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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line

Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line

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Old 02-02-14, 10:42 AM
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line

Hi all,

Though I'm not planning to remedy this hazard myself, I'm hoping that you can help guide me... I live in a 60 year old home in Metro-Detroit. I'm not electrically savvy and have run into a situation this weekend that's stressing me out quite a bit.

During a rainfall yesterday (a Saturday evening,), I noticed water dripping from the rear left corner of my circuit breaker box. Through Web searches, I know this must be addressed immediately and learned that one of the most common causes of this problem is through water getting into frays/cracks of the primary service line entering the home. Upon inspecting the service line of my home, I see that it's pretty frayed right where a section of my gutter is overpoaring from the rain and all the snow melting off my roof hit that service line (here in Metro-Detroit, Michigan, we are now officially at the most snow in a January in recorded history).

The water stopped dripping yesterday after the rain stopped.

The electrician company I've worked with in the past and want to call out again for this (excellent reviews on Angie's list and is repeatedly referred to as being fair priced) doesn't have weekend/emergency service. I cannot find anyone in my area that both has good reviews and offers weekend/emergency service. So I need to wait until they open Monday morning to arrange for a service call. It's noon-ish Sunday as I write this.

Waiting is making me a little antsy. And since I need this taken care of asap, I can't wait to get several estimates, and the company I have worked with does seem fairly priced so I'd like to try to go with them if all seems legit. I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts so that I can be a little more enlightened in preparation for the service call...

This week in my area, our highs of the day are predicted to be in the 20s and most days should be dry. Assuming that the problem is indeed the service line, can/do electricians work on service lines in those temperatures? Is it possible that an electrician may find that wrapping the frayed areas (there are a few, the one I mentioned is quite noticable now that I see it) as a temporary solution until warmer weather or he has the time? Is it possible/likely that he may need to wait to pull a permit before he can do this?

The interior of my circuit breaker box (i.e. all circuits), appear fine. No water, no corrosion. I've had no situations where a circuit has blown for no known reason. My electrical service seems fine. However, f taking a careful look at the exterior underside of my circuit breaker box, there is a little rust. Not bad, but it's there. The 2' partial wall that my circuit breaker box is on adjoins my laundry room and my furnace room (the direction my circuit breaker box is at). In the past, (going on for at leat a year), I've noticed a LITTLE water, moisture is more like it, that dries quickly, on the floor, against the laundry room side of the wall. I had thought it was an very slightly drippy shutoff valve from a cold line that goes up above where I saw the moisture, and my plumber did too when he was out here this week. But now, I don't think so.

Since I work from home, have two senior pets, have electric heat and have recently dealt with frozen pipes and want to keep the temperature of the house warm still (insulating them in the vicinity of my circuit breaker box while it was raining outside is what lead to my spotting the dripping), makes it especially inconvenient to shut my main circuit down until I can get my electrician out here. Since it's not dripping now with dry weather predicted for a couple days, I'm hoping it's ok for me to not shutoff my main circuit breaker. Thoughts? Am I being stupid?

Under the assumption that this has been going on for awhile and I haven't had problems YET, is it likely that my electrical service will be ok until Monday? Are you familiar with anyone else that has had this problem and not discovered it for quite awhile and been ok? I have every desire to have this fixed as quickly as possible and would have even gotten someone out here today and paid a premium if I could have found someone reputable. Here in Metro-Detroit, we've had both significant cold and snowfall, so I'm not sure how quickly I can get my preferred electrician (and I have a backup of a couple other recommendations) out here. I am guessing that if they can't get out here immediately, they'll probably just tell me to shut off my power until they get here and I know that's the safest, but am reluctant for the reasons mentioned upon.

I have Detroit Edison electric service. I've always thought this strange: my meter is located on the side of my house, and the service line goes from it, up high along the side of my house to along the back of my house and then down into my basement. In other words, my service line is long. I'm not sure why my meter wasn't put in the rear of my house, but I don't mind not having to look at it all the darn time (it's on the opposite side of my house from where my driveway is, so I never have to look at it). I'm mentioning this in case someone has a suggestion/precaution about this setup - I'm all ears.

Summary of My Questions:
* Assuming that the problem is indeed the service line, can/do electricians work on service lines in 20degreeF temperatures?
* Is it possible that an electrician may find that wrapping the frayed areas (there are a few, the one I mentioned is quite noticable now that I see it) as a temporary solution until warmer weather or he has the time?
* Is it possible/likely that he may need to wait to pull a permit before he can do this?
* Under the assumption that this has been going on for awhile and I haven't had problems YET, is it likely that my electrical service will be ok until Monday? Since it's not dripping now with dry weather predicted for a couple days, I'm hoping it's ok for me to not shutoff my main circuit breaker due to my circumstances. Thoughts? Am I being stupid?

Thank you so much for any input that you can share. Much appreciated.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 11:55 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

You should be ok until Monday. If there was water dripping from the electrical panel then the electrician must open the panel and determine where the water is/was coming from. It may be following the incoming service cable. Without pics it's hard to tell.

The electrician must remove several breakers to see if water was running down behind them.
Most electricians will open the meter pan if the problem is determined to be originating there without the assistance of the power company.

The electrician can replace the cable in the cold. Without seeing the cable I'm not sure how effective wrapping it would be.

For an electrician.... pulling a permit is a simple thing..... not a road block. In this case.... since it's strictly an emergency repair.... a permit may not be needed.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 12:31 PM
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If the service comes through the roof before coming down the side of the house, examine the roof boot's rubber seal.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 12:49 PM
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my meter is located on the side of my house, and the service line goes from it, up high along the side of my house to along the back of my house and then down into my basement. In other words, my service line is long. I'm not sure why my meter wasn't put in the rear of my house,
Every power company has their own set of service rules and location of the meter socket is usually included in those rules. Evidently, the socket was located where the power company said it had to go and had nothing to do with the physical layout of your house or your convenience.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 01:00 PM
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then down into my basement.
mmm, wasn't thinking straight on my first comment and didn't read the whole thing or catch this first time around... but i've often seen a detail missed where the conduit comes through a masonry wall. If the water isn't coming "down the conduit" it could also be that water is coming in "around the conduit" through the wall penetration.

There is a big difference between water being INSIDE the breaker box (water coming from the conduit) and water dripping from the back side or bottom of the breaker box (which is more likely from the wall penetration)
 
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Old 02-02-14, 01:46 PM
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Thank you everyone for your quick and helpful responses. This helps to ease my mind about having to wait until tomorrow (Monday) to get someone out here, depending on their availability. ::crossing fingers::

If something "bad" does happen in the meantime, what is the likely scenario? Will it be that one or more circuits shut down or that the main circuit (If I am using proper terminology here) suddenly shuts down? Something far worse? If I find any circuits shutting off today, I plan to immediately shut my main breaker down until I get someone out here, but I hope it doesn't come to that.

@XSleeper, I suspect that the water is coming through the actual service line (also known as conduit?) because I hear this is a common problem, that I actually saw rainwater dripping continously onto what I discovered is a frayed portion of my service wire and because I have felt everywhere on my walls near the circuit box and feel absolutely no moisture. Of course, I can't get directly behind the circuit box, but I took papertowel and repeatedly slid it behind the circuit box and checked to see if it then felt damp. It continually remained dry.

Visually, my only evidence of a problem was the dripping from the bottom rear left corner of the box when it was raining yesterday (it's still dry now) and that that the underside of the box has very slight rust accumulation where I saw the dripping. Very little rust, but it's there to indicate that this isn't the first time this has happened, only that it's the first time I've realized it.

Thanks again for all your input.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 02:15 PM
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I suspect that the water is coming through the actual service line (also known as conduit?) because I hear this is a common problem, that I actually saw rainwater dripping continously onto what I discovered is a frayed portion of my service wire and because I have felt everywhere on my walls near the circuit box and feel absolutely no moisture.
"Conduit" is the plastic or metal pipe that electrical conductors are pulled through. With a conduit installation, cable isn't used - typically - and the conductors or cable are not exposed, visible, nor subject to damage.

You don't have conduit for your meter-to-panel feed.. You have cable. That's what you can see and what has become damaged. That's what will need to be repaired or replaced.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 03:54 PM
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I actually saw rainwater dripping continously onto what I discovered is a frayed portion of my service wire
I also understood the "frayed portion of my service wire" to mean service cable.
 
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Old 02-02-14, 05:53 PM
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Water and electricity is usually a bad combination ! Having said that , if you have rain water , pure water is not HIGHLY conductive .

And it does not dissolve any impurities / contaminants which make the rain water more conductive .

If you have an air compressor , Very Carefully & wearing rubber or GOOD , dry leather gloves , and face / eye protection , you could try blowing any water out of the loadcenter .

Around here , service entrance cable is not run exposed . Certainly not exposed on the outside of the building .

It may be run concealed in the attic , if protected adequately by fuses or circuit breaker at its point of origin .

But , if outside the building , it would be in conduit .

But your local code / practices may be different .

But you are on the right track . Get it fixed , soon . And properly .

God bless
Wyr
 
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