One of the big things left to do on our barn is get power installed and finish all the wiring. We have been waiting a long time for the power company to bring in power. I initiated plans with them in December. They are none too speedy. And it is costing a lot of money to bring power from the street back to our barn. A lot.

Our house is already powered by a line running overhead from the street to a pole in our driveway, then it goes underground from there to the house. The power company reported that the house service, which was only installed in 2006, was incorrectly (or undesirably?) installed on a switch pole, pictured above. It shares this same service connection point with our neighbor’s house, which has been there a long time. But apparently now they can’t (or won’t) pull service off that same pole to also serve our barn.

That means a new “big” pole has to go in at the street, in between two existing poles. Like the one to the right. At our expense. :-{ The run from the street to the barn is long enough that we’d experience a significant voltage drop. So, we will be installing an underground transformer box near the barn. Another chunk of change…

Our original assumption would be that overhead power would be cheaper to bring in: usually it is. But the power company really didn’t want to run high voltage lines across our property. It would have entailed several power poles, which have to be more of the “big” kind like the ones at the street, not the little ones for low voltage power running a short distance to a house. And the path would have been awkward, with ditches and hillsides to cross. So, it turned out that underground would be cheaper for our application . Underground is certainly more desirable from an aesthetic and maintenance point of view: no poles and wires to look at and work around.

PowerConduitSo that meant digging  a very long and deep trench to lay conduit from the street to the barn. There is already a rat’s nest of electrical conduit, water and French drain pipe snaking through our driveway (the excavator counted fourteen crossings, seven of which they hit and had to repair). If only I had known all this when I built the house, I could have had extra conduit run in the trenches then. Or bought a transformer then to power the whole shebang now. But I had no idea what the future held at that time.

We had a couple of days of a non-navigable driveway while all of this was installed, inspected, and ok’ed to cover. It would have been ideal to have started all this orchestration much earlier, so that it could have happened in parallel with the other aspects of barn building. There were certainly plenty of stretches when there were no contractors here to be impacted by all the digging. But we never knew when those stretches were going to be in advance, and we didn’t want to potentially delay them when they were already delayed by multiple other factors. We were also worried about creating a soft soil mess that would impede concrete trucks from getting in. So, it is what it is, here we are, still working on power, because some things are just easier to do serially.

The power company apparently has all this stuff to do. They won’t trigger the planning process until they inspect your conduit laid, and until you have paid the entire bill in advance. We had that done late March. Then they start doing drawings, easement documents, planning, measuring, confirming your L&I approval of the meter box, and eventually, scheduling a time to come out to install the pole and underground lines. We’re still not sure when that might be.

We are slowly tackling the interior wiring job. My dad helped us get the meter box and breaker panels in, and those are signed off. We’ve spent a lot of hours planning the wiring and lighting, and are now shopping for a bulk discount on all the materials so we can get started. But it’s entirely possible that even as slow as we are, picking away at it evenings and weekends, that it will be done and signed off before we actually have power turned on from the street!