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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3394
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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After a flood in my basement, my water heater kept tripping

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After a flood in my basement, my water heater kept tripping its circuit within about 20 minutes of being reset. I had a plumber come today to look at the water heater, and he told me that no water had reached it's electrical system or damaged it in any way, so I might want to take the front off of the circuit breaker panel to see if there was any sign of water inside. When I opened the circuit breaker panel, everything looked fine, but when I went to put the cover back on a few hours later, the side of the cover touched  a wire (I think it was the black "in" wire), and I heard a few pops and sizzles come from the panel. When I went upstairs, about 1/3 of the power in the house had gone out, though none of the individual circuits had tripped on the panel. Then, about an hour later all the power returned. So my question is: what happened, and what should I do now? Is there any danger (fire or otherwise) in leaving the power on? Should I turn off the power to the whole house until an electrician can come?

Hello.....my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!

 

1) Did the water level reach the main electrical panel?

 

2) Did the water level reach any other receptacles, switches and/or wiring in the basement?

 

3) Is the basement electrical installed in metal conduit or Romex cables?

 

4) Was the black wire that touched the cover, a branch circuit wire or did it come in contact with a service entrance wire?

 

5) Have you performed a visual inspection of all circuit breakers and wires inside the panel for any arcing or burn marks or melting of wire insulation?

 

6) Is the water heater circuit breaker still tripping or back to normal?

 

7) Is the house power back to normal or do you still have some circuits that have no power?

 

 

1) Your main electrical panel should have a directory, listing the branch circuits for the various areas of the house. For those areas where you lost power, I would recommend to leave those circuit breakers in the OFF position until an electrician can check everything.

 

2) It is possible that the cover came in contact with a branch circuit wire and may have shorted the circuit due to frayed insulation or direct contact with the copper wire. If so, the circuit breaker should have tripped. If you do not feel comfortable in checking the panel, I would recommend to have an electrician perform a visual inspection for any frayed wires, arc marks, burning of insulation, etc. The hot bus bar for a branch circuit breaker or breakers may have had an arcing effect. The breakers for those areas of the house should be temporarily removed and visually inspected for any arcing on the stabs of the breakers. If arcing appears on the breaker stabs, the breaker or breakers should be replaced.

 

3) If the water came in contact with any receptacles, wall switches or Romex cables, these will need to be de-installed and replaced. If the water came in contact with Romex cables, the Romex will also need to be de-installed as Romex is not rated for wet conditions. Romex cables also have a paper inside the white or yellow Romex. If water reached inside any Romex cables, this creates a "wicking" effect where the paper will absorb moisture or water.

 

 

 

Hope this helps………If you have any additional questions, let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

 

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

 

 

The next time you have an electrical question, you can also request for me at:http://www.justanswer.com/home-improvement/expert-your-electrician……….Thanks…………..Kevin!

 

 

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi, Thanks for responding.


 


To answer your questions:


 


1) Did the water level reach the main electrical panel?


 



  • No, the it may be possible that water dripped onto the panel, though this would have been a few days ago, at least.


 


2) Did the water level reach any other receptacles, switches and/or wiring in the basement?


 



  • It may have reached a plugged-in surge protector on the floor, but otherwise, no.


 


3) Is the basement electrical installed in metal conduit or Romex cables?


 



  • I think Romex. There are some metal conduits, but I don't think they're live.


 


4) Was the black wire that touched the cover, a branch circuit wire or did it come in contact with a service entrance wire?


 



  • Not 100% sure, but I think it was the service entrance wire.


 


5) Have you performed a visual inspection of all circuit breakers and wires inside the panel for any arcing or burn marks or melting of wire insulation?


 



  • Yes, no burns or melting that I could see.


 


6) Is the water heater circuit breaker still tripping or back to normal?


 



  • The water heater is now working fine. It started working fine after I removed the front of the panel cae.


 


7) Is the house power back to normal or do you still have some circuits that have no power?


 


Everything is currently back to normal.


 


My main concern is for any possible fire hazard. I'd rather not mess with the box until I can get an electrician to look at it, but if there's a good chance that it could cause a fire (even though everything is working normally now) I'd like to know if switching off the main will help...


 


 

1) Thank you for your replies.

 

2) I would recommend to have an electrician check the main panel and all of the breakers since you mention it was possible that some water may have dripped inside. If water did reach anything, over time, corrosion will start.

 

3) My only concern for any immediate safety hazard would be those areas of the house that lost power. You should be OK to leave the main breaker ON, but I would recommend to leave the breakers for those areas of the house that lost power in the OFF position until an electrician can check everything out.

 

4) If water reached the surge protector, I would recommend to replace it. Over time, corrosion may start within the surge electronic components.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Okay Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX helps.


 


My only remaining question is in regards to #3. The breakers for the areas of the house that lost power never went off, and the labels in the box are not accurate at all, so I wouldn't really know which ones to turn off. Is your concern that there could be a short or overheating in the panel on these switches? Or is it that something could happen in the walls/outlets upstairs that were affected? In either case, the only way for me to turn off power to the affected areas would be to switch off the main.


 


There's no heat coming from the panel, and it seems totally dry now, so I'd rather not touch anything if I can avoid it....

1) My thoughts are that since 1/3 of the house lost power, it is likely that something occurred on the branch circuit breaker or breakers when the cover of the panel was replaced. I would be more concerned about a possible loose branch circuit hot wire, pinched wire or loose breaker at the panel than I would be for the immediate upstairs areas.

 

2) If the panel directory is not accurate, it will be a matter of turning OFF each branch circuit breaker in order to locate them for the upstairs area. The directory should be re-labeled for accuracy.

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