What You Should Know About Water Damage and Corrosion in Your Electrical Panel
When you notice water dripping out of your electrical panel box, your first reaction is to panic. Water and electricity make for a dangerous combination, and although signs of moisture isn’t something you want to see, water getting into the electrical panel box is a common problem homeowners face. But it isn’t a problem you should try to fix yourself. Call an expert electrical technician to determine the extent of the damage and recommend the necessary repairs.
How Water Gets Into an Electrical Panel Box
If the outside electric meter is poorly sealed at the top or the service entry cable running from the electrical meter is damaged, frayed, or deteriorating from age, water can get inside when it rains. When the coating on older cable wire wears away over time, the wires and insulating material inside can also absorb water.
Water that seeps into cracks and breaks in the service cable can run down the cable to your electrical panel box. Moisture that enters the panel can corrode electrical wiring and circuit breakers and even rust the bottom and inside of the panel box.
If water leaks into the service panel over time, chalky-white corrosion can build up on the screw terminals inside the box. This corrosion can ruin connections between the service cable wiring and the branch circuit wiring. The increased resistance in the circuit that corroded terminals and connections can cause produces heat, which may eventually ignite a fire.
Water getting inside the panel box can also cause circuit breakers to malfunction. Although the damage may not be visible, opening the panel box yourself could be dangerous. Even if there isn’t an obvious presence of moisture on the box, rust is a sign that the box or the area surrounding the panel box has been wet and still may be wet.
Simply not touching an electrical circuit does not provide adequate safety protection from electrical hazard risks. A certified electrician will take safety measures such as wearing safety glasses and other protective equipment, including rubber insulating gloves, flame-resistant clothing, and electrical hazard footwear to protect against electric shock and burns when opening an electrical panel that got wet.
Circuit breakers damaged by water may not trip when electrical overload occurs—a condition that can lead to overheating and arcing. Electrical arc flashes due to exposed or otherwise damaged wiring in the panel box can lead to burns.
Other conditions that can lead to moisture getting in your panel box include:
- Condensation due to high humidity levels in the home
- Water dripping from condensation on a cold water pipe located over the panel box
- Water seeping through a cement, masonry, or stone basement wall at the location where the service panel hangs
Remember, if you notice any of these signs or conditions, you should call a professional right away to address the issue. Don’t approach the panel, and don’t try to fix electrical issues yourself.
What an Electrician Can Do
When you call an electrician to your home because you suspect water damage inside your panel box, the first thing he or she will do is to locate the source of the moisture. The next step is making the necessary repairs to prevent additional damage to wiring and the panel box.
If the metal service panel is badly rusted, it may be necessary to replace both the box and all the circuit breakers that protect the circuits in your home from overload. Should you decide to upgrade your electrical service at the same time, you will also need to replace the service entry cable.
If damaged circuit breakers are the problem, but your panel box doesn’t need replacing, an electrician can install arc fault circuit interrupters inside the electrical panel. These special circuit breakers shut off the circuits when they detect dangerous electrical currents.
Fortunately, such extensive repairs aren’t always needed. Simpler fixes may include:
- Scraping off corrosion present on screw terminals and wires
- Repairing the seal at the top of the meter box to prevent more water from running down the entry cable and entering the panel box
- Replacing a cracked or broken service entry cable
- Replacing damaged circuit breakers
- Screwing OSB (particle board) or plywood to the foundation wall and then attaching the electrical panel box
Whether the fix is large or small, if you’re worried that water has leaked into your electric service panel and damaged electrical components inside, contact Chadwick Electric Services for help. You’ll feel better knowing that qualified professionals have addressed the issue to keep your household safe from electrical hazards.