Is It Illegal To Turn Your Power Back On? (Reasons of Disconnection)
It would be challenging to live in a house with no power supply. But because of the rising electricity prices, a lot of households find it difficult to keep up with their utility payments. This can lead to the disconnection of their electrical supply. Another reason a home loses electricity is when there’s a power outage in the area. During extreme weather, downed power lines are common occurrences that lead to the loss of electrical supply.
Because of the hassle caused by the loss of electricity, it can be tempting to turn the power back on yourself. But no matter how much you want to get your electricity supply going again, don’t give in to the temptation. You can get in trouble for doing so, particularly if the power outage is related to non-payment issues.
Reasons Why Your Electricity Is Disconnected
There are several reasons why a power outage may occur in your home. Some are caused by unforeseen circumstances, while others are consumer-specific. Let’s look at what usually causes the loss of electrical power.
If you defaulted on your payments, expect to lose utility service. You’ll have to pay your overdue bills and a reconnection fee before getting your power back.
Electricity Theft Allegations
Power theft is a punishable offense. So when the power company suspects you of stealing electricity, it may turn your service off. The power company does this while it investigates the issue. Smart meters can also send reports of tampering. As a result, you can be investigated if you tinker with it.
A power outage also occurs when the electric company conducts maintenance activities. The same happens when there’s a problem with the grid. Extreme weather often downs power lines, cutting electric power in your area.
Exceptions Against Electricity Disconnection
Can a power company shut off electricity for non-payment of electricity bills? Not all the time. Some situations prevent it from doing so. Here are some of those scenarios.
Some states have laws that forbid a power company to turn off service in homes where people over age 65 live. To cut the power in households where older people live, it needs the permission of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in the area. How to qualify for protection? Notify the electric company servicing the homes of elderly people.
Utility companies (i.e., private water, gas, and electricity) can’t disconnect service from the homes of sick residents. That is if the person is sick enough not to afford utility payments. The ailment should be certified as serious by a physician to be eligible for this protection. Examples of such conditions are Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Families With Infants
Does an infant under the age of 1 live in your home? Then your power company can’t cut your service. But you’ll need to fill out a form and provide proof of the child’s age to qualify for protection against disconnection.
During the hottest and coldest seasons, electricity companies cannot stop service if you don’t pay your bill. This seasonal hold depends on certain conditions. One of these is the predicted temperature. You may also need to fulfill specific requirements to avail of this limitation on disconnections.
Renter’s Legal Right
You must be notified of impending disconnections 10-30 days before the service shut-off if you’re a renter. Moreover, the tenant can’t turn off your utilities to force you to vacate the premises.
Payment Agreement Plan
If you’re having problems with your cash flow, you can ask for a plan or program for low-income customers from your power company. Each utility has one. The purpose of the program is to assist low-income households with their energy costs. You must fulfill certain requirements to be eligible for this program.
How Can You Tell That Power Has Been Shut Off?
Is there a power outage? This will likely be your first question if you find yourself without electricity.
That may be the case, but it may also be that the power company remotely shuts your electric service. To discover the reason behind the power cut, take a look at your electricity meter. Electric meters typically flash a code to show the status of electric service in your home. The letter combination will tell you where the trouble lies.
Here’s what those flashing letters mean:
- CLS: This tells you that the power is on and it’s flowing to your house. If you have no electricity inside your home, check your circuit breaker. If you don’t know your way around circuit breakers, calling an electrician will be a wise move.
- OPN: These letters say that electricity is not flowing into your house. That’s because the electricity company has opened a switch inside the meter. It essentially means that your service has been shut off.
On the other hand, a blank screen on your electricity meter signifies a power outage.
Can You Get In Trouble For Turning Power Back On?
You certainly can. If you turn the power back on, you may face charges for electricity theft, which is considered a criminal offense. The law classifies electricity theft as a first-degree misdemeanor or a fourth-degree felony. This depends on the value of the stolen electricity along with the cost of utility repairs. As such, if you’re found guilty of stealing electrical power, you may be fined or, worse, end up in jail.
Moreover, turning the power back on is dangerous. Tinkering with electricity connections can lead to electrical fires or explosions. It can even cause death by electrocution.
Reasons Why You Should Never Interfere With Your Electrical Connection
Most people know better than to tamper with their electrical system. Fear of prosecution is one of the reasons. But safety issues also need to be considered. Let’s see why you’d be better off if you left your electric connections alone.
If you want to turn the power back on yourself, you may need to bypass your power meter. This is dangerous as it can lead to a short circuit, which, in turn, can cause an explosion or fire. Moreover, accidentally touching live electrical wires can result in serious injuries.
Unfortunately, many people still resort to electricity theft to avoid paying for their energy usage. If you’re thinking of using this tactic, kindly think twice. Not only is it dangerous to tamper with your electric meter, but stealing electricity can also land you in jail.
Is It Illegal?
Stealing electricity is considered a criminal offense. So if you’re caught doing the act, you can face legal consequences, such as stiff fines or time in jail. The penalty will depend on several factors, such as the cost of the stolen electricity and utility equipment repair.
Don’t assume you can get away with it. Power companies have ways of detecting electric meter interference. They also have personnel whose main task is to catch electricity thieves.
This is one of the most common ways of stealing electricity. It involves using various techniques to alter the meter reading. One popular method of meter tampering is magnetic tampering. This involves using a strong magnet. The magnet interferes with the current measurement, which can lower the electricity bill. Tampering with the meters of any utility company is illegal and those caught will face prosecution.
Electricity theft means intentionally stealing electricity. The act can be done using different methods. These include tampering, bypassing the electric meter, and creating direct connections.
Turning the power back on after disconnection is also considered electricity theft.
Electric companies vigorously track down consumers who try to steal electricity. If you’re found guilty, you will face prosecution and can potentially go to jail.
Can Lead To Penalties
Electric companies have strict policies to address electricity theft. Those found guilty can expect to pay high penalties. If you tampered with the electric meter, you’d be usually be charged with the following:
- Fee for a new connection
- The cost of a new meter
- A reconnection fee
What To Do If You Can’t Pay Your Electricity Bills?
With electricity prices being what they are, not everyone finds it easy to pay their electricity bills. If you’re one of those who find it hard to settle your payments, don’t be disheartened. You can explore some options to ensure you’ll have electric service in your home.
Use of Prepaid Meters
Also called pay as you go electricity, using prepaid meters means you only pay for power when you need it. Prepaid meters help you stick to your budget. It’s also a great way to prevent a ballooning electrical bill.
Contact Your Electricity Provider
Talk to your utility company and make arrangements to pay off your debt in installments. This involves paying a specified amount for a set period. The payment plan will cover part of your current bill plus the amount you and your provider agreed on.
Your power consumption doesn’t have to all come from the grid. You can use renewable energy sources to supplement your electricity needs. This will prevent you from incurring high utility bills. More and more people are turning to solar energy to power their homes. With solar panels, you can use the sun’s energy as your source of electricity.
How To Reconnect Your Electricity?
It’s not that challenging to get your service reconnected. All you need to do is to settle your debts with the power company along with whatever expenses you may incur. If your power disconnection is due to tampering, you’ll have to pay for a new meter.
Most power companies have a crew they can dispatch to restore your connection. How long it takes before you get reconnected depends on the type of meter you have. Those with smart meters can expect to have their electricity back within a few hours. Meanwhile, if your meter is the analog type, reconnection can take between 24-48 hours. Take note that these timeframes are estimates. Your TDSP’s workload will also affect how long before they can hook you back on.
Who Is Responsible For The Meter Box?
A meter box houses the electric meter, which measures the amount of electricity you use. The electric company installs this between the incoming power lines and the main electrical panel. Once the meter and the meter box are in place, responsibility for their maintenance falls on the property owner.
Can The Electric Company Tell If I Steal Power?
Stolen power means loss of revenues. That’s why electric companies strive to find out if someone is engaging in electricity theft. The advent of smart meters makes it easier to detect power theft. Because of smart meters, the electric company will usually know in minutes if you removed the meter or tampered with the lock.
It can be difficult to keep up with utility payments in these financially challenging times. That’s especially true due to the pandemic and rising prices of electricity. However, stealing electric power can never be the solution to a person’s inability to pay for electric service. In fact, it can only lead to more problems. Electricity theft is a crime and anyone caught committing the act can face hefty fines or land in jail.
If you ever get your electricity turned off for non-payment of bills, don’t try to turn the power back on. Getting back your electricity service is not worth your life and limb.