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Old 02-02-2014, 12:23 PM   #1
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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 02-02-2014, 12:57 PM   #2
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


I would think you will be fine till you can get someone out to fix the cause of water getting into your breaker panel. There is no way I or anyone can guarantee you won't have a problem but based strictly on your description of the breaker panel and no corrosion or rust apparent I wouldn't be too concerned as long as the moisture has stopped entering the breaker panel. It is a high priority to get this taken care of as soon as you can.

Yes .. sorry to say but we do work on this stuff in very cold weather but when my fingers stop working my rates go up ...

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Old 02-02-2014, 03:48 PM   #3
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


Thanks very much for responding, Stubbie. That helps ease my mind a lot, especially since I can't get anyone out here today.

If something "bad" does happen in the meantime, what is the likely scenario? I realize that there's no guarantees, but wondering if you know what usually happens in a situation like this? 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. Thanks again.
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Old 02-02-2014, 05:48 PM   #4
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


If there isn't any water entering your panel nothing is likely to happen. If you had corrosion and I mean bad enough to the point you were seeing some arcing from poor connections then you would be far worse off. As it appears from your description your panel shows only a small problem in that regard. Maybe take a picture with the cover off and post it here but be sure your ok with doing that.

I'd just leave it be until an electrician can find the cause of the water intrusion in a few days. A picture would help with any advice you get on this forum.
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:53 PM   #5
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


Thanks for suggesting that I share photos. The area where my circuit box is not well lit, and sure enough, the brightness of the flash is showing corrosion at the edge of the breakers that I did not spot before (so sorry, this is all new to me). In the one photo that shows the the lower portion of the breakers (not the actual underside), I can see an opening that has a rusty spot deep inside. I'm preparing myself for the possibility of needing an entirely new breaker box. I realize that it's impossible to say much without looking behind the breakers, but I'd be grateful for your impressions of these photos. You have been a big help, thanks a bunch.
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:00 PM   #6
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


I'm not seeing anything that scares me in the photos but of course it's what is going on behind the panel cover that matters. If the water has stopped entering the panel IMO you will be fine till an electrician can get a closer look.
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Old 02-03-2014, 04:50 PM   #7
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Water Dripping From Circuit Breaker Box/Frayed Service Line


Thanks again for taking the time to share your expertise on my situation, Stubbie. My electrician was able to make it here by noon today. Upon opening up the inside of my circuit breaker box, we could see a great deal of rust on the bottom and he noticed corrosion in a couple spots that concerned him. He explained that the way the water was dripping was fortunate in that the water was dripping away from anything (sorry for my poor terminology). He explained in layman's terms that the corrosion wasn't horrific, but that it is concerning and it would be best to replace the entire box. And that will ease my mind even if technically it's not entirely necessary.

Before he arrived, water was again dripping from the circuit breaker box in the same spot. It was sunny today and was melting snow off my roof. The melted snow, in turn, was dripping from a leak in a seam from my gutter (darn, they're only a couple years old) right onto the big fray in my service line that I mentioned yesterday. He inspected everything and agreed that was the likely source of the water. My service line is rather long, he was able to unclamp it from the house in that area to get it away from the source of the drip and then taped the frayed areas - for now. I'm not seeing any further water since that.

He is confident that that was the source of the water entry and assured me that my service will be fine until they can return for my scheduled appointment next week to replace the box, service line and meter. He suggested some changes/moves that I really like, and knowing that a couple issues will be brought up to new codes makes this a blessing in disguise that it was caught now.

Thanks again for your feedback, Stubbie.

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