Find Your Electric Company
This seems like a strange thing to consider but some areas are serviced by more than one electric company. If you've ever purchased a house that already has utilities set up, contacting your electric company isn't always an easy process. It can take some trial and error to determine which company services your property.
One of the easiest ways to find out who you need to contact is by asking the homeowners around your property. Ask the local land owners who they send their utility payments. If that doesn't work, then take a look at the utility poles that are located close to your property. Usually these are located at intersections. They often have a small placard with an electric company name.
Even if all of these options don't give you an answer, you can still find your company but you'll have to do a little more digging. Contact the company that is closest to you and call them. Give them the specifics of your land and they should be able to tell you if they serve that area. If they're being helpful, they may be able to direct you to who is in charge of that land even if it's not that company. However, there are usually only a few companies in certain areas so you'll likely only have to contact two or at most three to get an answer.
Understand the Process
Once you contact the electric company and let them know you need service on your land, you may think that it's as simple as just writing a check. However, you'll probably have to do a fair amount of groundwork. There are some logistical issues that will become more complex the farther you are in the country. Also, some electric companies have an unusual bureaucracy that is unhelpful to go through this process. In general though, there are a few steps to get through the process.
The electrical company will start by sending out an engineer to look at the property. This professional will assess the property and determine how best to run the new power lines. It's a good idea to be present during this inspection so you can talk to the engineer about your electricity needs. After assessing the property, the engineer will specify the path for the electrical lines. The will have specifications that may limit how the lines cross the land such as tree clearance and other guidelines.
Depending on the property, the engineer may ask that you clear certain areas. If you have a wooded property, you may need to cut down some trees or remove certain items. Follow their directions in order to make the process smoother.
With this inspection, you'll be given a contract for service. This simply specifies that you'll be using the electrical company once they establish lines on your property. Depending on the company, they may also require that you put in a foundation or slab before they start the work. The company wants to make sure that you're actually building on the property before they invest time and energy running electrical lines to your land. This is fairly common and should be expected. If you would like electricity before building, ask the company if you can provide building contracts or make an agreement.
Expect the Process to Take Months
Some land owners expect to put in lines and have power by the following month but the process almost always takes longer. Electrical companies will complete the work but they're not usually motivated to finish it rapidly. They'll have to get permits which on its own can take weeks to months. That's also only if there are no problems or delays. While the process may run smoothly for you, always plan ahead to expect delays. Ask the electric company how long it typically takes to establish service for an idea of what you should expect.
In addition to getting permits for the work, running the lines also takes time. The type of lines you have will change the time frame though. An underground line is usually more desirable but will also cost more and take longer to install. Many homeowners prefer underground lines but be prepared for the extra money and time. Running electricity via a pole will be a faster process but is also less attractive. You may also have to get permission from neighbors to install poles. In general, you should expect at least three months for the process.
Document Throughout the Process
Electric companies don't always keep good records and it's easy to get lost in the process. As much as possible, make sure to write down all of the information that you're given. For example, when you meet the engineer at the property, get the person's name and phone number. It's also a good idea to ask the engineer to write down everything that you discuss. They should also provide a list of what you're responsible for and what the electrical company should do.
Electric companies don't always do the work themselves. They often hire outside contractors to do the clearing for new lines and miscommunication is common. The best way to manage this is by over-communicating. Follow up regularly with the electric company and the contractor. The electric company won't always give you the information for the contractor without being asked. However, they will provide it if requested. Make sure you have the name and contact information for everyone who you work with in order to facilitate communication and make the process go smoother.
Schedule and Pass the Inspection
Once you have the electrical wires set up, there's usually one final step in the process. This does not apply to every area so make sure to ask if you need to have this done. Before the electric company will actually install the electric meter, the city or county may have to inspect the wiring. This ensures that the work is up to code and there are no problems with providing power to the area.
After sending an inspector and assuming the work has passed, the city or county will send a record of the passed inspection to the electric company. The company won't move forward until this has been complete and they have written verification. However, this communication often gets lost. They may forget to send the inspection or it may be lost by the electric company.
Unfortunately, there's not many options to expedite this process. The best way to get the process moving is by keeping in contact with the city or county and the electric company. Ask the city or county when they will send the report and then follow up with them to determine that it has been sent. Once they verify that they've approved the work, communicate with the electric company and ask them if they've received the inspection results. They may have to be re-sent but keeping in regular communication lets them know that you mean business. Regularly following up with both parties is the only way to resolve this.
Once you've gone through this entire process, then you'll be ready to go. Although this overview provides you with the basic steps, each electric company has different policies and procedures that you should expect. When you first contact the electric company, ask them to walk you through the process to get an idea of how their system works so you'll have a better idea of what to expect.