Water Coming into my Breaker (Electrical) Box

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  #1  
Old 05-20-12, 01:17 PM
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Water Coming into my Breaker (Electrical) Box

Help! When it rains hard, I get water that comes into my breaker box, inside the grey power cable that runs into the box. The outside of the cable and the top of the box stay dry. If you follow the power feed from the top of the box, it runs outside and into the electric meter. The power line from the pole runs under an overhang of the roof and then down a wall to the meter. The meter is under cover for the most part as it too is under a roof overhang.

The question I have is - How the heck is water getting into the cable and into my breaker box?

Thanks for any help.

- Joe
 
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  #2  
Old 05-20-12, 02:07 PM
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Welcome to the forum!

How the heck is water getting into the cable and into my breaker box?
One guess is that the water is getting into the meter base somehow. Some pictures of the service entrance might help, particularly one of the hub or connector where the service drop enters the meter base. See How To Include Pictures.

It may be on the PoCo to fix this. Everything on the pole side of the meter base should be their property and responsibility. I think they'd at least want to send one of their technicians to inspect the situation, asap.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 02:08 PM
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Some pictures might help us help you. Give us both all encompassing shots and closeups.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 03:45 PM
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Here are Some Pictures

I called the PoCo (PECO) and they told me that the problem was mine to fix.

Hopefully these pictures will help show you the flow of the power cable from the line to the meter box and into the house and breaker box.

- Joe
 
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Old 05-20-12, 04:21 PM
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Thanks for the pictures!

I called the PoCo (PECO) and they told me that the problem was mine to fix.
Interesting. What did they say when you asked them if that meant that you were welcome to open up the meter base to check for problems?

On a slightly more serious note, I'm not sure the hub on top of the meter base is correct for the cable entering it. Does it appear to grip the cable tightly enough to prevent moisture from entering there?

And it also looks like the service drop passes through a roof, or between a roof and a wall, before it gets to the meter. If so, you have unfused power entering your house, however briefly, before it reaches the service entrance bonding point. Wonder what PECO might say about that? More to the point, your service cable could be damaged at that point, and water could be entering there.

Do you know any good electrical contractors you can call? Just to take a look and advise you, for now?
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 05-20-12 at 05:35 PM.
  #6  
Old 05-20-12, 08:18 PM
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I'd say there's definitely water getting into your meter box, and then easily making it into the cable entering your house. If I had to guess, I'd probably say it leaks through the roof where the cable penetrates, down the exterior of that cable, and into a poorly fitted hub at the top of the meter box.

It should be a pretty easy fix for an electrician. You may be able to repair it temporarily with caulk on the outside of the cable entering the meter box, but the right answer is to replace the cable entry clamp. Definitely not a DIY task.

While you're at it, I'd ask the electrician about rerouting the cable so it doesn't penetrate the roof. Any roof penetration is a chance for water infiltration into the house. It seems that it would be pretty easy to reroute the cable to not require a roof penetration.
 
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Old 05-21-12, 06:17 PM
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The problem almost has to be damaged sheathing on the SEU cable or water getting past the raintight connector on top of the meter socket. Generally, most overhead rag services will have a small amount of duct seal around the cable on top of the meter socket and where the cable enters the wall on it's way to the service panel. It's just good insurance against water intrusion. If the sheathing is damaged, the SEU cable should be replaced. Do you have rust in the bottom of the service panel? Typically, if you have rust you also have corrosion on the terminals on the breakers and corrosion on the bus bars. Your panel looks a lot like an old Murray and they have aluminum bus. Even a little corrosion on aluminum bus can be a serious hazard. The panel may need to be replaced.
 
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Old 05-21-12, 07:30 PM
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Just more proof conduit is better then SE.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 09:33 AM
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OK, I will take a look at where the cable runs through the roof. the thing is that PECO was just out there a couple weeks ago to repalce the meter with a new "smart" meter, and there were no comments made about how the wiring was run.

I will also look to seal up any opening in the roof where the power cable comes in, unless I get it re-routed. It has been this way for about 16 years now, ever since that section of the hosue with the stucco was added to the house. Not sure how long ago the water problem started.

Thanks for all of the input on this one. I will follow up with a reply once I take a look at your suggestions.

- Joe
 
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Old 05-22-12, 10:32 AM
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I will take a look at where the cable runs through the roof.
Be very careful. In fact, I hope you'll call a qualified electrician to check it out and make any needed corrections. DIY work on electrical systems should be limited to those areas downstream of the protection installed in your panel. The power in the cable feeding into the meter (and then into the house, for that matter) is only protected by the last protection PECO has upstream. It has their full potential on it. Contacting it is not the same as contacting a live circuit inside your house. It can be fatal.

That's also why the roof penetration needs to be corrected, asap, and, as Ray suggested, preferably run in conduit.

PECO was just out there a couple weeks ago to repalce the meter with a new "smart" meter, and there were no comments made about how the wiring was run.
They might not have noticed, or not thought of what it meant. They were to swap out the meter and move on to the next one. OR they might have figured it out and decided not to say anything because they were concerned that it might expose their employer to some liability - or just get them in hot water for alarming a customer. That they didn't say anything doesn't mean that there isn't a problem.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 11:19 AM
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Joe - I had the same problem a few years ago. The leak was where the cable entered the top of the meter box. I noticed the problem after my meter box was moved temporarily by siding installers.

The entrance at the top of the box was packed with a caulk like substance and when it was moved it lost it's seal. I repacked it and solved the leak, but I ended up replacing many of the breakers due to corrosion.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 12:47 PM
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Actually the more I look at that I think if possible the drop should be moved to as close as possible to the panel and the meter socket moved. I see a window but if the wall is clear to the roof to the right of it a mast could be installed down to a relocated meter socket and conduit run horizontally to the panel.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 01:22 PM
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Ray, one thing I don't care for about this service is that the strain relief anchoring the PoCo feeders is around the corner from both the meter socket and the cable leading in to the panel. Your suggestion of cobra head there with conduit down to the meter and then a conduit to the panel is appealing as a better solution. It'll require an LB at the corner of the house, but it'll be a lot safer. Not to mention weather-tight.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 02:37 PM
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Nash I was actually also suggesting moving the meter socket and drop onto the same wall as close to the panel as windows would permit if the drop can be moved. If possible to come in to the side of the meter socket no ell needed.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 03:08 PM
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Hmmmm... Maybe I'm missing something here, Ray. The way it looks to me in the pictures, the service anchor is on one wall - I'll call it the south wall, just to orient things - above some windows. The meter socket is a pretty good distance from the corner on the wall to the left (the "west" wall. The pole is somewhere off to the right of the anchor and the panel is somewhere off to the left of the meter.

I honestly don't see a way to do this without using an ell to go around the corner from where the pole wires come in to where the meter and the panel entry are. Moving the meter to the "south" wall would just mean a longer run from the meter to the panel, it looks like to me.

Like I said, maybe I'm missing something here.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 04:09 PM
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And maybe I am confused but I think I see what is there just the way you do but I'm saying if the drop from the pole can be moved move the meter socket and drop as close as possible to the panel. In other words on the same wall on the same wall.Name:  new-posistion.jpg
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  #17  
Old 05-22-12, 04:44 PM
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OK, we seem to be seeing it the same way. Given that, I'm guessing that moving the service drop to the left - closer to the meter and the panel - is going to be a challenge because that would require both a longer set of feeders and a sharper angle with the house.

That leaves moving the meter and the panel feed to the right. For the drop, meter and panel feed to be on the same wall, then, means that the panel feed will have to enter the house through the wall where the drop is anchored - before the service reaches or turns the corner of the house. That might be doable, but I think the OP would have to add a fused disconnect in a NEMA-3 enclosure, OR run conduit all the way into the panel, if the PoCo would allow it, because it looks like the panel might be 10' or more from where the service would enter the structure.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 05:37 PM
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Or maybe he just needs some monkey sh... oops I mean electrical insulating putty around the SE. We're getting to complicated for a simple question.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 06:01 PM
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I agree with the ductseal at the meter enclosure. That looks like just a straight nipple, complete with outboard locknuts, on top, NOT an approved SE cable connection. It still won't be correct but a couple of pounds of monkey manure carefully mounded up on the nipple and cable will likely do the trick.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 06:11 PM
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electrical insulating putty around the SE
Ideal 31-605 Duct Seal 5-pound Block
Sometimes also called dum-dum

Be sure to check the interior of the panel box. If it is full of rust, it may need to be replaced.
 
  #21  
Old 05-23-12, 04:39 PM
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I stuck a hose along the power feed near the top of the meter, and sure enough, when I ran water, the water ended up coming into the breaker box. I will call PECO and see what they say about this. Would this not be their problem to resolve as opposed to mine?

Thanks everyone!

- Joe
 
  #22  
Old 05-23-12, 04:45 PM
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Some More Pictures With Water Flowing

Here are two pics I just took. The first is where the cable comes through the roof eve. I clamped a hose to the cable and let water run. Some water started coming down the cable and into the box while most just went into the gutter. I wanted to see if perhaps there was a cut in the outer shield where it hit the roof.

Well, water did indeed come in, but to rule out the roof and a cut in the cable, I then moved the hose to the top of the meter box, as shown in the second picture. Water was still coming into the breaker box, so I assume that it is indeed coming in from the top of the box.

Correct?

Thanks!
 
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  #23  
Old 05-23-12, 05:12 PM
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I suspect the gland in the connector is not sealing against the cable. This is why coming into the top of the socket is a bad practice IMO.
 
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Old 05-23-12, 05:13 PM
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See Post #2 - it should be a PECO job, IMO.
 
  #25  
Old 05-23-12, 05:16 PM
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Generally (not always) the utility simply inserts or removes the meter from the socket/enclosure and the socket/enclosure is the responsibility of the homeowner. You might try snugging down those two screws on top of the cable clamp assembly to see if it will compress the grommet a little tighter. Also, as has been previously mentioned, get some duct seal (electrical aisle at the mega-mart homecenter) and after making sure the cable and clamp are clean and dry mound the duct seal into and around the cable clamp and up onto the cable itself. The electrical contractor that installed the meter should have done this at the time of installation.
 
  #26  
Old 05-23-12, 05:32 PM
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This is a maintenance issue for the homeowner, not the power company.
 
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Old 05-23-12, 10:09 PM
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Okay. I stand corrected. And reminded, of a number of things.

One is that the last time I worked with a single-phase 240V residential service feed was when I upgraded the service on my own house - and that was nearly 30 years ago. I didn't do all of that work myself. I contracted most of it to a friend who was uniquely qualified to do it. But what I remember is that we (he) installed the meter base, mast and cobra head. plus the feeders from the base to the panel and the grounding electrode. The PoCo provided the meter and the feeders to it. So I guess I assumed that that's where the responsibility changed hands - at the end of their wire and the beginning of ours.

It's not that I haven't built services since then. I've done several, in fact. But all of them involved laying parallel sets of conduit and pouring some concrete. And, on all of those jobs, we built the raceways, the enclosures, the grounding and the base for the metering, all to the PoCo's specs. And we wired everything from the meter inward - the CT cabinet, the CTs, you name it. The PoCo pulled the feeders from the street through their transformer to the meter and connected everything. That's where the responsibility changed hands. At the meter.

Now I'm curious. If the PoCo isn't responsible for everything on "their" side of the meter, where do they stop? At the strain relief that anchors the pole feed to the house? At the pole? At the transformer? What is the homeowner actually responsible for maintaining in a safe and workable condition?
 
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Old 05-23-12, 10:23 PM
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Normally the POCO stops at the connection at the weatherhead.
 
  #29  
Old 05-23-12, 10:28 PM
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It depends on the utility and whether or not it is an overhead or underground service. In my area, for overhead service the owner is responsible for the weatherhead, mast, meter socket/base and all conduit and conductors from the weatherhead to the main circuit breaker. Generally overhead service is free as long as the utility can run from an existing pole and that run is less than (if I recall correctly) 175 feet.

For underground service the owner is responsible for the conduit from the meter to the ditch and usually also for the ditch to the vault or pole. I think the utility usually supplies the underground cable but also charges for it.

Of course you must adhere to the specifications of the serving utility as well as the local electrical code.
 
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Old 05-23-12, 10:55 PM
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In my area, for overhead service the owner is responsible for the weatherhead, mast, meter socket/base and all conduit and conductors from the weatherhead to the main circuit breaker.
So the changeover is essentially at the strain relief. Great, and thanks for the clarification. That may have been the case with my service upgrade too. Like I said, it's been awhile and I only did some of the work.

Of course you must adhere to the specifications of the serving utility as well as the local electrical code.
And having 5 or 6 different PoCos and a bunch of jurisdictions just makes it more fun!
 
  #31  
Old 05-25-12, 07:45 AM
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I put a wad of plumbers' putty on top of the box where the cable enters the box. I flood tested it with the hose and everything was dry. Not sure if this is the best stuff to use (it was Sta-Put) or some similar name. If there is anything better that I can get, preferrably at a place like Lowes or Home Depot, let me know.This stuff does not seem like it will hold up in the heat or over a long period of time.

You can see how I clamped the hose onto the cable and have the water running down it and over the putty.
 
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  #32  
Old 05-25-12, 08:45 AM
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JoefromPhilly Asked:
Not sure if this is the best stuff to use
CasualJoe wrote:
electrical insulating putty around the SE
Ideal 31-605 Duct Seal 5-pound Block
Sometimes also called dum-dum

Be sure to check the interior of the panel box. If it is full of rust, it may need to be replaced.
 
  #33  
Old 05-25-12, 10:39 AM
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Plumber's putty is definitely NOT the proper material as it WILL dry out and flake away in the open atmosphere. As several people have noted what you want is electrical duct seal compound. It is readily available in the electrical aisle of the big box mega-mart homecenters.
 
  #34  
Old 05-25-12, 11:00 AM
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The good news is that you've learned that sealing around the SE cable as it enters the entry hub on the meter base seems to solve the problem. So once you replace the plumber's putty you used for the test with electrical duct-seal, you could be good to go.
 
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