It Wasn't the GFCI

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
I had a call from a customer saying some of his lights and receptacles were not working. He said he was washing out his garage from renters that kept dogs in there. He said he sprayed the walls, floor, ceiling, basically everything. I told him he most likely tripped a GFCI circuit and told him to look for either a receptacle or breaker that was a GFCI. He said he didn't find any tripped, breaker or receptacle. I explained how to reset them but that didn't help. So I went to check it out.

When I get there I see he has a 400A service with (2) 200A panels in the basement. I opened the panels and luckily they were labeled pretty good. I found the panel that contained the circuit(s) that he said wasn't working. Since he listed so many things that wasn't working I thought it better to see if all the breakers were set and working. What I found was none of the breakers had power. I checked the service wires on the line side and had power there but nothing on the load side. The main didn't look like it was tripped but I decided to exercise it anyway. I could not turn it all the way off. I noticed it had moisture coming from the inside around the handle. I finally turned it all the way to the on position and it held and powered the bus.

Obviously the breaker is defective since I couldn't turn it off and was very hard to turn it on. My question is could it have been the water in the circuits that caused the main to trip? Apparently he had washed down the basement too because it looked like it had been, plus the water I saw coming out of the main. Could direct spray into the panel trip the main? Even though I'm not sure it was tripped since it didn't look like it.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
I didn't see much evidence inside the panel other than the water coming from the main's handle. This is a General Switch brand and most likely be a panel replacement if it fails again. I told the customer that but it is a rental and he's not keen on spending money.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
You are going to wait for it to fail again before recommending replacement?
Not my choice. I explained to the customer that it needed replacing but as I said in another post, it is a rental and he's not excited about spending much on a repair. I didn't even mention about trying to find a replacement breaker, I just told him it would require a panel replacement.
 

MTW

Senior Member
Location
SE Michigan
I didn't see much evidence inside the panel other than the water coming from the main's handle. This is a General Switch brand and most likely be a panel replacement if it fails again. I told the customer that but it is a rental and he's not keen on spending money.
My guess would be that he washed the exterior as well, and the water entered the mains from the SE cable or conduit, and followed the wiring, directly into the main. I have seen it happen before.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Moisture alone probably isn't the problem. That breaker likely has debris inside as well that is jamming up moving components.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
I just talked to the customer to check on the breaker problem. He said he didn't spray any water in the room/area where the panels are. Also didn't spray outside at all, so nothing around the meter. I can only guess that something got shorted somewhere else from being sprayed and the main tripped instead of a circuit breaker.
But I did see moisture coming out around the handle.
 
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