I need to disconnect my 3-phase cables from the power pole to my house. I'm building directly under it and though the contractors say they are okay with it, I would prefer to disconnect for a week or two to be 100% safe.

There is at least one spot where the cable has perished a bit and I can see copper showing through.

This is my plan:

  • Wear rubber gloves, rubber shoes; make sure power can't go to ground through me and use a 1000V cable shear.
  • Tie the cable on both sides of the cut so that the live end doesn't drop away.
  • Cut the cable.
  • Run a 6 inch tube of plastic pipe over the live end, and bend it over before taping it closed with plastic electrical tape.
  • Coil and hang up the loose end safely away from the building.
  • Repeat this process with all 4 cables, keeping them separate.

I am located in South Africa.

  • 11
    Since you have cable degradation I think the power company would react nearly instantly to a report about it.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 3:40
  • 2
    I've cut my own cables before, and lived (obviously) - you'll be fine. But I'm not going to post this as an answer because I don't want the downvotes from all the naysayers and overly-cautious. When you cut it, cut 1 copper wire at a time. Otherwise, your cutting tool will touch multiple copper wires at once and current will flow through your cutting tool. This won't electrically affect you, but may blow fuses somewhere and cause heat damage to the insulation. Also, wrap the handles of your cutting tool in some cloth to put space (air is an excellent insulator) between you and voltage.
    – Bohemian
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 15:21
  • 40
    So I've had a bit of amusement answering questions like these, but it looks like the answers have it covered. The one addendum I would give is my standard disclaimer for high voltage power: If you have to ask StackExchange for advice regarding high voltage power, you shouldn't be messing with it. Electricity is one of those things where you either already know the answer, or ask someone you trust. You only get one heart, and it's silly to entrust it to random people on the internet, no matter how much good advice StackExchange may provide on average!
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 17:23
  • 3
    @Bohemian: "may cause heat damage to the insulation" is a bit of an understatement with mostly unlimited 20kA going through the plasma of what's left of the bolt cutters. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 19:15
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    So... how, exactly do you plan to reconnect these cables? Shearing live cable is insanity - that's just not the right way to do it. You go back to the disconnect and switch the power off. If you need the cables changed, you remove them at the disconnected lugs once the power is off.
    – J...
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:44

5 Answers 5


Call the utility, ask for a disconnect.

Or call the mortuary and pick out a casket.

This is not a job for amateurs. Nor for gloves not rated and tested for the voltage. But that's just one tiny piece, so don't think solving the gloves is making you qualified to do the work.

  • 3
    Thanks ecnerwal. What can happen that makes it so dangerous? Where I live the utility is not an option unless I wait 6 months
    – dirkpiet
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 20:22
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    @dirkpiet -- 6 MONTHS?!??!?!??!!? That is utterly outrageous! I hope they'd disconnect you faster if you stopped paying your bill... Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 20:37
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    How did you plan to reconnect the wires after cutting them? It sounds like if you survive the cutting part, you'll have to wait 6 months anyway for the utility company to come and install new wires from the pole to the house.
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 22:44
  • 15
    You don't own those wires. They're not yours to touch. In fact, disconnecting a meter might bring the DEA around to see whether you have diverted the power for nefarious purposes.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 3:52
  • 6
    @SDsolar I wasn't aware that US government agencies had any authority in South Africa, but I have been surprised before...
    – user
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 8:03

The cables feeding your house are owned by the power company.

They own everything from the power pole to the main breaker, which includes the meter.

So they will need to be the ones to do the work you describe.

It is a legal issue of ownership, not just of safety.

Before attempting anything like this you should call them and ask what the procedure is for a temporary disconnect.

If you report to them that there is degradation of the cables and exposed wiring, it wouldn't be surprising if they were out there the same day (or night) to have a look.

They might actually do the work at the pole instead of at the house. But let them decide, since it belongs to them.

If you were to attempt it yourself and had any sort of accident the only protection for their system would be pole-mounted breakers. A direct short could cause instantaneous unintended disassembly of a transformer or blow the pole-mounted breakers which would most likely cause a neighborhood-wide blackout.

It is unlikely that your insurance would cover a willful act on your part which could cause ramifications to grandma who lives up the street surviving on life-saving medical devices.

  • 6
    Per-customer pole fuses are standard here in NZ. Depending on where OP is, they may not take out the whole transformer. I've heard bad things about their reliability, though, so don't rely on them... Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 6:33
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    I would be interested to see a citation that everywhere in the world, that the power company owns everything from the power pole to the main breaker. This is definitely not always the case in Australia (for example). See: commerce.wa.gov.au/energysafety/… Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 14:51
  • Here in southern California, PG&E does the work on these kinds of lines. Definitely not the home owner. PG&E owns the entire electric grid, all the way to your house. Here is their brief procedure brochure for temporary disconnects: pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/shared/customerservice/otherrequests/…
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:58
  • 2
    @SDsolar THAT PDF... photo on page 1... that's a DIN rail board with Euro colors, and the intended audience for that document will know that. Somebody's jumping the gun on CalExit! Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:41
  • 1
    It's actually rapid unintentional/unplanned/unscheduled disassembly, not instantaneous. Nothing in the real world is instantaneous, though it may very well be rapid. Compare Who coined the phrase 'Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly'? on Space Exploration.
    – user
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 8:07

First, call up the power company and consult with them. I gather you have a belief you're holding that says "surely it will take 6 months for them to reply". Challenge that belief.

Make sure to mention the insulation failure on the wires.

If you can't reach them, give a call to the best electrician you can find and see what they think. For one thing, maybe they can do it at a sane price.

Since you're saying "house", well, we can preclude New York City with its 208 wye since ConEd would be out there same-day. That leaves the wild untamed world with its 230-to-ground, 400V wye service. That stuff's not too bad, but still to be respected. Above that, I'd call a pro.

I for one would never cut a cable, but would slide some shrink-tubing over it.

  • 5
    Also, OP says that the existing cable has "copper showing through" - tell the lines company! They will likely want this disconnected ASAP. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 2:57
  • 2
    Upvote. I believe they would come out in the middle of the night if that's what it takes to respond immediately to a report like this.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 3:43
  • 1
    @SteveJessop I've never dealt with a power company that would knowingly leave the scene with energized conductors at risk. At that point they might as well just leave some business cards of personal injury lawyers. Of course if OP's nation is in civil disorder, all bets are off. Seriously though, OP's "6 month" experience may have arisen from calling for a routine matter right after a wind or ice storm. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Harper: I mean that what the questioner wants ("my power disconnected for the duration of the building work") is not the same as what the power company treats as an urgent issue ("fix the damaged cables"). Just because they'll rush out to fix/replace it doesn't mean they'll agree to leave it disconnected afterwards for the customer's convenience, and come back to reconnect it at the time of their choosing. That's a different department. I mean, they might do what you ask, but likely they'll fix it asap. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:13
  • 1
    @SteveJessop Good point, they might rush out to fix the damaged/exposed wires, and then ignore calls to reapply power to the building, since that is not an emergency. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:21

Though your question is how and not about people's recommendation what you should do, here's an opinion. (Too long for a comment so I posted as an answer.)

First, in anything you build, Safety First, and we can see you try to avoid the life threatening wires whilst you build, though the contractors already said it's okay. If they are wrong you are in risk. If they are correct, and you still persist to cut the wires, you are still in risk. So either way, it's risky.

Focus on your goal to stay safe, and remove yourself from the options. Let the company do it for you, or as the other answers said, hire a professional.

Better stick with your plan, that is – to stay alive.

  • Thanks guys, I live in South Africa where the rules are the same but the response time is poor. Does anyone know how to cut the cables ? I've got the rubber headband , what else do I need?
    – dirkpiet
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:15
  • 5
    @dirkpiet I believe the rubber headband was a joke and I hope your comment is also a joke... Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 23:18
  • @dirkpiet -- yell, kick, and scream until they come out and do your bidding. 6 months for a routine disconnect is utterly unacceptable... Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 0:34
  • I had one done the other day for tree service, they came next day and they came back to reconnect just a few hours after i called them back Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:00

Answer posted in the original question by the OP. Snarky comments removed.

No I didn’t cut it myself but I found out I could do a temporary disconnection and reconnect for $30. “I wasn’t aware that it was even possible” so I filled in the forms and a few days later 2 good natured guys with gloves and a wire cutter showed up at my house. They did it exactly how I had described it, but used “plastic insulation tape”. They even borrowed my “aluminium” ladder and cut all 4 wires casually.

“We always do it this way” How long have you been at the city Electrical dept? I asked “32 years” he replied, “call us when you want us to reconnect".

I totally could have done it. But it would have cost much more for the cutters and gloves.

  • 1
    In addition to training, another key is that they sent two guys. With a second person to hold tools, steady the ladder, etc., the person doing the actual cutting/etc. can concentrate on the task at hand. Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 13:28

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