Saturday, March 26, 2005


The milestones are coming fast and furious. Today I hooked up power to the house, and nothing blew up, no breakers tripped and the lights in the basement came on.

I already had electricity to the little shed I built to house the solar equipment, and I had burried the 3" conduit the 100+ feet to the house. All I really needed was the wire to connect it. 200 amp service wire is big. Wire sizes get bigger the smaller the number. But once the wire got to zero instead of going negative, they just add zeros. Thus 0, 00, 000, 0000 abbreviated 1/0 2/0, 3/0, 4/0 and pronounced one-ought, two-ought, three-ought, four-ought. I needed a 3-wire set of either 2/0-2/0-1/0 copper ($450) or 4/0-4/0-2/0 aluminum ($150).

I hadn't decided whether to splurge for the copper and I was talking it over with Jordan last week when my neighbor Steve showed up. By his own admission he knows nothing about electrical wiring, but he heard us talking about it and mentioned that there was a coil of "really big wire" laying in the yard. I said it had to be really big, and he said it was, so I followed him over to take a look. Under a piece of plywood sitting in the grass was indeed a large coil of wire. I looked over the casing. 4/0-4./0-2/0 aluminum. It was the right stuff, but was it long enough. We uncoiled it in the driveway. I needed 128 feet. I paced it off. 120 feet. So close. I knew my calculation was generous as I had left an ample amount so as not to come up short.

I told Steve that it was so close the only way to find out if it was going to work was to try it. He agreed to help and we coiled up the monster and tossed it in the back of my truck. I had already pulled the leader rope through the conduit. We taped and tied the rope to one end. Steve went down the hill to pull. I stood at the top and pushed the cable in sections, pausing to apply a generous quantity of special wire lube. Steve didn't have to pull much as the cable slid down easily and once some weight was in the conduit, gravity assisted.

About half way down the cable became hopelessly jammed on something and we had to pull the whole thing up. This took both of us as the now slick wire was difficult to grasp. LIke pulling a 50 foot eel out of a hole. We guessed the problem was that one of the three ends stuck out a bit. We cut it off with a hacksaw (this wire is about 1/2" thick. Too thick for normal wire cutters). We also taped half a plastic soda bottle over the top to make it run smoothely. Back in it went.

This time we had no problems and within a few minutes the other end popped out at the bottom of the hill. It still seemed close. After feeding it through the wall at both ends it was clear it was long enough with only perhaps 3 feet to spare. "Sold" I told Steve.

Today the lights came on. Sadly the roof still leaks. The saga continues.

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