What are those wires connecting to my house?

There’s a mass of several electrical wires stretching from nearby electrical poles to the roofs of almost every home in St. Paul and Minneapolis. They enter a small plastic cover and then descend down the side of the building until they reach the electrical meter. Those wires are called the service mast.

Every home that gets its power supplied from overhead distribution wires must have a service mast. If you live in St. Paul or Minneapolis, you almost certainly have one. Despite their importance, however, service masts are easy to forget about. Most homeowners don’t know what a service mast is until something’s wrong with theirs. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what a mast is, you could put yours at risk without realizing it! Here’s what you should know about your service mast, including how you can tell if something’s wrong with it:

What is a service mast?

The service mast contains the wires that transfer power from the city’s overhead power distribution system to your home. In other words, the mast is the bridge between your home and your power supply. It’s responsible for introducing all of the voltage your electrical system uses into your home system. Without a functional mast, you wouldn’t have power!

Most people would define “your” service mast as the wires that physically contact your home. Wires initially contact most homes at the roof, where they enter a plastic cover called a “weatherhead.” From the weatherhead, wires run down the side of the home vertically until they reach the electrical meter socket.

Am I responsible for my service mast?

Yes. This is frequently confusing, so we’ll clear it up: homeowners are responsible for maintaining their service mast from the moment it contacts their house. If something is wrong with your mast, you will have to coordinate its repair yourself. Your mast is part of your home electrical system, just like your meter, panel, and circuits. Just like all of those components, it’s important to take care of your mast properly!

What are the most common service mast problems?

Despite installations designed to protect them, weather and other natural phenomena will occasionally damage or dislodge service masts. Service masts also have to fulfill very specific criteria to be safe and up to code. Even if nothing has damaged the service masts, they may still break code. These are the most common problems that can affect home service masts:

Detached or loose wires

This usually happens when a branch or other piece of natural debris falls on the hanging wires between the house and distribution lines. The weight of the falling debris pulls the service mast’s wires away from the wall of the house. The service mast should be flush with and affixed to the wall at all times. Loose, dangling service wires are very dangerous.

Too close to a window

Electrical code mandates that mast wires must always be more than three feet away from windows. Remember: the voltage running through those wires comes directly from the distribution line. Direct voltage is unfused, which means it’s very dangerous.

Too low

Electrical code also stipulates that the dangling wires connecting to a home’s service mast must never be lower than 10 feet off of the ground. Often, homeowners may inadvertently break this code when building decks or expansions to their homes.

Sparking or smoking

If your service mast wires are damaged or exposed, they could be releasing up to 240 volts of unfused electricity into their immediate surroundings. That much voltage could start serious electrical fires or even prove deadly if you came into contact with it.

Loose or detached meter socket

Your service mast’s wires connect with your home’s larger electrical system via your electrical meter. Specifically, the wires hook into the meter through a meter socket. The meter socket is located on top of the meter beneath a protective covering.

If this covering and/or the weatherhead at the top of the house detaches from the mast, the meter socket is vulnerable to weather and damage. IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to reattach a detached electrical meter socket yourself. Your meter socket directly transfers unfused voltage to your home. Re-attaching it is very dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals.

Partially enclosed in siding or wall

If your home contains stucco, it’s possible that your service wires were built into the inside of the wall. This is against code, which states that the service mast must be completely outside the wall at all times. This usually happens after home expansion or residing.

What should I do about service mast problems?

First: we highly recommend against attempting to repair mast problems on your own. Service mast voltage is very dangerous. Your service mast is crucial to the safety and effectiveness of your entire home electrical system. If it appears damaged, detached, or otherwise faulty, you should get it fixed immediately. Electricians will fix most mast problems by replacing the damaged wiring and infrastructure.

Early Bird’s trained and certified expert electricians have everything they need to fix your service mast problem fast and effectively. We’ll conduct an inspection, figure out what’s wrong, and find the best way to fix it so it can’t hurt you or your family.

Whether you think there’s something wrong with your service mast or you just have more questions about it, give Early Bird a call today! We’re happy to help give you peace of mind.