Water in your electrical panel?- Not good!
We all know that if we stick our finger in an electrical outlet and put our toe into a wet spot then the electricity will “reach out and touch someone” Suddenly! So the idea that water and electricity don’t mix is not a new concept. However, as we inspect homes in Middle Georgia we often find places where water is impacting the electrical systems.
Almost all homes built in the last few years have a main disconnect box located at the outside near the electrical panel. This box normally contains the main circuit breaker which will turn off all the power in the house at one time. Many other homes have an exterior electrical panel where many or all of the circuit breakers are located rather than installed inside the home. These are all called weatherproof panels as they are supposed to prevent water entry into the box. Supposed to……..
A while back I was inspecting a really pretty home in Forsyth which had an exterior panel. Part of our inspection includes opening the covers on panels so we can see the actual wires and connections (please do not do this yourself!). When we opened this weatherproof panel we saw an alarming condition. The circuit breakers were coated with a white corrosive residue and the actual connections were covered with rust and corrosion. Obviously, water was entering the panel and washing over the circuit breakers.
Breakers are spring-loaded and designed to suddenly turn themselves off when too much electricity tries to pass through them. If the breaker is corroded, then the spring and the movable parts will tend to gum up sometimes making it impossible for the breaker to turn off. When we see this condition, we call for an electrician to replace the corroded breakers and that the panel is re-sealed to protect against water entry. Usually, the water enters around the top or the side of the panel where wiring is connected to the panel. These entry points can be re-sealed by a homeowner with a high-grade silicone sealant applied to the OUTSIDE of the panel to close any cracks or gaps. Sometimes a panel is located below the draining edge of the roofline and heavy amounts of rainwater will drain onto the panel. This is asking for trouble. Even the best quality of the weatherproof box will leak when repeatedly drenched. If you have an area like this then install a gutter or diverter at the eave over the panel.
Ned Dominick has been inspecting homes in Macon, Warner Robins, Bonaire, and all of Middle Georgia since 1978. He and his team of qualified inspectors have examined over 30,000 local homes. For more go to his website at www.housetalk.net or give him a call at 478-738-0893.