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Contaminated panels


Chris Bernhardt
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NEC 110.12 © states "Internal parts of electrical equipment ... shall not be ... comtaminated by foreign materials..." now this might be a dumb question but it seams to me that smoke comtamination from a fire, in this case in the garage, would be comtamination from a foreign material. What should an inspector recommend?

A) Beat the electician to the punch and recommend panel replacement.

B)Recommend licensed electrician to evaluate panel and determine course of corrective action.

C)Neither one - some other statement.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

NEC 110.12 © states "Internal parts of electrical equipment ... shall not be ... comtaminated by foreign materials..." now this might be a dumb question but it seams to me that smoke comtamination from a fire, in this case in the garage, would be comtamination from a foreign material. What should an inspector recommend?

A) Beat the electician to the punch and recommend panel replacement.

B)Recommend licensed electrician to evaluate panel and determine course of corrective action.

C)Neither one - some other statement.

Chris, Oregon

The section that you quoted goes on to give examples of foreign materials ". . . such as pain, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues."

I suppose that smoke contamination could be considered to be a corrosive residue, depending on what's in it, but I'd think it'd be a pretty far-fetched call.

I just don't see smoke residue being in the same class as the examples given in that code section.

Unless I saw that the panel had mechanical damage from the fire, I think I'd say nothing.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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What Jim said, of course, except I wish pain were a foreign material. I believe the intent of the reg is to maintain safety and integrity of all components. Green paint on a hot conductor is bad, for example. Cleansers & other chemicals may degrade the insulation or conductor. I would not call out, say, the shiny lubricant used to pull a tight bundle. Heaven forbid an elderly person get out a rag and try to clean it up!

Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

NEC 110.12 © states "Internal parts of electrical equipment ... shall not be ... comtaminated by foreign materials..." now this might be a dumb question but it seams to me that smoke comtamination from a fire, in this case in the garage, would be comtamination from a foreign material. What should an inspector recommend?

A) Beat the electician to the punch and recommend panel replacement.

B)Recommend licensed electrician to evaluate panel and determine course of corrective action.

C)Neither one - some other statement.

Chris, Oregon

The section that you quoted goes on to give examples of foreign materials ". . . such as pain, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues."

I suppose that smoke contamination could be considered to be a corrosive residue, depending on what's in it, but I'd think it'd be a pretty far-fetched call.

I just don't see smoke residue being in the same class as the examples given in that code section.

Unless I saw that the panel had mechanical damage from the fire, I think I'd say nothing.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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  • 2 months later...

Found a panel coated with texture. What do you recommend advising the client to do? Replace it? punt to an electrician to make the call?

I don't really see this to be a problem as long as the busses weren't exposed or texture shot on to a bunch of open terminals.

I know its not right but is this really as much of a threat as say having an FPE panel?

I can advise the client on the risks of poor contact if the texture happened to make it between a contact. He might then ask how can it be proved that there is no such contamination? I of course couldn't answer that with out pulling breakers etc. and performing a visual which is illegal for me to do.

I guess rationalizing it maybe the best thing is to punt. What do you think?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Found a panel coated with texture. What do you recommend advising the client to do? Replace it? punt to an electrician to make the call?

I don't really see this to be a problem as long as the busses weren't exposed or texture shot on to a bunch of open terminals.

I know its not right but is this really as much of a threat as say having an FPE panel?

I can advise the client on the risks of poor contact if the texture happened to make it between a contact. He might then ask how can it be proved that there is no such contamination? I of course couldn't answer that with out pulling breakers etc. and performing a visual which is illegal for me to do.

I guess rationalizing it maybe the best thing is to punt. What do you think?

Chris, Oregon

If it's not on the busbars, I don't believe it's a threat at all and I wouldn't even mention it in a report.

If it's on the busbars, I think it'd be fine to have an electrician clean them using nothing but water and a soft sponge or cloth. (If he's willing to do it.)

If you can't tell whether or not it's on the busbars, you really have not choice but to call for an electrician to pull the breakers and ensure that the busbars are clean.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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