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Why is water running out of my electrical panel?

     In the following picture we can see the electrical service to a home.  The large grey box marked “A” is a utility company junction box.  The utility company wires run underground to this box, where power is then distributed to panels “B” and “C.”  This set up is common in residences with large electrical services and are considered “double 200 amp” services or “400 amp” services.  There are also “sensors” in this box that send signals to the electric meter as to the amount of electricity being used.

Double 200 AMP electrical service

     Just outside the garage door opening one can see the electrical conduit coming out of the ground and then turning at an angle where it runs through the garage wall and into Box “A.”

     Note how rusted the bottom of box “A” is----as well as rusting on the conduit coming out of the ground.

     What had happened with this electrical service is that the underground conduit runs up the hill away from the house (to the right in the picture).  At the high end of the conduit, away from the house, the pipe had been taking in ground-water and filling up to that corresponding level “inside” the conduit where it runs into the garage and inside Box “A’ itself.  This next picture shows previous water levels inside the pipe and box as indicated by rusting.

Past water levels inside panel and conduit

     These Utility Company Junction boxes should not be accessible by the property owner and should have utility company “seals” at the corners for safety.  This panel had no seals and the rust showing the high-water line inside the box was pretty spectacular-----high enough to cover electrical components within the panel.

Rusting inside the electrical panel

     If you have a panel configuration that looks like this in your home (not very common by the way) and it does not have any Utility Company seals on it, you should call the utility to come and install seals on it for improved safety.  The next picture shows what those seals look like----the two orange doohickeys at the top corners of Panel “A.”

Utility Company Panel Seals

 

     What was especially curious about this panel is that someone knew about the flooding and had drilled six small holes in the cover of the conduit elbow so that water would run out at a lower level----preventing wate from running into Box “A.” 

Rusting of the conduit Drain holes drilled in cover plate

     While this “repair” was likely very effective as a “temporary” fix, repairs are warranted to keep water out of the conduit all together as these small holes will, over time, rust shut or clog with debris----and the indoor panel might flood again.

 

     It is pretty much always a good idea to keep electricity and water from getting together.

 

 

Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector

 

 

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Seattle Home Inspector

 

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Comment balloon 25 commentsCharles Buell • September 19 2010 11:27AM

Comments

wow, that is dangerous... I do an inspoection on my house every 3 years, I want to make sure that things are good....

Posted by Ken's Home Team LLC. | 360.609.0226 | Portland, OR & Vancouver, WA Real Estate Team, - SOLD IS OUR FAVORITE 4 LETTER WORD - (Ken's Home Team LLC.) almost 9 years ago

Oh my.  I couldn't stop laughing at this title.  I know next to nothing about electrical panels.  But, I do know water and electricity don't mix - or at least not very well.  Good detective work.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 9 years ago

That is un-good.  Don't stand in any puddles!

Posted by Stefan West, Temecula-Murrieta-Menifee CA Real Estate (West Realty) almost 9 years ago

One wonders about installations and inspections. I wonder about the underground conduit. I my experience, it is only wire once away from the elbow at the garage wall. How did the water build up a head to rise in the drop pipe?

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) almost 9 years ago

Ken, you are an inspector's dream :)

Debbie, the notion of putting electricity and water together gets most people----even if they know very little about the subject

Stefan, yup

Glenn, yes---in this case it has to stay in conduit until it gets to the other side of the driveway.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Charles - That looks like a potentially dangerous problem that wasn't properly addressed when installed.  And the fix won't be cheap--better to do it now, however than to wait for a "flood of problems."

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 9 years ago

John, true.  Given that it has been this way since 1970----I have to wonder if the little holes to drain the water might already be clogged.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Incredible!  And especially incredible to know that someone drilled holes to eliminate the water!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Water and electricity have NEVER been able to be in bed together. A marriage NOT made in heaven.

Posted by Robert L. Brown, Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic (www.mrbrownsellsgr.com) almost 9 years ago

Jay, I thought you might appreciate this---something Billy J would do :)

Robert, they make for very exciting bed partners :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Drain Yer DC!  Don't tell him...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

In this case AC :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

This one is truly scary! I'm surprised nothing ever shorted out ... or worse!

Posted by Gabrielle Nemes, 206.300.8421, S King & Pierce County RE Advocate (RE/MAX Realty South) almost 9 years ago

Gabrielle, with this kind of flooding "corrosion" is more likely than "shorting out."  Corrosion is actually the biggest problem with most water and electricity problems.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Absolutely shocking !

Posted by Jeffrey Jonas- Minnesota Home Inspector (Critical Eye Property Inspections / JRJ Consultants) almost 9 years ago

Aha ... Thanks for straightening me out. I continually learn a lot from all of you inspectors. Thanks for the education!!

Posted by Gabrielle Nemes, 206.300.8421, S King & Pierce County RE Advocate (RE/MAX Realty South) almost 9 years ago

I know, but AC didn't fit the template...  Again, don't tell him!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jeffrey, yup

Gabrielle, just here to help

Jay, no problem---he will never know the difference

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

That is obviously an electric panel water feature. The holes are there to provide for a water fall effect.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jim, of course you are right.  Wouldn't you give anything to see water squirting out of those holes?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

That is more than a little sobering!!!! EEEK  is all I can say!!!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) almost 9 years ago

Wow, that's a very unusual situation.  I hope the person that drilled those holes was damn careful.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Barbara-Jo, "EEEK" is good :)

Reuben, it is certainly up there with some of the crazier things I have seen.  Hopefully they took the cover off before they drilled it :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

A thought - why not bury those grounding probes and connect it just below the holes. As and when there's water, and it touches electricity there would be sparks flying which in turn will get grounded and what a great happy ending to all!

Posted by Bob almost 8 years ago

Bob, unfortunately most water in this situation would not likely be conducive and everything would just keep operating normally.  It is the corrosive affects of water on electrical connections that is the big problem.  Of course if the water gets dirty enough to be conductive then all bets are off :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

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