Construction Maintenance Electrician

If You’re Considering Electrician Training, Here’s How Moisture Can Affect Residential Wiring

February 23, 2021

Water damage is a common occurrence in residential buildings. In addition to being an inconvenience, water damage can also be a serious safety hazard. When combined, water and electricity can be an extremely dangerous pair — sometimes even deadly. There are many different kinds of moisture that can cause damage to the residential wiring systems in a home or business, with varying degrees of severity depending on the form of moisture and the method of intrusion. 

If you’re thinking about becoming an electrician, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of moisture damage in order to address potential threats to the safety of a building’s inhabitants and the integrity of its wiring system. Here’s what future electricians should know about the effects of water damage on residential wiring systems.

A Look at Wiring’s Ability to Withstand Moisture for Those with Electrician Training

Most residences contain cables and wiring with different levels of insulation, depending on where they are located. Water exposure can have a varied effect on electrical wiring systems depending on their make and insulation type, as well as the amount of exposure. Wiring systems may consist of bare conductors, such as copper grounding wires, or conductors insulated with nonconductive material such as plastic or vinyl. 

Depending on level of insulation, wires can differ in their ability to withstand exposure to moisture

Professionals with electrician training can identify the level of insulation on a conductor by looking at the wire coding. If there’s a “W” in the coding, this means that a wire is suitable to withstand conditions of moisture. Some cables, such as UF-B cables, are manufactured specifically to withstand wet or damp conditions, protecting conductors in water-proof plastic vinyl. However, residences are commonly equipped with plastic-coated Romex cables–consisting of copper ground wire coated with paper and wrapped in neutral and live wires. This wiring is typically unable to withstand exposure to moisture due to its lower level of insulation. 

How Moisture Can Harm Residential Wiring

Whenever water penetrates through the walls of a structure, whether in a liquid, frozen, vaporized or condensed form, moisture damage can occur to the residential wiring systems. Within indoor structures, many electrical components are not designed to withstand contact with water, and it’s important that electricians are familiar with elements vulnerable to water damage. Common causes of water damage in residences include burst pipes, leakage and flooding. Excessive moisture resulting from conditions such as a humid environment can also be a catalyst for milder cases of damage. 

Moisture damage can cause residential wiring to corrode

The most common effects of moisture on wiring include corrosion and mold growth. Over time, corrosion can lead to gradual deterioration of wiring components–leaving systems vulnerable to power loss or further damage. Interior electrical components are typically made more vulnerable to water contact due to the fact that they are often only protected by enamel, which is not effective in preventing water damage. As a result, moisture can cause mountings, conductors, or metal connectors to corrode. Additionally, moisture can increase the current of electrical circuits, leading to overheating and increasing the risk of a fire, or resulting in a blown fuse. When a fuse is blown, short circuiting will occur in the electrical system.

What to Do When Electrical Water Damage Occurs

For those who want to become a construction electrician, it’s important to know what to do in the case of potential water damage to a residential wiring system. If water damage is detected within a structure, it’s important to cut off electrical supply at a residence’s fuse box before inspecting any electrical circuits. Failing to do so could result in shock exposure. In the case of moisture damage, all vulnerable components should be inspected to check for areas of corrosion or mold growth. Depending on the extent of the damage, the affected area can be cut out — but it’s also possible that a new set of wiring will be required. The surrounding area should then be further insulated from moisture to protect against future harm.

In the event of flooding, all cable or wiring products that have been submerged in or exposed to floodwater should be inspected thoroughly to determine whether they can still be used. Floodwater can contain additional contaminants which can be harmful to electrical systems. With this in mind, electricians should be sure to check for foreign elements, as these can interfere with a wiring system’s ability to function.

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