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Electrical Wire and Cable

Why Does My Underground Electrical Wiring Not Work?

How to Install Underground Electrical Wiring: Common Problems when Installing Underground Wiring and How to Fix Them, Make Sure Your Underground Wiring is Installed the Right Way.

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Electrical Question: Years ago I buried an insulated electrical wire in the back yard of a lake house and attached an outlet on one end and a plug on the other.

Background: Jeff, a Homeowner from Leawood, KS.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Jeff.

Application: Installing Underground Wiring.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Depends on the number of lights that will be required within the circuit wiring.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tool, Voltage Tester, trenching equipment or shovels .
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience and ability to work with tools and the condition of the soil where PVC conduit will be installed.
Precaution: Identify the lighting circuit or power source, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring and connections.
Notice: Installing additional electrical wiring for outdoor lighting should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “Why Does My Underground Electrical Wiring Not Work?”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Thanks Roger – Great Insight!
    Roger, I would love to have you add your knowledge about UK electrical wiring, perhaps we can exchange some ideas through emails. I have a few photos that were sent from an electrician in Romania which have not been added to this website, and my plan is to add a section with the some solid info about the UK electrical system, so I invite you to share your wisdom.
    As for direct burial cables, I have had a similar experience where one leg of a direct burial 3 phase feeder was lost, we found it using a tester, the area of the ground was dry and warm. We turned of the circuit and dug down and discovered that the insulation of the aluminum cable had been nicked and over time the leaking voltage and earth elements deteriorated the aluminum to the point of turning to powder. I can only imagine how much voltage went to ground over time. I personally do not like direct burial cables and prefer installing PVC conduit.

  2. Roger says:

    Hi, firstly the cable is probably cheap old stuff that’s hygroscopic, that lets water in or thru. Cable used for underground work must be designed or modified to work this way.
    Even the mains supply cables have problems, the UK uses a cable type for a dangerous systems called PME, it’s where the neutral is the outer concentric. Often the cable outer sheath gets damaged, lets water in and again as the cable has been made on the cheap the concentric is aluminum (aluminium to brits) and it corrodes away. This then causes untold damage to equipment with fluctuating voltages.
    Moral use the best stuff. I have many stories about this sort of thing!
    Incidentally, you are lucky the breaker went, often the cable lays in the ground eating up electric, worse one I saw was 20 years at about 3 kw day in and day out!!!