Water inside breaker box - safety concern?


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Old 06-27-02, 10:01 PM
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Lightbulb Water inside breaker box - safety concern?

tonite we had some heavy duty thunderstorms with driving rain. i was in the basement and i noticed some water dripping from the corner of the breaker box. upon further inspection, i saw that there was also water between the breaker switches...

what i think might have happened is that the driving rain compromised the electric meter box on the outside of the house and ran down through the main trunk line (the big thick 2"diameter gray insulated wire leading into the house and then right into the middle of the top of the breaker box on the inside) like a drainpipe.

i called pse&g (public service electric and gas, for those outside NJ) and they told me that it was not a hazard. they also had their hands full with lots of storm related outages throughout the state so maybe my call didn't fall into their urgent category...

is this really not a hazard? my gut tells me that water in or near the breaker/electrical system is not a good thing but pseg assured me that this was not a hazard and the customer service rep said that all the calls were recorded i doubt they'd go out on a limb and make a diagnosis like that if they weren't totally confident in it.

the water was dripping only once about 30 seconds and then later after the rain let up, about once every 3 minutes so eventually it'll dry up. what about next time? is this something i need to worry about everytime it rains now?

anyone ever hear of this or experience it first hand? hazard? not a hazard?

thanks in advance - sorry if this is too detailed or longwinded. if you've gotten this far, that too is appreciated.

regards

austinpm1
 
  #2  
Old 06-27-02, 10:11 PM
Wgoodrich
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Weatherproof panels and meters and boxes are so designed the if water enters the boxes in a driving rain that the water will drain out of a weep hole in the bottom of those boxes. Leave the panel alone and in about a day the moisture will dissipate.

Once the panel boxes dry out you need to look for a place for leakage. If you have a cable entering your meter base outside the entry is a rubber sealed clamp this is a likely place that may have dried out the seal and needs to be resealed with silicone caulking. Also if your cable enters the wall going to your panel at an angle that will invite water to follow the surface of that cable then this is another good place to suspect again sealing with silicone caulking.

You also should look at the wires on your riser where the utility company connects to your wires. Make sure those wire are bent in a "U" shape so water will drip off those wires rather than follow the surface of those wires into the cable or conduit.

Let us know what you find.

Wg
 
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Old 06-28-02, 08:47 AM
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thanks for the info. i've got the electric co. looking into it today.

in the meantime, is it a safety hazard?

austinpm1
 
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Old 06-28-02, 09:28 AM
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If you keep you and your family away from the box until after the power company looks at it, you should be okay.
 
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Old 06-28-02, 10:44 AM
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it's probably dry by now. but if it were to rain again, say while i'm away for the day, could it pose a fire risk?
 
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Old 06-28-02, 11:35 AM
Nickkkkkkkk
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I ran into that problem too when I lived up North and had an electric panel in the basement. I found that the old, grey service entrance cable's insulation actually acted like a hose and water dripped slowly onto the breakers and the center bus of the electric panel whenever there was a hard rain. I would say it is a hazard. You shouldn't have water dripping in your panel like that if it is raining outside. What I did to fix it was to replace the cable that goes from the bottom half of the meter into the electric panel. And then I sealed around any possible areas that water could be leaking into the insulation or, any areas where it may have travelled down the outside of the insulation. That solved my problem.
 
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Old 06-28-02, 11:58 AM
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sounds just like my problem. i think its the meter box on the outside that's been breached by rain and acting like a funnel to the gray wire (or hose in this case). if the meter is leaky, its the electric co's problem.

i'm certainly not going to try that repair myself (i'd fry my ass dead going near that huge charged cable...)

in the meantime, would the rain pose a fire risk?

austinpm1
 
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Old 06-28-02, 12:02 PM
Wgoodrich
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Water and electricity do not mix well. Yes there is a hazard. But hte best method of handling the situation is to stay away from it and monitor for smoke etc. until it dries up. ONce it has dried up then look for the reason the water entered the system. There are times that a driving rain is so hard that the rain can rebound off the structure surface and enter through the slot where the panel face joins the meter box. This is a fluke condition that seldom happens but can at times. This is also why the weep holes are required for rain tight enclosures.

Often times the places I mentioned ot check are the culprit as to why the water entered the system. Find the reason why water entered the system after all dries back out. Then correct that cause.

Don't mess with a wet service system that is energized. Let nature dry it out and be aware of the system monitering that panel to ensure nothing shorts as it dries out. If you are concerned about it and don't want to wait for it to dry out a a day or two then have the power company cut your power off you house until the problem has been resolved. Otherwise wait for it to dry and look for and correct the cause of water entering you service system.

Wg
 
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Old 06-28-02, 12:32 PM
Nickkkkkkkk
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I think I would say it is more of a shock hazard than a fire hazard because current can travel through water and energize metal parts (panel frame, panel cover, etc.) that would not normally be energized. And who knows how much water may drip in? So I agree - don't touch anything. On the other hand, something could spark or arc and then you may have a fair possibility that a fire could start. So it could also be a fire hazard.
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I think if you are not going to attempt the repair - and it sounds like you don't want to - I would consult a properly licensed electrical contractor to look at it as soon as possible. Sometimes the power companies are only responsible for the meter itself, and not the meter socket. But I don't know how it works in your area. Every area is different.
 
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Old 07-10-02, 09:44 AM
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pse&g came by the next day and sealed up the meter, inside and out. hopefully that'll do the trick. they said that if it occurs again, i need to call an electrician since they feel it would not be due to their equipment that they just repaired by sealing...

we'll see. we haven't had any real rain since that night anyway...

thanks to all for all the suggestions and advice.

austinpm1
 
 

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