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Rust on breaker terminals


Chris Bernhardt
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I guess I can always write these up for an electrician to evaluate and determine the course of action but I was curious since the NEC says that you can't use a cleaner or do anything that might cause damage and there is the potential here for things I can't see and possibly future contact problems. Shouldn't one just replace the breakers to clear all doubt?

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Chris, Oregon

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I certainly didn't mean to imply that someone other than a qualifed electrician work on the panel. But not all electicians just because they are licensed are qualified to evaluate stuff. I have certainly talked to my share who didn't apparently know the NEC very well. I can't imagine why it would be reasonable to say that rust on terminals is OK. As for the moisture source, that was a mystery. I couldn't see how the moisture had got there. The panel was down in a finished basement and the rust was only on one side of the panel mainly being right on the breakers.

Chris, Oregon

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As for the moisture source, that was a mystery. I couldn't see how the moisture had got there. The panel was down in a finished basement and the rust was only on one side of the panel mainly being right on the breakers.

I find that condition frequently. It's usually from water entering the meter base. The SEC acts like a drain house from the bottom of the meter base into the service equipment panel, often dripping down the breakers on one side.

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

I find that condition frequently. It's usually from water entering the meter base. The SEC acts like a drain house from the bottom of the meter base into the service equipment panel, often dripping down the breakers on one side.

Yep. I have that same condition on my own panel. Drives me crazy!

I have an underground feed. One of the two cables 'wicks' water and sends it down one row of breakers.

I called the local utility right away when I noticed it right after original installation.

Their answer was their rolls of cable sit in the yard for long periods of time. They get wet. When the cable is energized it actually pulls water into the panel. "Shouldn't be a problem" Hmmmm.

That was 2 1/2 years ago. Just opened my panel during our recent power outage and noticed more blasted water!!!

The cable can't still be wet from its original installation. My solution now is to just stick a folded piece of paper towel to catch where the water drips right under the lug. Wonder what the utility will say about this?

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At the risk of stating the obvious, the panel has to be mounted to a wood backer or have an air space between it and the foundation wall in order to prevent condensation. As we all know, the breakers are a bit warmer than ambient air and condensation is not uncommon especially when, as perviously mentioned, the SEC is not sealed.

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it is quite possible that this panel was subject to rain or moisture during the rough in stage that caused this, I for the life of me do not understand why they would put them in during that stage but alas....i have seen some strange things.

Also they could have very well be sitting in the electricians truck for some time also and they figured...what the heck..I will use them on this job.

I agree with Jeff here in that we need to determine if this rust came from moisture getting into the panel as it stands now....as for clearance....If it is in a finished wall the 1/4 airspace you are refering too is a moot point....however if installed in a damp location and so on...most panels now come with the raised back mount points...providing the 1/4 detachement needed.

I dont see any signs of water discoloring on the panel itself....so I would venture to say they are truck stock....

Now if this panel is a Type 1 and located in a wet or damp location......it would be a violation of NEC 110.11 as it would need to be in a Dry Location and for "indoor use only"

Now using a cleaning solution on that could possibly do more damage to the plastic and working parts of the breaker.

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Found my camera.

Here's some shots of my wet electrical panel.

View of meter base configuration. Perfectly normal and dry. The eave protects it from getting wet.

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Close up of main lug. Look carefully and you'll see the little drip right at the bottom of it.

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My solution. Its brilliant!! A paper towel to soak up the water - doesn't let it drip down on to the rest of the breakers. Gotta rival Goodman's water heater drip pan for creativity!

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For those that have offered opinions as to the cause and / or solution of this water intrusion, trust me, I've addressed them all and have come to no clear solutions.

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Originally posted by randynavarro

The meter base is mounted directly behind the panel; connected with a 1 1/2" (or so) nipple. So, foaming inside the 1 1/2" nipple around the service cables?

I wouldn't use foam. Too messy. Try packing some loose fiberglass in the nipple. Use a dowel or pencil to really close up every gap. That way you can easily remove it if you need to.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I'm tracking with you now.

Yes, the window is on the same side as the leaking lug. If you're implying that the window is leaking, then not a chance. I just had the wall opened up about 1 year ago to add some circuits and the wall is dry as a bone.

I think this will be a mystery until I get the time, if ever, to do some troubleshooting and experimentation with different solutions.

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