Water inside breaker box?

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bud16415

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I think in today’s world the powers to be don’t want the average individual anywhere near the current potential coming off the pole. Being able to switch that on and off other than at your main panel is asking a lot of most people.
 

louder

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I can understand that, I've got two neighbors that call me every time they pop a circuit breaker. One is a retired nurse, the other a retired bus driver.
People are getting dumber as time goes on. If it can't be done through their phone, their lost.

I'm not one of those. I just wish we didn't have to break the law to fix our houses here.
The bottom line is this is only a pair of 110v lines and a neutral, its not the sort of power that can reach out and touch you. Simple precautions is all it takes. If i were to replace the whole service, I'd just go up top and cut the wires at the crimps and do what I needed to do, then either bug them back together old school or see about finding the right crimp ferrules to make the 4/0 to 2/0 crimps with. Like I said, I've got the crimper here, and a pair of large fiberglass handle cable cutters, both where left here by an out of town power company that came to help restore power during a big storm years ago. (They left tools and parts all over the place, Including a 40ft fiberglass pole for resetting the fuse or closer on the pole out front).

But right now, all that I need to do is stop the water from running down the inside of the SE cable into my main panel in the house. If were to redo the whole service, I'd run that cable around and below the box and come in from the bottom vs. the top to prevent this from ever happening again, but there's also some senseless code here saying that the SE cable must not travel more than 5ft from the meter before attaching to the main breaker. If not, it requires an external switch separate from the meter box on the outside of the house. I've not found any such switch that's water proof that didn't have an enclosed breaker or fuses. They're just not something that's used in this area I guess.

I looked close at a few other houses here and their meters fit tighter, some even have the older style meter with the larger glass globe. The glass on mine is sort of rounded, and smaller overall than the meter the box was likely originally made for.
Changing the meter box will be a bit of a project because of how its buried in the siding, I'll have to both build up the mounting area and redo the siding to fit the newer, larger box.
I looked at a few vids on Youtube, and it showed a SE cable fitting with a ground attachment added for other additions, like the cable and phone lines, but couldn't find any such thing here. All they have is either an add on ground bar for the inside of the meter box, or a clamp on ground connector for the outside of the box, which the box now already has. The problem is, the box itself is not grounded or connected to the neutral wire.
So other than a wire I ran to a new ground rod beneath the meter panel, the cable and phone grounds were going no where.

I'm not sure I understand the reasoning of not bonding the neutral inside the meter box, but yet it is in the main breaker panel.
 

bud16415

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Would it be possible to post a few pictures of your actual meter showing the globe where the water gets in and also the inside of your panel and where the water comes out?
 

louder

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Here's a shot of the top of the inside panel and the meter.
After looking at the pictures, I can now see that the hole in the panel is larger than the base of the meter, I can slip a piece of corrugated cardboard into the gap pretty easily. At the bottom, you can see the metal ring part of the meter's base. The old meter fit the hole a lot better.
If memory serves me right, there have been four different types of meters on here, one was a mechanical meter like this one but the glass had a key hole on the front, and a small metal box that protruded down at the bottom of the glass near the box, there was a lockout tag hanging from the meter itself. That meter when away in the late 70's. They then put in one similar to the one on the house now, but that one had a larger more square cornered looking glass globe on it.
Then they put in the digital / analog meter, then this one.

The water trails down the black wire with the red hash marks and drips down over the main breaker. Its never soaking wet, but I see the rust stains where it was. I've never seen it actually drip, but if I wipe off the water marks on the bottom of that cable, they're back in a few months.

The way its set up now, the wire into the breaker panel runs nearly vertical up to the meter outside. It goes down a few feet below the meter box, then turns and goe through the wall just above the soul plate and down into the box which sits nearly up against the floor joists.


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afjes_2016

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I have not really been following this thread and just checked quickly the pages posted already. Since I have not seen it mentioned yet - I see you have a FPE Stab-Lok panel. As many more will tell you get it replaced as soon as possible in case you don't know. When getting it replaced the leak issue can be investigated further.

There are major safety issues with this brand breaker panel.
 

Sparky617

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Can you pull back a little on the panel shot? What is the path from your meter socket to the panel? Are you sure the water is coming in from the meter socket? Where is the entrance cable coming out of the meter base? Can you post a picture of that? If your basement is damp, the rust could be due to the panel being in a damp environment for 50 plus years.

FPE breakers have had issues as afjes points out. When my dad was wiring back in the day it was his go-to brand but that was a long time before the issues with the design were discovered.
 

louder

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The SE cable comes straight down, it leaved the meter box, goes down about 4ft, turns inward through the wall, just above the block foundation wall, then goes right down below to the breaker panel. The wire lays on the soul plate, wood at the base of the wall , if the water was following the outside of the cable, it would have to get past caulking around the hole in the sheathing, and caulking around the wire where it goes into the siding.
The basement isn't super damp, and its heated both by a single vent off the heater, and the presence of the hot water heater and drier.
In warm weather, there's a large dehumidifier that runs on automatic.
The humidity ranges around 40 to 60% during the summer, and 20-30% in the winter. Nothing else rusts or sweats down there.
The rust tracking is only on the one wire, and directly below it.

There's a sub panel 3 ft to the right that holds a breaker for what used to be for a stove. The former owners had a small kitchen set up for canning in the one corner of the basement. I tossed the stove and counter years ago and put my laundry room there.

I have a new GE panel, but I don't want to put it in until the water issue is stopped.
 

louder

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Its raining here tonight, so I figured I'd check the panel downstairs.
The water is dripping steady into the box, its coming in faster than it can run out of the two holes i drilled in the bottom.
I stopped it by putting a 10x12 chunk of an old mud flap over the meter tied to the wire with a piece of string. That stops 99% of the water, so does tying a string around the meter glass to give the water an external path to flow downward.
If you look at the feed wire to the right at the top, you can see water trailing off the wire, dripping on the main breaker, and running down the left bus bar filling up the bottom of the box.
After i took the pic, I knocked out most of the bottom knockouts completely.
No doubt the box has to go but the water has to stop first.

They tell me that the meter cover cannot have a seal, yet that's where the water is getting in.
It runs down over the meter, follows the tapered glass back toward the panel, and into the gap around the meter, it then drips off the bottom of the meter down into the open cable leading to my breaker panel inside.
What I want to do is put a weather strip around the inside of the cover and a wad of plumbers putty over the splayed open end of the lower cable. No doubt that'll stop the issue but they say no way, replace the meter box.
I have a new 200a panel, (the current meter box is marked 125a). The meter doesn't fit the new box any better than the old box, it'll do the same thing unless I stop the water from trailing back into the box.
The guy from the electric company let out a bit of info the other day too, apparently the swapped out the meters in the spring, which is when this all started, the replacment meters are smaller. They dredged up some previous model meter because too many folks were finding ways to tamper with the meters they were using. I never noticed the difference myself, but the bill went way high around that time too, but it also coincided with AC usage around that time too.

Just a note: The outside of the top of the box and the cable are dry, the water is definitely coming from inside the SE cable from the meter.
If I were to poke a hole in the SE cable casing, the water would then likely run down over the panel.
The only fix is stopping the water from getting into the cable or into the meter box completely.


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Sparky617

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I'd use electrician's putty instead of plumber's putty, if by plumber's putty you mean the stuff you put around a drain before fastening it to the sink. Does the meter box drain? It sounds like the outer sheath of the entrance cable is below the bottom of the box and the water is flowing into the sheath and down into your panel. I'd make sure the meter box drains, and seal around the entrance cable as it leaves the meter box. If the outer sheath of the entrance cable was up a bit from the bottom of the box the water would probably not have a chance to go into it and down into your service panel.


 

Eddie_T

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It upsets me that your service company has such lack of service and compassion. Duke Energy is much easier to work with. The input is from the bottom (underground service) and the three wires from the transformer are in conduit. My panel is back-to-back with the meter. The transformer is too close to the house for code and that bush that hides it is also not to code. I showed them a spot to relocate the transformer but they haven't done so (and that was years ago). So you might say we have an easy going relationship (but this is the south).

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BuzzLOL

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I'd do what's needed and tell the power company to F off... gotta do that sometimes...
 

louder

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I'd use electrician's putty instead of plumber's putty, if by plumber's putty you mean the stuff you put around a drain before fastening it to the sink. Does the meter box drain? It sounds like the outer sheath of the entrance cable is below the bottom of the box and the water is flowing into the sheath and down into your panel. I'd make sure the meter box drains, and seal around the entrance cable as it leaves the meter box. If the outer sheath of the entrance cable was up a bit from the bottom of the box the water would probably not have a chance to go into it and down into your service panel.


The putty I've got here is gray, we used to use it on mobile homes to seal windows, wiring, and any bolted on install. I think its made by 3M, it used to come in strips in a three pound box.

The outer sheath is just over 1.5" above the floor of the box.
The problem is the sheath is both directly below the lip of the meter, and its spread open a bit by the black wires as they bend outward to the lugs. Water that his the glass meter globe, runs down and back and follows the glass and lip of the meter back inside the box, dripping directly onto the open end of the cable.
The water last night got so bad it looked like a garden hose, we had 3" of driving rain. I went outside in the rain and duct taped a trash bag over the front panel of the meter, and that stopped the flow of water but that's not a fix. The thing needs either an enclosure or some sort of seal between the cover panel and meter. Right now, any rain that hits the meter runs inside and down the cable. The water doesn't even get to the floor of the box, it goes right down the cable first, only when the cable is completely flooded does is spill over and out the drain holes I drilled.
(The drain holes are basically not needed because the bottom of the meter box cover is a straight edge, with a gap all long the bottom. Since the box is half sunk into the vinyl siding, I drilled the holes outboard of the siding.
When the cover was first removed a few weeks ago, it was full of debris at the bottom, pine needles, rotten leaves, dead stink bugs, etc. The cover gap is obviously large enough around the meter to let quiet a bit of junk in besides just water.

Meter side.jpg
 

louder

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I'd do what's needed and tell the power company to F off... gotta do that sometimes...
The problem with that is when I pulled the cover and added a rubber gasket the meter reader called it in as not having a tag, (they must get bonus points for every one they write up), they came right out, pulled the cover, ripped off the weather stripping, came to my door to make sure I knew they were there and that adding anything to the meter constitutes 'Tampering'.

They retagged the meter and told me that its illegal to remove the tamper tag, and doing so is a crime, next time they're going to file a police report.

Right now its still raining, I've still got the bag duct taped around the face of the box.
(The fact that a bag taped around the front cover and meter stops all water, tells me its not leaking in from the SE cable above or at the top of the box).
 

Sparky617

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You really need to seal it up inside the meter socket. It sounds like water is getting into the sheath and coming down inside that to your panel. How you do that without breaking the seal is a problem. It is going to require the support of the electric utility. If you made a video of the water coming in during a rainstorm it might help. Using a UV resistant tape to seal the gap between the meter and the base would probably help a lot, but may get removed every time they read the meter. I'm thinking real duct tape, the foil kind that has a paper backing you remove to uncover the adhesive. Regular duck tape will break down in the sunlight in a few months.
 

louder

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I really don't see why they won't let me add a ring of weatherstripping around the meter opening.
All it would take is a strip of 3/8" foam tape in there to stop water from getting in. The problem is simply that the meter has a large gap where it meets the panel.
I'm getting the impression they want to force you to pay out big dollars no matter what. No matter what is wrong, they tell you it'll take an "Approved licensed electrician".

I completely understand that some folks shouldn't touch electrical, (some shouldn't ever pick up any tools) but I'd rather leave it up to Darwinism rather than some money hungry dirt bag at the power company or municipality.
 

Eddie_T

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If your meter box is not grounded or bonded to the neutral it could be a hazard when wet. Mine shows no obvious bond but the neutral lugs are not insulated from the box.

Some media outlets have reporters who take interest in problems such as yours. In my area their websites have click-ons i.e., WLOS Investigates, Ask WLOS or Channel 7 On Your Side and they often get results.


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louder

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The existing box is branded GE and is not bonded neutral or grounded originally.
Looking inside, its obvious they went to great lengths to isolate the neutral.
I added a pair of new 8ft copper clad grounds and a separate ground wire to the box because the guy who tagged it last said its required. The same guy who said that I cannot have a seal around the meter or cover, or any sealer on the cable end.

I thought about the TV angle but we're not really in the direct viewing area of any stations here, Philly is closest and I know a few people at two of the larger stations but I figured I'd save that as a last resort.

I mentioned replacing the box and service cables when to the same guy, he made it clear that doing so would constitute an 'upgrade' or new service, which would mean I'd have to upgrade the whole house to NEC 2020 code standards including hundreds of dollars of AFCI breakers, new wiring to support them, and a special exterior emergency shut off switch. When I looked into the cost of just the switch, which I wouldn't mind having, the best price I found was $840, and none were available due to shortages shipping issues. The same with the meter box, I looked into a new one and couldn't find a single meter pan in stock for under $100, the list price on the things is only $40, but the current shortages and building boom has prices through the roof.

I also mentioned that I intend to replace the panel with a GE unit, and was told 'You better check with zoning enforcement before doing that, I don't think they allow GE breaker panels."
I was told on the phone that 'any' upgrade or improvement requires the bringing the building up to meet all current code standards'.

Today, the power company was here and said someone reported the bag over the meter, they ripped off the bag, opened and checked the meter box inside, when I tried to put some putty over the cable housing end he told me its against the law for a resident to touch anything inside the meter box or any wires connected to it. I told him its on my property, and I'll do as I please with it, tag it and get tfo my property. He tagged it and said to expect a visit from the police. As he was leaving, unknown to him, he dropped about 30 new meter tags in the grass and about 10 used ones that were cut off.
Later I found a warning notice on the door stating that my meter was resealed, and they checked boxes for known hazards around meter, and the guy wrote in 'exposed ground rods sticking out of ground below meter', and "Illegal cover or shroud over or attached to meter".

I called the power company and complained about the dirtbag they sent out here, the woman on the phone told me they get a lot of complaints about him. I insisted on talking to a supervisor but as usually none were available. The classic answer if you ask about anything code related is to call one of our approved lic. electricians.
I asked how one becomes an 'Approved Lic. Electrician', and she said "you can't" and hung up on me.

It seems when it comes to touching the meter or trying to repair anything, its their meter and their box, when it comes to replacing anything, all of a sudden its mine.
They just started using an outside meter reading company in April.
In fact, today's the end of the billing cycle, I intentionally didn't run any major items all month to see how bad their ripping me off here. Last month, and the past three months were $190- $199 for electric. This month the only things I've run have been my cell phone charger, laptop, and two LED lights. They swear every month is an exact reading and charge. Last months bill showed that I used 880 kwh of electricity plus the minimum charge of $23 and a fuel surcharge due to the rising cost of natural gas they say. The charge over the minimum service was $153.46.
I read this month as only 177 kwh, 9/28 to 10/28. If the fuel surcharge and minimum charge as constant, the bill should be $79 for this month. I won't know for a couple weeks when it comes in the mail.
I've never seen a state so intent on making its residents so miserable and broke.

As far as replacing the stab lok panel, I've been intending to do so anyhow, but now I find out doing so would require I bring the whole house up to NEC 2020 specs, including adding AHCI breakers and rewiring about half the house. Then they say that GE panels are no good either. The inspector said that he won't approve any panel that uses or can use narrow breakers.
I've used nothing but GE in all my houses, and shop, its been the go to brand for years. All of a sudden they're no good? Apprently HD, Lowes, and four electrical supplies haven't caught on because they still have them for sale here. (I shouldn't include HD, they don't have anything in stock, the sign up says that due to the recent rash of bad weather, and supply issues we've been overwhelmed by electrical component orders which has depleted our inventory for the next five to six months). Lowes right next door is well stocked and half the price. None of them carry either AHCI breakers or exterior emergency switches, or switched meter panels though.
 

afjes_2016

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"The inspector said that he won't approve any panel that uses or can use narrow breakers. "
If a panel is rated for narrow, thin, piggy back, or tandem breakers (what ever you want to call them in the field) and you have the proper brand and type of breaker as per the panel label information there should be no reason at all that they would not be accepted or cause a failure in inspection. I would ask the inspector to site that code and I would highly doubt that they could justify that if it were even only a local code.

"I also mentioned that I intend to replace the panel with a GE unit, and was told 'You better check with zoning enforcement before doing that, I don't think they allow GE breaker panels."
Really? I don't think they can dictate the specific brand you can and can not use unless it is something like FPE stab lock that has known safety issues a brand you happen to have.

AFCI breakers not AHCI breakers
AFCI = A.rch F.ault C.ircuit I.nterrupter

"The classic answer if you ask about anything code related is to call one of our approved lic. electricians."
The power company stated you could only use one of their selected "licensed electricians" - I don't think I have ever heard this before.
 

Eddie_T

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I'm just musing as to what I might try · · · a small inconspicuous dollop of silicone (in the shape of a chocolate chip) to encourage a drip off the glass. Seal the SE cable with silicone where it enters the breaker panel and maybe an inconspicuous compromise of the sheath to drain it before it enters the wall.

This will only work if you have power outages. Check with Lowes to find a panel that would pass code and zoning. Be prepared with all materials to switch out the panel during the next power outage. For safety even though power is out treat the wires as if hot. Then if the meter box and SE cable have to be replaced the panel should be grandfathered in, IOW play dumb as if the panel has been there as long as you have owned the house. Maybe age the panel's appearance or find a used panel.
 

louder

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Before the rain started this morning I took a lump of putty and made a rope and presses it into the gap all around the meter. I kept packing it in till the gap was sealed flush.
We had a good bit of hard rain today and so far not a drop of water through the cable.
its not a permanent fix but for now it stops the immediate problem.

There's been a few power outages but most are caused by tree branches or traffic accidents, they don't last long enough most of the time to swap a breaker panel.
If I can keep it going till warm weather comes around I'll pull the meter and do the swap, if it becomes an emergency, I'll just swap the panel out hot or pull the meter myself and not worry about their bs. The panel definitely needs to be changed out first, before anything obvious is done.
There's no way I'm upgrading wiring that's not bad. Its not as if the place is wired knob and tube or with some antique wiring that's not safe. All the wiring in the house is plastic insulate. The only run that's not three wire is the basement light sockets, and those are only running four 5w LED bulbs now.
The current box, regardless of it being an FP box, it full and I need more room in the box. Not so much for more amps, but for more circuits. Right now the system is laid out to control quarters of the house, plus a few added breakers put in for a couple of ac window units, lights in the attic, and a few outside outlets.
The FP panel uses both narrow and wide breakers, if it had only wide breakers, it would only have 12 spaces for breakers. I have a 32 space 200a GE panel, 40ft of 4/0 cable, and a half dozen weathertite connectors for up top. I need to find a suitable 200a meter pan.
 
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