How Much Would It Cost to Run a New Underground Electric Service?

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated July 11, 2022
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Photo: gradyreese / E+ / Getty Images

Highlights

  • To run electrical 1,500 feet, you’ll pay an average cost of $12,250.

  • Underground electricity can be up to 14 times more expensive than overhead electricity

  • You'll need to perform trenching and conduit installation before running any lines.

  • Consider hiring a general contractor to oversee all aspects of this project.

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Running a new underground electrical service costs an average of $12,250 for a length of 1,500 feet. You could pay as little as $4,500 or as much as $20,000 if you need to run lines a long distance across rough or challenging terrain. Most homeowners pay an average of $8 per square foot for this project, including labor and materials.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Underground Electric?

Underground electrical installation requires multiple professionals. And, because it's such a big job, it may be best to hire a general contractor to take care of the whole process for you. 

Labor Costs

Labor costs vary greatly, based on how challenging the job is and your location. This job usually requires a few different professionals that can dig a trench, install conduit, and run cable. If you hire a general contractor, they'll bill you and pay the subcontractors themselves. Here’s a breakdown of where your money might go:

Equipment Costs

Equipment and materials account for 30% to 40% of the total project cost. If you have experience operating heavy machinery, you can rent an excavator for around $300 to $550 per day to dig the trench yourself. Still, you're likely better off letting a pro excavator tackle the job. 

Trenching Costs

Trenching costs $600 to $1,200 on average, including professional labor and equipment. While some folks like to save money by DIYing this part, it's best to let a professional excavator handle it. You’ll experience significant project delays and cost hikes if you hit existing utility lines, dig in the wrong location, or clear it incorrectly.

Conduit Installation Costs 

Installing conduit costs $4 to $8 per linear foot, on top of the trenching costs. You can pay an additional $0.25 per linear foot if you upgrade from standard PVC to non-metallic half-inch PVC pipe, which brings your total to $4.25 to $8.25 per linear foot.

Cost of Underground Electrical Conduit Installation per Linear Foot

Whether you're keeping your existing service or upgrading to a 200-amp service, the cost of the trenching, conduit, and new cable is the same. Your cost difference depends on whether you need to install an upgraded electrical panel and if any other wiring costs need to be added to your project total.

200-Amp Service

Upgrading to a 200-amp service costs between $750 and $2,000, including labor and parts. However, if you need to move your electrical panel or update old wiring, you can pay more than $4,000 for this service, on top of the tranching, conduit, and cable-running fees.

50-Amp Service

Because of the demands placed on the electrical services of modern households, 50-amp services are no longer currently installed. More commonly, your home runs on 100- or 150-amp services. 

When converting your overhead service underground, you won’t need a new electrical panel or rewiring if sticking with your current amperage. But if you find your current service doesn’t meet your needs, or you want to future-proof your home, then it's smart to upgrade to the 200-amp option. 

Electrical Trenching Costs

Trenching for electrical service costs $4 to $12 per linear foot. Digging the trench isn't terribly expensive, and the cost is split fairly evenly between labor and equipment. 

  • Labor: Digging a trench typically costs $5.75 per linear foot

  • Equipment: The equipment costs for digging a trench are around $4 per linear foot

  • Permits: Permit costs vary significantly based on your local requirements. A typical range is $500 to $2,000.

Who to Hire to Install Underground Electric Service

Installing underground electrical service is a multi-profession project. Larger electrical companies may be able to tackle the entire job, bringing in excavators and laborers as they are required. 

Alternatively, you can hire a general contractor to oversee the whole project. At the very least, you'll need an excavation pro and a licensed electrician.

FAQs

Is it cheaper to run power overhead or underground?

It's cheaper to run power overhead because it doesn’t require excavation, and the power cables are less costly. However, underground electric service is better protected from weather and general wear and tear, so it’s less likely to get damaged.

How far can you run underground electric?

How far you can run underground electric depends on the wire gauge (generally AWG) and the circuit voltage. Too much voltage drop in an electrical circuit can negatively affect performance, so the smaller the voltage drop, the better. Ideally, it shouldn't exceed 3%. The smaller the wire and the longer the run, the more significant the voltage drop. 

For example, with a 120-volt circuit, you can run 60 feet of 12 AWG cable without losing more than 3% voltage. With a 240-volt circuit, you can run 120 feet of 12 AWG wire while maintaining a voltage drop of 3% or less.

What size wire do I need for a 200-amp underground service?

For a 200-amp underground service, you need a minimum of #2/0 American Wire Guage (AWG) copper or #4/0 AWG aluminum or copper-clad wire. And you'll need, at minimum a 1 1/2-inch schedule 40 or 80 PVC conduit. 

Can I run electrical conduit above ground?

Yes, you can run an aboveground electrical conduit and stay within National Electrical Code safety guidelines. Just make sure you check the code requirements of your project with the local building regulations office.

How deep should you bury underground electrical wire?

You can bury underground electrical wire six inches deep—but only if you use a rigid metal electrical conduit. For rigid, non-metallic conduits, bury the wire at least 12 inches deep. If using an underground feeder cable rated for direct burial, you'll need to place it at least 18 inches deep, as it has no conduit for extra protection.

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