I am now living in Cuenca, Ecuador. I have yet to see any electrical wiring that meets code. Zip, zilch, nada. Wires running everywhere, people scabbing onto other peoples houses to get electricity, etc. Since we do not have furnaces or A/C the electric company will install a 60 amp breaker in the same enclosure, below the meter itself. I saw the neighbors connection this morning. There are only three wires coming from the power company at this 60 amp breaker. It has been my intent to provide 4 wires, 2 hot, neutral and ground through the weatherhead and leave 3 feet of wire for their connection.

My shop, sub panel, is some 80 feet away. The wire will run in PVC tubing from a three hole "box" at each end. Within 3 feet of the meter/main I intend to drive a six foot copper bar into the ground and pull my ground out of the "box" to the ground bar and back into the PVC tubing. At the other end I would again pull the ground out of the box, atop which is mounted a mast that can be secured to an adjacent wall, and back up into the mast. From this mast I will have a drip loop mid-distance to the mast coming through my detached structure roof (weather head on all three masts). I would then ground the ground bus inside the sub panel, which already has an isolated neutral bus. Am I correct in my plan?

The scary part down here is while the fellow was modifying/repairing my brick wall for mounting the meter enclosure, I provided an elbow coming out of the fitting to the enclosure and then the mast is connected to the elbow and goes up the ten foot length of mast. Once concreted in place he, and a neighbor, are telling me that the electric company will not "allow" me to run cable INSIDE of the conduit!?! Sure enough, I look next door, around my house (15 domiciles in the urbanizacion) and not one of them has either a weather head, or cable running inside the conduit. In fact the cable, which is zip tied to the conduit, doesn't even have a bushing where it enters the meter enclosure!

  • Can you try getting a bigger service from the electric company for your own house at least? Crikey... – ThreePhaseEel Mar 20 '17 at 0:47
  • I was alarmed when the electric supply company told me the company would only install a 60 amp service. I promptly went to the electric company and was told the 60 amp service is the maximum. They went on to say that a 100 amp service would serve ten homes. An 18kg bottle of propane costs $1.60 "official" price. In the countryside I paid $2.00 and here in the city with delivery $2.50. The stove, dryer and on demand water heater all run on gas so the electricity demand is quite low as we don't have or need A/C or furnace. While only 3 degrees South of the Equator we are at 8,440 ft. – Leonard Ledoux Mar 21 '17 at 11:37
  • Ask them what they'd give for a baseline commercial service... – ThreePhaseEel Mar 21 '17 at 11:40
  • I have been told that if you even want 220 you have to make a special request, jump through hoops to justify the request and pay for another transformer!?! – Leonard Ledoux Mar 22 '17 at 19:17

You are best picking one Code and following it religiously. It looks like Ecuador is in the North American system of 120V on small circuits served as 240V/120V split-phase. So use American or Canadian code.

Any house in the United States gets only 3 wires from the power company and down the weatherhead: 2 hots and neutral. Typical weatherhead:

enter image description here

Note above that the bare weight-carrying cable is also carrying neutral. That is an idiom only the power company gets away with.

Each house derives its own ground with ground rods or water pipe bonds or both. And then, ground is bonded to neutral in the main panel only. From there to all other points, neutral and ground are carried separately. Go 8' on the copper bar, and use 2 of them at least 6' apart. On an outbuilding you would also need a grounding system bonded to the ground bus. That does not substitute for a wired ground, that is still needed. Dirt is not a good conductor.

That brings you into conformance with USA practice.

The main panel being defined as the panel where power comes in from the utility. If the power company provisions power to two of your buildings, you have two services. Don't mix them.

Wire from a main panel to a subpanel in an outbuilding must be 4-wire (hot-hot-neutral-ground). If you only need 120V devices, you can omit a "hot". Generally we bury lines between buildings, but if you go overhead, your bare/carrier wire can't be hot or neutral, those must be insulated.

  • Not sure how to add a picture. That is one steep pitch roof, snow country. I will only need 120V, so where that one hot would enter my sub panel it would only serve one side of the circuits, correct? Not a big deal since I only have five and potentially six circuits. If I follow you correctly the grounding is separate, 2 8' rods minimum six feet apart for the main and then no ground wire running back to the shop which will have its own ground rod wired up into the ground bus bar. Is that correct? Thank you. – Leonard Ledoux Mar 21 '17 at 11:42
  • @LeonardLedoux Yes you can send just 120V. If the shop is supplied from the house, it needs a ground wire also. You cannot rely on ground rods only. If you choose to follow NEC. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 21 '17 at 14:08
  • Coming from the house is out of the question. Everything is buried in conduit inside concrete, block and brick house. I have only repaired/replaced one outlet and one ceiling fixture. Two wires, no sign of grounding anywhere. So I plan to put two grounding rods, minimum of six feet apart close to the meter and then one more out by the shop where I will have a mast attached to a block wall (did that yesterday). It will have a drip loop between that mast and the shop mast. Thanks so much for your help. – Leonard Ledoux Mar 22 '17 at 19:16
  • I don't understand. Where is the shop obtaining its power from? Is it a new service from the power company, on a separate meter and billing, or is it being served from the house? Is there any grounding system at the house at all? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 19:45
  • I have not seen any grounding. Doesn't mean there isn't any, however, I have never seen more than one blue wire and one white wire at any outlet. The new shop is built on a lot behind the primary residence. It will be served by a new meter, separate billing. – Leonard Ledoux Mar 23 '17 at 23:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.