Overhead power lines can make even the poshest neighborhood look unkempt. They also pose a safety hazard for electricians who must work in proximity to the wires. That’s why for many people, it makes sense to bury their overhead lines underground instead.
It’s a challenge to install electric wires underground. There are materials and equipment you need to consider before you can dig a trench or install a conduit. Luckily, there are plenty of services available to help homeowners do that.
But what is the average underground electrical service cost? Today, we’ll tell you how much money you should prepare for underground electrical work. We’ll also break down the factors that determine that amount.
How much will the entire project cost?
The average cost of a typical underground electric service varies from project to project. A rough estimate could lie between $5,000 for a basic job for just a few, short wires to up to $20,000 for wires that need to go very deep in the ground and are quite long.
For every 1,000 feet of power lines that you want to install underground, be prepared to pay around $8,000-$10,000. That means one foot of wiring will cost you anywhere from $8-$10 to work on. This already includes projected expenses for trenching and labor.
Of course, the price may be raised depending on the circumstances. If you live on rough terrain or are in a commercial building with lots of wires to work with, your contractor might increase the prices for the amount of labor needed.
The type of project will also determine how low or steep the underground electric service cost is. For smaller projects like installing a simple lighting fixture, you might have to pay just shy of $500. For more complex projects, like an in-ground swimming pool, the price can go upwards of $50,000.
Factors to consider for electrical service pricing
Having underground electrical work done on your home can sometimes cost a lot, but most times are quite reasonable for the service you get. But what makes underground electrical service cost cheap or expensive?
Here are seven variables that greatly affect how much you’ll end up spending on underground electrical work.
One major factor when it comes to pricing underground electrical work is human labor. Underground wiring requires an entire team of experts, from electricians to laborers to dig your wires a trench to those who install the electrical conduit. And you have to pay for every single one of them.
Every worker’s per-hour rate will be different, depending on the specific service they provide you. Electricians, for example, usually charge anywhere from $50-$100.
Don’t want to go through the hassle of hiring multiple people one by one? Ask your contractor if you can get a package that allows them to take care of that for you.
2. Difficulty of trenching
One of the first steps of installing underground wiring is digging a hole—also called a “trench”—near your home’s utility pole. This trench will house your underground pipes later on. It can take days to dig this trench, so that incurs additional labor costs for you.
While it’s possible to dig the trench yourself, it’s much more efficient to let the professionals do it for you. You don’t want to dig into the wrong spot and have to do it all over again.
How difficult it is to dig a trench in your area will also affect the service costs. If your ground is rocky and clay-based, it will be way more challenging to dig a deep trench. That might mean your contractor will rack up the price for this particular task.
Check out this video of digging a trench using a small tractor to get an idea of how it’s done by the experts:
3. Conduit installation
An electrical conduit is a metal, plastic, or fiber tube that keeps the wires in place and prevents it from coming into contact with anything it’s not supposed to. When wiring is installed underground, a conduit must be installed to protect those wires from the elements.
A PVC conduit is the most common type of conduit in the electrical industry. It’s also the most affordable. PVC conduits are usually topped with cement or concrete to protect them from wet elements, like rain.
You can also opt for rigid metal, which is galvanized and waterproof. This type of conduit is better for direct burial in shorter, more shallow trenches.
4. State-of-the-art materials
There are plenty of materials your contractor can use to upgrade your electric wiring as they work on burying the power lines. These include semi-conductor jackets to regulate overvoltage situations, as well as insulation materials that provide extra protection to your wires when it rains.
As you can probably deduce, the more advanced and state-of-the-art the materials are, the more costly your total bill will be.
5. Use of heavy equipment
Digging a trench is nearly impossible for underground electrical work, especially for bigger and more complex projects. The team will need something like an excavator to lift soil and dirt from the ground to dig your trench.
The use of these specialized machines plays a big role in your ball, accounting for around a third of the total underground electrical service cost.
6. Hiring a trusted contractor
If you have no previous experience working on electrical pipes and installing new wiring, it’s best to hire a licensed electrician and general contractor for the job.
Of course, don’t just go for the cheapest service provider you see online. Go for ones that are renowned and trusted in the industry, even if it means it’s going to shoot up your total bill to some degree.
Think about it—you don’t want to hire a mediocre team for a low installation cost only to be met with so many problems down the line. The repairs might cost even more money afterward if that’s the case.
So, it’s better to splurge a little to have the best teamwork on your wires. That way, you are assured of top-notch quality service from the get-go.
7. Clean-up services post-installation
There are a couple more jobs to take care of after the new wiring is installed underground. First, the laborers need to double-check that everything is working well before filling the trench back in. Then, they’ll need to clean up the road, too.
These post-installation services also determine the total price of your bill. After all, you can’t just leave your sidewalk messy and muddy after the direct burial of your electric wires.
Other incidentals that can raise the price
While the factors above are mainly what determines how much you pay for installing underground cables, there are also other incidental expenses that could increase that price.
When getting a new underground service done, many property owners opt to upgrade their electricity levels at the same time. So while electrical companies do the underground work, they can also take your electricity up a notch from, say, 100 amps to 300 amps instead.
This type of request will require buying another electrical service box to replace your old one. Obviously, this will add to your list of expenses for the project.
You might also want to replace your meter, which can be another $500 or so on top of the services you get from your contractor.
Other contractors and electric companies also charge an administration fee for underground power line work. Some workers even require permits before any work can be done. For these, you can expect to be charged another $200-$600.
Why it’s worth the investment
Even if the underground electrical service cost can be quite expensive, it’s always worth the money. Underground installation of wiring has huge advantages, including the following:
- It makes your home look neater and more elegant because you won’t have unsightly and distracting overhead wiring anymore.
- Underground electric cables lower the risk of workers getting electrocuted due to accidental contact with exposed wires, which is common with an overhead system.
- You only need to dig up one big trench to fit the wires for all your utilities, from gas to electricity. So, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
- Underground wires make power outages a lot less likely since the power lines won’t be exposed to storms, winds, or fallen trees. Your electricity will be a lot more reliable that way and won’t just die on you randomly.
The typical underground electrical service cost ranges from about $5,000-$20,000, depending on which contractor you hire and what services you need help with. Factors like the difficulty of trenching, using state-of-the-art materials, and hiring plenty of workers will affect this final cost.
There may be other incidentals that can raise the price too, like buying a new meter. But underground electrical services are always worth the hefty price tag.
Have any questions or clarifications about the cost of underground electrical services today? Don’t be afraid to ask questions down below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.