Tap water is an excellent conductor of electricity. However, we still need electrical wiring in wet areas of a house, such as a kitchen or bathroom. Because of this, wiring in areas with close access to water must follow specific requirements, such as having ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These outlets are designed to trip the circuit breaker when they sense dampness, protecting you and your family from the risks of wet electrical wiring. However, if the outlet gets wet repeatedly, your risk of an electrical fire can increase.

Below is a guide on the dangers of wet electrical wiring and how to stay safe:

Causes of Wet Electrical Wiring

Bathrooms and kitchens are major hot spots for wet electrical wiring, but wires can be exposed to dampness in other rooms of the home, too, as a result of floods, burst pipes, leaky roofs, and spills. The standard non-metallic sheathed cable works only in dry locations as it lacks a moisture-proof sheath or plastic insulation. For damp areas, you need underground feeder cables with a waterproof plastic vinyl sheath. Naked wires and wet outlets are a dangerous combination.

Even in instances where wires have the necessary insulation, prolonged exposure to moisture can cause erosion of the insulation. When that happens, the wires can rust and mold can grow around the dampness, increasing your risk of electrical shock.

Electrical outlets commonly get wet from accidents in the kitchen and other rooms. Basins, faucets, and other water sources are some of the biggest risk factors in wet wiring, but they’re not the only way your wiring can get wet. Even the simple splash of a spilled drink could damage outlets and lead to wet wiring. Once water gets into an outlet, the circuit can trip or short. In the worst cases, the wet wiring can lead to a house fire.

Wet Electrical Wiring and House Fires

Although house fires as a result of wet electrical wiring are uncommon, they are entirely preventable. You can best protect your home from electrical fires as a result of wet wiring by keeping your outlets dry and taking steps to avoid spills near the wiring.

Everyday spills can cause significant damage over long periods, and much of this damage can occur without your knowledge or awareness. Floods and water leaks, such as those from burst pipes, are even more dangerous to electrical wires since the water can access multiple outlets in a short time. If you’ve experienced a flood or water leak, you need to cut off the electricity to your home and contact a technician as soon as possible.

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Remember that even a small amount of moisture can corrode the electrical wires in your home and compromise your safety. Once the insulation is damaged, these wires are hazardous.

Wet Electrical Wiring and Tripped Circuit Breakers

As mentioned, when electrical outlets get wet, a short circuit can occur, tripping the circuit breaker. This effectively shuts down the power in that circuit. If you have circuit breakers that are repeatedly tripping for no obvious reason, your wiring might have experienced water damage.

Breakers can trip for other reasons, too, including overloaded outlets, damaged appliances, ground faults, and electrical shorts. Circuit breakers that trip frequently or regularly should be addressed by an experienced technician who can accurately identify the source of the problem and recommend an appropriate remedy. If wet wiring is the underlying cause, you will need to repair or replace the damaged wires.

Signs of Water-Damaged Electrical Wires

Some signs of wet wiring are easy to spot, such as rust or discoloration on electrical outlets, switches, and wires. If your outlet smells like it’s burning or if it’s visibly sparking, you may have a problem with wet wiring. Switch off the breaker to that circuit and contact a professional.

Touching an outlet with a short circuit could lead to an electrical shock. You might notice water or dampness around the outlet or your electrical equipment. If you do, switch off the electricity at the main panel, and contact a electrical technician who will find the source of the wetness and repair or replace the damaged wiring.

How to Handle Wet Electrical Wiring

Wet electrical wiring and outlets are dangerous. To stay safe, you must prevent water from coming into contact with an electrical outlet. To do that, you need to waterproof the sockets or keep them plugged so that moisture cannot get in. In wet areas, use recommended outlets with the right insulation to keep water out. If you use GFCI, they will trigger when conditions are unsafe, preventing electrocution and fire.

Moving quickly can minimize your risk of injury or property loss. Read the following steps and take action immediately:

Shut Off the Power

Some older homes, especially those without updated electrical wiring, might not have GFCI outlets. In this case, the power will need to be shut off manually. As soon as you notice signs of water damage on your wiring, turn off the power at the circuit or fuse box. Avoid the affected outlet until an experienced technician can repair or replace it.

Electrical Inspection for Water Damages

An electrician will inspect your electrical wiring for signs of water damage and recommend the necessary remedy. During the inspection, they will check for degraded electrical wiring and electrical faults that may increase the risk of water damage. They also check the type of switches in your wet areas and whether they have the necessary rating and safety features for such areas. The electrician will also check for outdated wiring, fire hazards, and oversized breakers.

Electrical Outlet Replacement

The electrician will most likely recommend the replacement of the electrical outlet and any damaged wiring. In situations where the damage results from floodwater and burst pipes, the damage could be substantial, necessitating replacement rather than repair. Before the electrician comes to your home, keep the power off and avoid touching the affected outlets. If the damage to the outlet is less severe, such as in the case of splashes and spills, the electrician may simply need to dry out the outlet and repair any damaged parts.

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Take Precautions to Avoid Wet Wiring in the Future

Wet areas need adequate ventilation. Keep the kitchen and bathroom well-ventilated using windows or vents in the bathroom and extractor fans in the kitchen. The fresh air from outdoors will reduce condensation buildup in your home. However, if you still notice that the bathroom ventilation is insufficient to manage the moisture after a shower, use a dehumidifier. Avoid drying clothes indoors when possible since the resulting humidity can be an electrical fire hazard. Further, take necessary precautions to avoid spills and water splashes near electrical outlets.

Talk to an Experienced Electrician Today

Have you noticed any signs that your electrical wiring and outlets may have water damage? Talk to our experienced technicians at Potts Electric, and let us save you from the risk of an electrocution or an electrical fire. Our electricians have the experience, the expertise, and the tools needed to keep your electrical installations safe. Our wide range of services include EV chargers and generators as well as electrical panel and smart home upgrades.

Call Potts Electric in Ellisville, MO, today!

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