Water Damaged Electrical Panels
In the United States, electrical systems cause about 51,000 fires every year according to according to the EFSi (Electrical Safety Foundation international). For this reason your home inspector will spend extra time looking at the various accessible and visible components of your electrical system. This includes the disconnect panels (often referred to as a breaker box or fuse panel) in the home and it is not uncommon for us to find rusted components inside the panel.
Your home inspector will also get to look in depth at areas beyond just the electrical panel to look for moisture. We will get on the roof and look at the entrance cable and the roof flashing, in the attic looking for signs of leaks around the entrance conduit and the roof, and we get to look at the plumbing system for signs of failure. The majority of electrical panels are mounted on the concrete wall in the basement which can cause condensation. As a home inspector we are trained to properly remove the cover and look at the interior components of the electrical box (please do not attempt to remove this cover unless you have been trained to do so) for signs of moisture, condensation, arcing, and overheating . As home inspectors we typically will not operate breakers in the panel or remove electrical components to look behind them.
What is the danger of a water damaged electrical panel?
Electrical components which have been damaged by water can cause many different issues. Mainly we are concerned with failing components not operating properly or causing a fire. Improperly operating electrical components can be a safety issue, for example circuit breakers may not trip when the circuit is overloaded. Rusted components could cause a fire due to arcing. For example, a simple rusted screw on a breaker may cause a poor connection between the wire and the breaker, overtime this will cause the wire and/ or breaker to overheat and could cause a fire.
What Should You Do?
If there are any signs of water damage on or near your electrical panel you should immediately call a licensed electrician and ask for advice on what to do next. The only person that should evaluate a damaged box is a licensed electrician. Even if the damage doesn't look very bad from the outside there could be parts
hidden from view that have water damage.
An electrician will first determine the source of the moisture. Depending on the source he may recommend another contractor such as a plumber, roofing contractor, or general contractor be called in to properly fix the issue. It is very important that the source of the moisture be repaired before replacing any electrical parts.
The electrician will then evaluate the damaged equipment. Depending on the extent of the damage he may recommend a complete replacement of the electrical disconnect box or just parts and pieces of the existing box.
At least once per year take some time to look around the outside of your electrical panel and look for signs of moisture. Please do not take the cover off your electrical panel unless you are trained to do so. It is very important that you have your electrical equipment inspected anytime you suspect your have water damage in your box. At least once per year take some time to look around your electrical panel and look for signs of moisture. If you do not feel comfortable looking for these signs or would like an in depth inspection of your home please call us to perform a annual maintenance inspection of you home.