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Protecting Residential Electrical Wiring from Water Damage
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Water damage will occur in most homes at some point, and virtually every home is powered by electricity. It doesn't take much of a leap to conclude that such a mix may prove dangerous to anyone living there. Once water gets into electrical systems, they are either ruined or at the very least, cannot be used again until they have been dried out and checked out by a qualified professional.
If you are facing problems from severe weather or flooding, there is a good chance that you may have to evacuate. Shut off all utilities (this includes electricity) at the source. If you have the time, move all electrically-powered items to a higher level. If your washer, dryer, or other large appliances are located in your basement or first floor, use crates or wood to elevate them as high as is safely possible.
Following any sort of water damage, reconnecting the power may have to be authorized by the electrical safety authority. If repairs are required, proper permits and paperwork will need to be secured and approved.
Power outlets and electrical boxes may also be moved to a higher position on walls, even though this will take some serious rewiring to execute properly. Moving the wiring a minimum of twelve inches above any projected flood lines can help protect your home's electrical system from damage by water.
As mentioned, if you have electrical items that have been damaged by water, or that have come into any contact with water, it is advised not to re-energize them until they have been properly inspected by an electrician. Doing so would run the risk of serious injury or fire. Items that have been completely submerged for extended periods should be replaced, since repairing them would in many cases cost more than the price of replacement.
To help reduce the risk of shock, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). They are inexpensive and can help protect the operators of shop vac units or submersible pumps.
Electrical wiring may need replacement depending on the type of wire used, as well as the extent of the damage to that wiring system. In most cases, replacement is advised, even if there is no apparent damage. Simply drying out a wire and then re-energizing it is not advised, because it may result in serious shock or fire hazards.
A licensed and qualified electrician will be able to properly evaluate and determine what electrical wiring and gear should be replaced and what can safely be repaired. Any devices that are discarded should be destroyed; they should never be re-used for any other applications under any circumstances.
Electrical problems as the result of water damage should always be taken seriously, and treated with the utmost care and caution. Failure to do so may result in further damage to the home or serious injury to the occupants.
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