water in electrical panel

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  #1  
Old 03-27-13, 08:09 AM
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water in electrical panel

New to the forum - great source of information!

I have been doing electrical work for nearly 20 years including whole house wiring, panel replacements, etc.

I recently ran a new circuit for a friend and when I opened the panel to install the breaker I noticed water from the common wire dripping down onto one of the bars. This is a very slow drop with no water pooling at the bottom of the panel. Upon closer inspection, the water is coming from inside the wire housing.

I checked the drop coming into the house and there is what I feel a sufficient drop to enter the mast from below. I then removed the elbow cap as the wires enter the house and it was completely dry. The meter came next. The area behind the meter was also dry and there was no indication from the connection of the common wires behind the meter that there is any water.

I'm assuming at this point that the problem may be between the meter and the electrical panel and that the common wire should be replaced to start. Although at this point, I can't explain the water...

Is there anything else I should be checking or any other thoughts on the reasons for the water? The meter does reside in a location on the house where melting water from snow will drip down onto it. However, this has been in place for some time and there hasn't been a problem to date (I added some additonal lines for them last summer and did not find any problems).

thanks in advance for any suggestions
 
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Old 03-27-13, 09:03 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

I checked the drop coming into the house and there is what I feel a sufficient drop to enter the mast from below.
Not quite sure what that means.

Being an all pipe service the water would have to get in at the service head by following a wire with no drip loop or at the top of the meter pan where the hub is or a hole in the back of the meter pan.

The wire has most likely not been affected by the water but water falling on the breakers or buss bars is not good.

Let's see if any one else has an idea.
 
  #3  
Old 03-27-13, 09:24 AM
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How is the meter base connected to the panel?
 
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Old 03-27-13, 09:39 AM
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You might be seeing condensate due to a flow of cold air from outside coming into the load center. Cold air cools the service wire, which is then exposed to the warmer, more humid inside air.
 
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Old 03-27-13, 10:08 AM
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Same metal pipe from the mast head runs to the meter and from the meter into the house.

Condensation would explain why there is so little water and how it got inside the jacket but why not the other two leads and why now? Any way of insulating the lines at least from the meter to the panel and do you think this will help?
 
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Old 03-27-13, 10:30 AM
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How old is the service wire? I have actually has cases where we have had COOLANT leak out of service entrance wire fresh from the factory....as hard as that is to believe...Rare....But has happned a couple of times in the last few years or so . Plus some companies store wire outside which is a bad idea too.Not likely in your case but it could just be a slight leak that has went on for a while due to coolant being trapped in the jacket....
 
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Old 03-27-13, 10:47 AM
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Not quite sure what that means.

Being an all pipe service the water would have to get in at the service head by following a wire with no drip loop or at the top of the meter pan where the hub is or a hole in the back of the meter pan.


Here's a picture of the mast. I thought there was an adequate drip loop and did not feel that water could come through the mast.

I checked the meter pan and didn't find any holes or moisture.
 
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  #8  
Old 03-27-13, 07:47 PM
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Install duct seal around the service wires that enter the panel. Be careful! Those wires can not be turned off unless disconnected inside the meter!
 
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Old 03-27-13, 09:46 PM
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Here's a picture of the mast. I thought there was an adequate drip loop and did not feel that water could come through the mast.
You may be right about that - hard to tell from a picture.

That said, I don't recall ever seeing unfused conductors draped across a metal downspout before. I would change that yesterday.
 
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Old 03-27-13, 09:50 PM
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Also those don't appear to be official Poco bugs on the drop connections. Looks like temp connections or a bootleg install but maybe it is just my eyes seeing peeling tape on the middle connection.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 03:34 PM
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I am a DIY. I had water dripping in the electrical panel as well. Here is what I found as an issue in my case. This is the ground wire which was cut from the previous connection to a water well. What I discovered is this ground cable had a paper jacket within and it was bringing water inside the cable through capillary action (no I an not a nut case ;-)). I could not believe it. To prove this theory I punctured the cable underside at few places. Sure enough I was getting drops of water from the punctures. I fully remove the cable. The problem solved!The Electrical panel already had ground through water pipe so I was all set.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 04:37 PM
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Hmmmmm

The only time I've seen water get into a panel is through service entrance cable because the duct seal leaks on the top of the meter socket.

The one thing I did notice in the picture is that the clamp has been moved on the service pipe. ( clean spot on conduit )

Was the house recently resided? Maybe its all looking good, and I don't see pipe threads leaking A LOT. I think about the siding and if water is getting through the meter socket or if there is cable entering the house from the bottom of the meter.....maybe the jacket is damaged?

Do you have a picture of the meter socket and where the service enters into the house?
 
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Old 03-28-13, 05:33 PM
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The house was sided last summer.

I'm going to try duct seal to the top of the meter socket as I don't believe there is any right now.

Here is a picture of the meter up close but I don't have any other pics - can get some tomorrow.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 06:05 PM
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That meter pan looks like it pretty well had it. All the hardware and especially the neutral is rusted. Definitely taking on water from somewhere above it or behind it.

I enhanced the picture a tad.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 06:05 PM
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It looks like there's been water at the bottom of the socket.
 
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Old 03-29-13, 05:45 AM
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I'll be out there again today. From what I could tell last time, it appeared like the mast, meter, and entry pipe were only connected to the house with "U" shaped clamps. I don't believe there are screws in the back of the pan but I'll check again more closely today.

Let me know if this makes sense or if I'm missing something. Water would need to be coming in:

1. the mast head even with the drip loop
2. the top of the pan where the pipe comes in
3. the face of the pan where the meter itself attaches
4. condensation forming inside the meter pan

I did not see any moisture inside the pan when I pulled the meter. It had rained the day before I got there but the hard part is that you'd really like to get a good look at when it's raining or when everything is soaking wet... I'll start with duct seal at the top the meter pan and go with any other suggestions if you have them.

thanks again
 
  #17  
Old 03-29-13, 11:43 AM
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You didn't post a pic that showed the top of the meter pan.
Is there a 4 hole "bolt on" hub that the mast screws into ?

It could also be a molded in hub. Just confirming that there isn't just a locknut on top of the meter pan with no seal.
 
  #18  
Old 03-29-13, 04:48 PM
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2. the top of the pan where the pipe comes
Is the conduit threaded into the top of the socket or is it EMT with a compression connector that threads into the socket? I assume you have continuous conduit from the socket into the house and on into the panel. Is it rigid threaded conduit or as I asked above, EMT with compression connectors?
 
  #19  
Old 03-30-13, 04:50 AM
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Here are more pics of the meter up close and farther away.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 05:50 AM
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Did you open the LB at the bottom of the pipe going through the block wall? If not, you need to and seal the conduit going into the house from the inside of the LB. Just take a ball of duct seal and smoosh it around the wires in the pipe to seal the pipe.
 
  #21  
Old 03-30-13, 08:39 AM
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That's some old stuff! How old would it be, 40 or 50 years old maybe? I am thinking it may be replacement time.
 
  #22  
Old 03-30-13, 09:05 AM
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It looks like a knockout in the top of the meter pan.
Also...you can take the putty off the top of the meter pan. If it doesn't stick to the pipe then it can only make the leak worse as the water follows the pipe and then right in the threads.
 
  #23  
Old 03-30-13, 10:29 AM
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It almost looks like a compression connector on the top of the meter socket. If that's the case, the little compression ring inside is toast.

Maybe I'm crazy, but if all else fails, I'd paint the pipe with water (a paint brush ) just enough to get it to drip. Wet the knock out, wet the hub, the pipe threads( In steps ) Mind you, just enough to make A drip,( not 10 ) after all, there is electricity inside. Wet things become live things. A flashlight and a peek is all it takes.

I do get nervous when a home owner is removing their own meter as there is no way to shut it off. BE SURE that the main is OFF because if there's a load on it you'll be holding a knife switch.

I hope others chime in on my insane idea of wetting a fitting.

I'm not talking about dumping water on it or grabbing the hose! I guess a safer way would be to use non-conductive contact cleaner, but it evaporates mighty quick. Mind you, there are conductive and non-conductive cleaners out there.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 10:33 AM
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Hmmmm

I looked at the picture again, and again, to me it looks like a compression connector, and I could be very wrong, yet it looks like a threaded hub on the bottom.....and a 1/2" knock out on the top of a meter socket?

Is it just me or is it mounted up side down?
 
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Old 03-30-13, 10:45 AM
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Upside down......very possible. Normally the 1/2" KO is used at the bottom for ground connection if needed. I guess the cover can go on either direction as it looks correct now.

Compression fitting...... don't think so.....looks like the same fitting top and bottom.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 10:48 AM
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wanna bet a nickel its a compression connector? lol

 
  #27  
Old 03-30-13, 04:06 PM
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Tolyn Ironhand: I did put duct seal inside the LB as you suggested.

CasualJoe: It is old stuff - at least 30 years since the current owners bought the house

PJmax: I thought about it being upside down but I don't see enough of them to be sure. The duct seal didn't seem to take very well on the top. I thought about using silicone - what are your thoughts?

PMReefcrazed: The sockets are the same on top and bottom - both threaded.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 04:09 PM
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The duct seal didn't seem to take very well on the top. I thought about using silicone - what are your thoughts?
I would use silicone, and I'd run a bead around the outside of that 1/2" KO while I was at it.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 05:08 PM
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Definitely go with the silicone. The putty isn't cutting it.
 
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Old 03-31-13, 07:02 AM
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CasualJoe: It is old stuff - at least 30 years since the current owners bought the house
Before I wasted much time stressing over the obvious leak, I'd rather start looking at the panel and it's condition since we know the service is 30 plus years old (maybe closer to 40-50). It's highly likely the entire service just needs to be replaced and that would solve everything.
 
  #31  
Old 03-31-13, 11:06 AM
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That's a good suggestion. The owners did have the panel replaced from the original fuses to a 100 amp square D breaker box. I don't know when but it's been a few years from what I remember.

I'll get on the silicone and we'll see what happens.
 
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