Water damaged equipment can have negative impact on the inhabitants and long term problems for the electrical system.
Assessment, Mitigation and Restoration of Electrical Power Gear and Distribution Equipment is vital to a safe job site and key to a successful restoration project. Determining the condition of the electrical system must be done early in the process and monitoring its condition often after being wet is necessary. The shut down of water damaged equipment is necessary to avoid obvious electrocution and fire hazards but help inhibit the progression of chemical and galvanic reactions which are created by dissimilar metals. Also minimizing effects of the contamination under power results in insulating layers causing overheating and failure. Remediation and reversal of the damage to equipment must be mitigated quickly to reduce down time, outages, ongoing failures and repetitive issues. The only way to avoid premature wear & tear and early replacement is by proactive measures.
Ignoring wet equipment and water damaged equipment ASAP AFTER EXPERIENCING A DISASTER could prove fatal.
Unqualified persons assessing equipment could prove equally disastrous. Losses affecting electrical equipment directly affect building safety and threaten the inhabitants. Electrical systems including electrical controlled drives, motor and motor panel centers, panel boards and switch gear as well as cabling including main and sub feeders, branch circuit wiring and distribution panels are at risk. Common problems with wet equipment result in single phasing of motors, overheating and tripping of breakers, fuses and burning of wiring all are at risk for catching fire. After experiencing damage from water infiltration electrical power can bridge components resulting in electrical shorting. Damaged wiring insulation from normal pulling and installation can be exploited by the hydrostatic pressure of the water in conduit entering cracks in the insulation when under load provide the perfect conditions for shorting. This loss of electrical energy can create downstream fault currents causing damage untold low and high voltage equipment and motors. These rogue currents can even back feed into circuit’s appliances and computers.
Electrical systems which are included in the MEP section of trades is often ignored by restoration contractors during the mitigation work. We have seen contractors plug drying equipment into wet circuits which results in tripping conditions, overheating and fires. Some contractors just do not realize the hazards associated with wet electrical systems and are just about the task of drying the building and ignore the condition of the electrical system. This is either because they are not trained in electrical systems or they are just trying to do their work and think the electrical system is not in their scope of work or that it is someone else’s scope or problems, until they plug into it. Either way, mitigation and restoration contractors need to supplement their mitigation efforts with well qualified electrically trained persons who understand how to test for electrical power issues, isolate the power that has been affected, offer alternative power solutions for their mitigation efforts while developing a plan to refurbish and recertify the wet electrical equipment prior to re-energizing any building power.
Anyone that is a licensed restoration contractor or general contractor should know that it is not a best practice to energize any electrical system damaged by water intrusion or flooding. Restoring electrical power when the system has been damaged could be considered a negligent action if their actions result in a fire or electrocution incident. Additionally, it is the hidden potential of wire failure later when back feed or over-current conditions occur and wire heats up producing an internal electrical fire.
You can’t see if electrical gear is wet and if wiring in conduit is still wet. Wet panel boards, wiring and circuit breakers can prove to be sources for electrical shock and fire if not properly dried creating untold hazards. Powering up water damaged equipment can damage the insulation resistance of the wiring and cause future failures of these systems later on down the road. It is important to have electrical systems assessed visually and by pre-test, mitigated by drying and moisture displacement agents and then restored by decontamination, refurbishment and replacement so that final acceptance testing can be completed and equipment brought back on line in short order.