Burying power & gas lines together

donsecoOctober 11, 2009

I'm thinking of burying a power line from the outside breaker box to the shop & including the propane line in the same trench. Is this a bad idea?



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canguy(British Columbia)

Not familiar with codes in your area, would be a very good idea to check with the local authorities. I certainly would not recommend it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 4:07PM
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The 'local authorities' said "I dunno." Figured I'd ask those in the know here.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 4:16PM
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IMO not a good idea, even though it may take years down the road for rust to take its toll or a small leak somewhere. I give you my opinon why not to do it. lets say you have a lighting stike at you elect pole or supply box. The voltage will travel down your buried wires till it comes close enough to the gas pipes to short or gound out. It could blow the pipe (usually takes a weak spot like rust. the pipe may burst and the arch will set off the gas.

If it was me I would run a seperate trench if for nothing else seperating them in case you have problems you don't have to worry about hitting one our the other and then having to repair both especially if you plan on running copper tubing, copper is not very strong and will not take a hit by a shovel or back hoe of course.

this was a practice back in the 40's and 50's. amany houses have burnt down due to running elect with gas. I would think most codes don't alow it. I don't know the minimum required feet in most areas I would guess atleast 6 feet.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 8:39PM
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Both your points are well made. And my outside breaker box is on the pole with the meter AND with a switched yard light. I doubt that lightning recognizes switches, anyway.
Thanx for the great info. Maybe I need a small propane tank nearer the shop; especially since the main one & the power pole/breaker box are on the far side of the house from the shop.
Appreciate your inputs.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 9:01PM
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Here in Central New York, electric service wires and
'natural gas' lines are commonly buried together with
a minimum of 12 inch spacing.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 8:04AM
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Lighting will suprise you. I had a steel pipe about 4" under ground and about 3 foot long at the base of a tree close to the house( I didn't know it was there till the lighting struck)(believe I heard the strike and immediatelly started looking for a fire in the attic). the lighting struck the tree when down and blew the pipe out of the ground traveled through the ground were my underground elect was about 4 foot away and 3 foot deep.

Then, traveled to my main breaker and blow out my hot tub curcuit breaker I guess cause it was running at the time and drawing current. It also knocked out my computer surge protector. IMO anything in near may conduct the lighting if it strikes.

Lighting don't even have to strike to cause problems. This happen to a guy I knew in IL. squirrel shorted out a transformer the surge came down the line and blew the gas service line at the house cause the gas and elect service was right beside each other.

Luckily in this case it didn't catch fire, but gas was partically filling up the house and if fire department was immediately there to cut the gas off it was only a matter of time before the house filled up with gas and water heater pilot would set if off.

needless to say the elect and gas service was seperated, this was and old house built in the 40's.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 4:13PM
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* Posted by lbpod (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 12, 09 at 8:04

Here in Central New York, electric service wires and
'natural gas' lines are commonly buried together with
a minimum of 12 inch spacing.*

12 inch spacing in a trench? Isn't that called a ditch?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 7:08PM
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In this neck of the woods, usually a back hoe with a
12 inch bucket is used to dig 'trenches' for burying
electric 'and' gas services. The electric is placed
in one corner of the trench and the gas in the other.
Ditches are depressions dug to carry water, (often
found on the sides of roadways). Also, if telephone
and/or CATV lines are also involved, they go on the
same side as the gas.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 8:12AM
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In this neck of the woods natural gas lines are polyethylene and are "plowed" in, not trenched. Most underground cable, telephone, and electric lines are plowed in, too. Propane lines are generally copper tubing and are buried by the customer.

After spending the last 33 years as a gas leak technician, I would advise against putting electric lines and any kind of gas line in the same trench or ditch (the terms are practically interchangeable in the trade). In addition to possible lightning strikes, having them together makes digging them up again a problem. At least put the electric line in a conduit so you can see it before you cut it.

Check with the propane company and also check the local building codes (a local plumber or gas fitter will know them).

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 9:09PM
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I used to move Houses [not just mobile homes I did that also] real full sizzzzz HOUSES, where I used all types of heavy machenry everything from a hand shovel to a motor grader even a 200 foot crane, I was also a forman plowing cable and house drops for the phone company among many other type construction jobs.
The first and only ones you should ask this question to is your local Building Inspector, Fire Marshall and the Health Inspector,,, each of them will know the answer according to the codes in your area. It is not weather you place them in the same trench, ditch or what ever you want to call that hole you make in the ground,,,,, the real question should be, what is the legal spacing between them,, the depth and what other safety measures do you need as well, since you are placing the two of them together Id say that they will tell you at least 3 foot deep, and will also probably tell you that the electric will need to be piped with PVC etc. if that close to a gas line, and going into the ground from what ever box it goes into on each end.
I will tell you this,, If you are cutting through roots rock and other debree, it is easy to cut through a gas line or electric wires with a machine and not even notice it.
Even if they are 2 foot apart and some one comes in with a ditcher, trencher, cable plow, back hoe or what ever CROSSING them and cut them both, the gas will escape and when the power line is cut [and possably even after it is cut] I'll assure you that it will spark,,, now you will probably have a fire.
It is nearly impossable to put out a natural or LP gas fire untill a shut off valve is closed... If that operator didn't know the utulites were there they more than likely will not know where to turn the gas off either.
Even if they were spaced 10 foot apart. Gas has little limit of how far or how fast it spreads, the wind and confinement has a lot to do with that. If a gas line is cut by a cable plow and then 10 foot later it cuts the electric lines the gas is sorta confined in the small trench and follow the plow and now its like the gas line is laying beside the electric line only you have the whole trench full of gas plus what seaped out,,,,, now we are talking about explosion!!! I would rather be watching from a distance than operating either of those machines at that time
Since you are talking about two items that you do not really want screwing up while laying beside the other,,,, The farther apart they are, the better,,, the deeper is even more better. BUT you do not want to get so deep that it is unsafe to be in the trench, OSHAs law states you have to have a cave in protector if over 4 foot deep or "if the ground is so week that cave in is possible".
Now that I have you scared to [almost] death,,,, if you haven't made up your mind, get on the phone, all three numbers should be in the yellow pages.
good luck
- PS,,, I'll bet you would never even think trenching in gas and power to your shop would be this complex did you???

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 6:15PM
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(I'll bet you would never even think trenching in gas and power to your shop would be this complex did you???)

You ain't just whistlin' Dixie! Out here in cow country we don't have any inspectors (except for a Brand Inspector) & he wouldn't be any help. I'll ask the fire chief next meeting, though.
I've watched lots of houses being moved over the years. You guys really had to know what you were doing or you'd end up with a pile of sticks. I actually saw a 3-bay BRICK service station moved once! This must be nearly a lost art because the last house I saw moved took 3 years from start to finish & they only moved it 1/2 mile.
Anyway, thanx for the advice. Our nearest neighbor is 1/4 mile west of us & his driveway is 300 yards north of my prop line, so I don't have to worry about someone crossing my lines at all. Our soil is heavy clay & not many rocks, so that's not a problem either. The power pole is in the middle of my prop, too.
I appreciate all the inputs.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 10:25PM
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