeter of the floor.

The floor is ready for tile.

We go down to check on the guys. They are working their way to the gate.

They don't need us right now so we go back to tiling.

Mike spreads the mastic/thin set out, trowels it, and lays the tile.

The floor tile is in place.

The electric company showed up to inspect the ditch and the pipe. Now we can cover it up from the barn to the gate.

Next they start digging down the row.

Looks like we won't be leaving for a while, lol. We were only able to get on truck load of crush and run in to cover or driveway.

It was a long day and longer than it should have been because we hit the culvert and had to replace it. Things almost never turn out the way you expect.

That night Mike and I tiled the wall. When it all dries we will grout it.

First thing this morning the ditch and pipe in the row got the OK and it was covered.

Next they dig up the County road.

It's all good and that gets covered.

Now that the pipe is in the ground it's time to get the wire inside the pipe. Jimmy's' guys go a to pick up the two platforms and the wire. We will have a platform and a junction box by the gate, a cross over with secondary electric by the gate, and a platform by the barn for the transformer.

Unloading one of the concrete platforms.

The platform for the transfer box at the barn is ready.

Now it's time to get the wire into the pipes...all 900 plus feet of it. Our first run is from the barn to the gate which is 318 feet. Then we will run a new wire from the gate to the pole on the County road which is over 600 feet.

Randy picked up two spools of wire from the electric company. One spool has over 2000 feet on it and the other one has 400 feet on it. Perfect for our first run.

This is the process for getting the wire into the underground pipe.

We take a long string with a sponge on the end. The sponge it put into the pipe at the barn. Using a contraption that Jimmy made and his big compressor, that sponge gets blown through the 318 feet of pipe until it blows out the other end.(very cool) At the other end, the sponge is taken off and a thick rope gets taped to the string. The guys at the barn pull the rope through the pipe by pulling the string. Now that the heavy rope is underground it's time to pull the electric wire through.

Here are the spools of wire.

The first spool is lifted and ready to unroll.

After a lot of hard pulling by Randy and Austin we find out the wire isn't long enough.

What a waste of time and effort all because the electric company made a mistake in measuring. The wire that was supposed to be 400 feet wasn't even 300 feet. Oh well....we have to do the whole process all over.

After quite some time we are back to feeding the wire into the pipe. Jimmy connected the wire, from the new spool, to the rope and starts pushing it through.

While Randy and Austin pull it out at the junction box.

Once they get enough of the rope back out, they hook it to the 4-wheeler and Mike pulls the wire through the ground.

The wire is done from the barn to the gate...whew. Now only another 600 plus feet to go. They bring the big spool down to the junction box and we get started. Using the big compressor they start out with the string and sponge again and blow it through the pipe out to the electric pole.

Of course we have problems with the compressor but the guys get that fixed.

Once the string is through Randy and Randy tape the rope to the string we pull the rope back through Then the electric wire gets attached to the rope and while Austin and I help unroll the spool, Jimmy greases the wire and feeds it through.

At the street, the two Randy's and Mike are pulling the rope back through using the 4-wheeler. Woo Hoo. The wire is underground. We get a couple of loads of crush and run to put the road back in shape. Now we are ready for the electric company to come and hook it all up.

Our junction box with the main wire coming in and another wire going to the barn.

Of course now that we have wires sticking out of the know who will check it out. Mike and I set up a temporary set up to keep the cows from chewing the poles wire.

It was a very long day and we are exhausted. We all worked until after dinner time and of course after we get back to the house, Mike wants to finish the tile.

Mike mixes the grout and applies it.

I wipe it with a clean sponge.

Now we are ready to seal the grout as soon as it dries.

Wednesday and Thursday-
Thankfully we got all of that work done early this week. It rained both of these days. We were able to get 7 more loads of crush and run to fix the roads. We still need more but it's a good start. The County road and right-of-way are back to the way they were. Now we just have to get our driveway back. I hate tearing things up. Mike and I also have a lot of raking, shoveling, and seeding to get done.

Friday- Today the electric company is here to do the hook up. They run the pipe and wire p the pole at the road and connect. Then they come inside and they unload the transformer.

They hook up the transformer.

Next they go down to the junction box and get that hooked up. They are done and we officially have electric into our property and now the value is protected. It's too bad that electric wasn't brought into all of these types of properties years ago. It was free back then. I'm sure Mike's daughter will appreciate all we did this week when she gets our land, lol.

And the final job for the day...because it is a hot one. We have to protect the cows from the electric boxes. Mike pounds in T-posts.

We installed barbed wire around both boxes.

We got a pleasant surprise back at the house. We had a lizard who hitched a ride fro FL with us back in April. We thought he was dead. Here he is looking very plump and happy.

I will leave you with one last picture of my garden. I put up the trellis for the pole beans and cucumbers.

I think that is a long enough story for the week. I hope you all enjoyed it and learned some things. 



  1. Your gardens are looking great!!

    I have learned more reading your story than I have learned in the last 60+ years of life experience. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and challenges. :)

    1. Thank you. We are always learning:)

  2. Wow. I read your story about the "why" of the hydro install with intrest... wishing I could go back and reword my post earlier... Oh well, so it goes, reading a blog, I guess, on ward and upward.
    What a lot of hassle to light a barn! :-)I guess, back in the day, not everybody caught the vision of electricity. I grew up on a farm and in a home that had none... We survived, somehow! We did have a diesel generator that we used to milk the cows, and run the wood shop tools. And, we had one or two bulbs and recepticles in the house. But, when Dad shut 'er down in the evening, that was a literal lights out! We better would have the propane lights lit or we were sitting in the dark! My Dad carried a lantern to the barn every morning and evening. I read many a sinful western by the flickering light of an oil lamp at my bedside! :-)

    1. That is so cool that you grew up on a farm. I just finished reading a book that was set in the 1940's about a woman who lived on a farm in West Virginia without electricity. Now those are the people we need to admire and learn from. They truly knew what it was all about.

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  4. What a jerk. you let your neighbors cows roam freely on your property and he won't even sign an electric waiver for you. Do I smell steak? yummm

    1. Different neighbors…anyway karma got the bad neighbors this year.