When it comes to home improvement and maintenance, there’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself, in most cases. But you need to be very careful when you’re facing an electrical situation. There are risks and even dangers in almost every DIY home maintenance project, but few projects could actually result in electrocution or electric shock.
Enter the world of frayed service cables. If the service cable on the outside of your home (the main line coming from your meter to the panel) has insulation that is starting to look tattered or you can see exposed aluminum strands, then the cable is likely frayed and presents a big risk for electrical problems in your home.
A frayed service cable will allow water into the meter socket which can then find its way to the electric panel. This can cause corrosion with the breakers and connections, which can result in an electrical failure when you least expect it.
Some homeowners think that electrical tape or duct tape is a quick and easy fix for the problem, but this is not the case. If you can see exposed aluminum, it’s frayed to the point where it needs to be replaced. We here at Kelly Electric urge our customers to schedule a repair immediately when they see a frayed cable. It’s always easier to be proactive about these types of repairs then to sit back and wait for a problem to occur. We’ve found from experience that when a problem does occur, it’s often at the worst possible time!
How does a service cable become frayed?
The short answer to this question is the weather. Precipitation and sunlight work together to disintegrate the outer casings of older cables. These older cables are typically around 30 years old or older. Once these are exposed to the elements, the braided “neutral” conductor can become corroded.
Aluminum is typically water-proof, but its proximity to lime from the runoff water can result in its failure as a current-carrying conductor. This then affects the grounding system by forcing it to take up the slack of current that originally flows to the utility lines.
The service cable has two hot wires inside a bundle of smaller wires that come together to form a ground when the line enters your meter box. Guard wires protect inner wires and there is some type of insulation, usually rubber, around the wires. So even if the cable is fraying, you should still be protected from the current. However, a professional electrician should be the only one to handle a frayed wire.
How can we fix it?
Fixing a frayed cable will involve running a new cable parallel to the old one, making sure it meets all requirements, and then scheduling utility come and connect the new line to the line running from the pole.
It might sound complicated, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to electrical hazards. When you see a frayed service cable, give us a call at (484) 454-5494. If you’re unsure whether your cable is frayed or not, feel free to snap a picture with your smartphone and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll tell you right away.