Wagner Street, Talent Oregon

What better way to process a big project than … blogging! ?

Today I had the Pacific Power guy come over tell me what tree trimming was needed to reconnect the service Panel that I’d installed some time ago but had been disconnected. The Electrical inspector was by the other day and told me I would need to add a ground to the water pipe (this is in addition to the ground running to two 8′ iron grounding rods!) I think this is standard Electrial Code stuff. I’ve certainly got nothing against the inspectors personally – most are courteous and professional around here.

However what seems to me to be a lot of unneeded change and overkill in the regulations is very interesting and I think can only be explained if you assume that there is a sort of “priesthood” of contractor/inspector folks who make these rules and want to both cover themselves against the slightest chance of problems arising combined with the fact they make more money and have more power if the rules are more complex.

The difference in mishaps in houses that have ONE 8′ grounding rod (old code) vs TWO 8′ grounding rods has GOT to be unmeasurably insignificant, yet those extra rods represent a huge amount of time/expense. Believe me, pounding an 8′ rod into the soil here is not fun and not educational!

Hmmm – let’s assume it takes a contractor a total of 30 minutes extra to install that extra rod, plus materials at $15, and the contracted labor is $60 per hour. This is $45 per install extra. So, one way to determine if this extra cost makes sense we could use the value of an American life according to the Dept of Transportation, about 2.7 million, and try to answer this question:

Since it costs folks about 2.7 million to install a second ground rod in about 60,000 houses, we’d expect to see at least one life saved by the second rod.    This seems EXTREMELY unlikely given that electricity is not a major cause of death at all (There are typically under 500 electrical fire deaths per year from ALL causes.  I’d bet there is not a single death attributed to the lack of a second ground rod).

4 thoughts on “Wagner Street, Talent Oregon

  1. Your cost/benefit analysis would have to include not just electrical fire deaths but also lightening strike deaths (even rarer) and deaths to utility workers through feedback. East of the Mississipi the relevant code would be, as I understand it, ONE ground rod and most states make this an expense of the utility bringing in the power. You would also have to include the costs associated with improperly installed satellite dishes that have a wind-related charge buildup or lightening strikes that are not properly dissipated to ground. Also all interior electrical malfunctions due to improper functioning of a ground fault protector at outlets or equipment.

  2. The supplemental grounding rod will be a godsend when the local utilities start replacing their metal water pipes with plastic pipes and destroy residential grounding systems. The real reason for all this though is that it would be $1500 worth of heavy and time consuming test equipment for the inspectors to actually measure the impedance at just one grounding rod to see if it exceeded the 25ohm level. So its cheaper and easier (for them) to insist on a supplemental grounding rod although there are some disputes as to six feet or ten feet separation being required.

  3. I think your primary assumption is that of rationality: you are viewing the code regulation as a safety matter that can be analyzed in terms of dollars spent and lives saved. Well, thats similar to assuming that parking regulations are to regulate traffic flow and safety. They are not. Parking regulations and traffic cameras exist to generate revenue.
    The code provisions are mainly to benefit installers and insurers.

  4. I appreciate your 3rd comment the most, though my point is that it’s NOT rationality that guides the process, and agree that codes and inspection process is driven more by the interest in revenue than interest in public safety.

    I think we need to rethink the way we fund public stuff. An interesting *first step* would be some reviews of public spending items using a cost and benefit approach. Who would pay for that? Hmmmm, not MY taxes!?!

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