One huge factor in the on-site finishing of our factory built home is the ability to power the equipment needed. We did look into the possibility of getting a temporary hydro hookup but since we didn’t have a wall in place for a meter base or a pole close enough to the work area, that option was removed. I suppose we could have built some kind of temporary wall but for a few weeks of use it would have been cost prohibitive.
Without hydro, many of the items we’re responsible for cannot be completed:
- Well pump connection
- Furnace fan/thermostat
- Hot water heater fan/thermostat
- Propane tank installation/testing.
Without hydro, our builder’s work becomes more complex too as they’ll need to bring in propane powered heaters and generators just to do whatever they can in the meantime.
In a hurry and don’t want to read the story? Read this post for our ideas on how you can make your hydro installation go as smoothly as possible.
Why didn’t we go off grid?
The idea of an off-grid lifestyle is an attractive (noble) one for those of us wishing to leave a lighter imprint on the planet. Sometimes it’s simply the most practical option if your home is too far away from a hydro source. For us, it didn’t seem to make sense for our location. We have a hydro line running right past the bottom of our driveway; wouldn’t we be using less resources just to hook into that?
Actually, our choice not to go off grid was one of the reasons why we chose to purchase a factory built home; the efficiency of the build and of the home itself makes better sense to us. A factory built home allows us to have the lightest environmental impact (all things considered) without sacrificing our creature comforts. Besides, from what I’ve learned so far about solar or wind power generation options, they don’t seem like enough of an environmental win – yet – to offset the investment.
When do you start the process?
Getting hydro to your new build is not a fast process but it is fairly simple. I highly suggest you get started as soon as your foundation is poured. Our provider, Hydro One, won’t even look at a request for service until the foundation is in place. I know this because I tried to submit it when the excavation was complete but before the foundation was ready. They declined my application quickly and were very clear about when I could try again. Here’s how our hydro service connection played out …
Note: The process below is relevant to our area (The Bruce Peninsula) in Ontario. Our power provider is Hydro One. Your provider and process may vary.
Getting the Hydro Layout
As soon as our foundation was in place, I submitted our request for service with Hydro One via the online form. Within a couple weeks, Hydro One sent someone out to assess the site and provide us with a Hydro Layout.
I requested a change to the layout because the one provided had our meter base on the wrong side of the garage from what was requested. To support my request I provided a copy of our electrical plan, our site plan, and pictures showing how the foundation and hydro location was currently set up. Our case customer support person worked with me and her field person to correct the layout and get a new version drawn up. This is what our hydro layout looks like:
Upon approval/agreement, we received an invoice for our portion of the bill. Hydro One breaks down the full cost of the service connection but then they provide lots of credits on that amount so our bill was significantly reduced.
After the layout was complete and costs were understood, we approved it and Hydro One sent us a formal bill for payment of the full amount up front. Payment was easily paid online.
Preparing for the Hydro Connection
Once payment was made, Our Hydro One customer support person passed our case to the field scheduling office to schedule any pre-work. Fortunately, she stayed on as my main point of contact as I checked in regularly for status updates.
This “waiting” stage is the longest one by far as the demand for locates and hydro work has grown exponentially in our area in recent years. Everything seems to take weeks to get done and since nothing can take place until the step before it is complete, no one can schedule anything well in advance. All I could do was send my weekly email to check on our status to be sure we didn’t drop from anyone’s list.
While waiting for Hydro One to do their work, things continued marching along with the finishing of our home. The Quality Homes electrician installed the meter base, had their inspection signed off and the crews did what they could to finish the exterior of the home.
Trenching and Conduit Installation
We had our trench dug and conduit installed for the underground hydro line. Luckily we have a hydro pole right at the end of our driveway so we’re able to run the conduit along the edge of the driveway. We’ve seen many installations where the conduit is run through the forest with concrete covering it. I’m so glad we didn’t have to go to that trouble! Our site contractor had a window of opportunity to get that done early so we took it.
Preparing for The New Pole
Finally, utility locates at the road were completed and the Hydro One subcontractor was able to schedule the drilling/digging for our new hydro pole. Even though our pole is conveniently located right at the end of our driveway, it is full of woodpecker holes and wouldn’t be able to bear the weight of the transformer. It needs to be replaced so that’s why we need this extra step.
The Connection Date is Set!
Then we received our connection date! February 2, a mere 19 days before we’re supposed to be able to move in. GAH!!! Fortunately that scheduling email came with “If you truly hate this date and your project will be delayed significantly or the living accommodations just won’t be acceptable, please let me know and I will escalate to the Superintendent for weekend overtime approval.” I gratefully accepted the date, explained our situation and asked for any early date they’d be able to provide. I soon received the answer that we were scheduled for Sunday, January 22! If I could have hugged that scheduler I would have!
But wait! In the midst of all that we decided to install a whole home generator (more on that later) which meant that our electrician would have to get up there quickly to switch out the meter base for an integrated switch model and have that inspected before connection day. It turns out that you only get one free disconnection per year and our service connection counted as our one. Any more and we’d have to pay Hydro One for the trouble. We certainly did not want to do that! Fortunately, our electrician was able to fit us in and even with a little hiccup with the inspection, everything was signed off and ready in time. WHEW!
Other than that, the new timing was perfect! It gave us just enough time to get our site contractor back to complete the backfill and prepare the pad for our propane tank delivery on January 30 – our second rescheduled date with the propane provider. I was thrilled not to have to delay that again!
When I was reconfirming the Sunday hook-up appointment with Hydro One, the scheduler asked me if we could please try to do something about the water at the one end of the conduit “it’s pretty mucky in there.” The end by the pole is at the same level as the ditch nearby. We tried! For 2 days we tried to get water to stop getting in there and to make sure the string to pull the wire through the conduit wasn’t frozen inside. We bailed water, we tried a drill pump and some other kind of battery operated pump, Brian even placed sandbags around to no avail. All we could do was be there when they arrived and do whatever they tell us to make it workable.
Hydro Service Connection Day!
Early on Sunday we grabbed our coffee to go and hopped in the truck to head north to meet the Hydro One crew. We thought we’d have lots of time to check on the water in the trench end but we wound up following the first truck to arrive. The bucket truck was close behind. Brian had a brief conversation with the crew (it was over before I was even out of the truck) and they got straight to work. After all our efforts to clean up that spot, the guy didn’t even care; he had his big boots on and jumped right in to get started on his task.
A few guys worked away at the pole end and one worked at the meter base end to get things prepared there. A couple shouts at one end, some pulling at the other and the cable was pulled through. Then 1-2-3 and the new pole was in place! Another 1-2-3 and the transformer was installed. Then VOILA! The guy at the meter base was locking it up and told us we were all set. It was a lot like watching the Quality Homes crew on delivery day; everyone had a job, they knew it well and got to it. It was poetry in motion.
Light’s On, Soon We’ll Be Home!
A mere 3 hours from start to finish on a Sunday morning and all the hubbub to get power to our home was over. We walked around switching on every light switch in the place, in total awe of this seemingly basic home utility. Awe and gratitude for all the people it took to get it to us too. Now our project can accelerate toward the finish line!
Speaking of which, shortly after the Hydro One crew left another truck and trailer pulled in. It was the siding crew coming early to set up for work starting Monday morning!
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