PrevPrev Go to previous topic
NextNext Go to next topic
Last Post 11/07/2010 7:49 PM by  RandyC
wet light fixtures
 17 Replies
Sort:
You are not authorized to post a reply.
Author Messages
RandyC
Member
Member
Posts:197


--
11/06/2010 11:13 PM
    Almost everyone agrees that non-metallic sheathed cable (romex) that has been submerged in salt water needs to be replaced as the paper wrap around the ground wire wicks corrosive salt water up several feet into the wiring system.  As an  electrician, I've seen systems work compromised with some degree of water for many years.  It's not the best situation, but pretty common in commercial and industrial installations.

    Shortly after becoming an adjuster, a FEMA inspector friend of mine convinced me that I was too tolerant of water compromised devices and I've been recommending replacement of light fixtures and devices compromised with water since that date.  It still bothers me to pay for a ceiling fan that once dripped with water but now works fine with no sign of water save a stain on the drywall around the outlet box.

    I was just wondering how other adjusters handle this.  Do you recommend replacement of all light fixtures reported to have dripped water by the insured or do you require a visible stain, or even continued presence of water?

     
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 1:09 AM
    Consider that some fixtures are UL rated to be outdoors or in other wet environments. It would follow that non-wet rated fixtures are obviously not rated to get wet. We know that corrosion can take some time to develop, and that corrosion can cause electrical shorting/arcing that could result in a fire. So if a fixture got wet, it might be prudent to just go ahead and allow for replacement.

    If an adjuster refused payment for a fixture that got wet and a fire or shock injury later developed, (whether or not it was really related to the fixture) there could be some liability. Paying for a fixture that got wet could be much cheaper than defending a lawsuit, even if the suit had little merit.

    From the National Electrical Code:
    #410-4 Luminaires (Fixtures) in Specific Locations
    a) Wet and Damp Locations
    Luminaires (fixtures) installed in wet or damp locations shall be installed so that water cannot enter or accumulate in wiring compartments, lampholders, or other electrical parts.
    All luminaires (fixtures) installed in wet locations shall be marked, “Suitable for Wet Locations”. All luminaires (fixtures) installed in damp locations shall be marked, “Suitable for
    Damp Locations”.

    I am not an expert to say that a non-wet rated fixture that gets wet would need replacement 100% of the time. But since there are fixtures that are specially designed to get wet and 1) not short out as easily and 2) not corrode, would you really want to insist on not paying for a fixture that got wet?

    I know an insurance restoration contractor that will replace fixtures touched by water at his own cost if an adjuster refuses to pay for them. He does this to avoid liability.
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 1:22 AM
    From "Lowes for Pros". This article mentions that fixtures touched by water should be replaced according to the electrical code. Note this part: Several sections of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) installation standards say that electrical equipment and inside wiring not intended to get wet that has been submerged in water, and especially dirty water, should be replaced.

    Of course "submerged" is not the same as water dripping into it. But water dripping into a fixture can cause corrosion the same if it was submerged.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Always Replace Water-damaged Electrical Components
    When flooding submerges electrical wiring and equipment, they must be replaced—they cannot be safely reconnected to power. Make sure your customers know that.


    By:
    Jeff Griffin
    Issue Date:
    October 2006

    Water and electricity don’t mix.

    You know that, but many of your customers, though aware it is dangerous to plug in equipment when on wet surfaces or in standing water, do not understand how damaging water exposure can be for the wiring and electrical components of their properties.

    In fact, in homes and buildings that have been flooded, most electrical system components that were under water are no longer safe, even after they have been dried and cleaned. They must be replaced.

    “In the normal electrical distribution system, the performance ability of electrical equipment and components is primarily dependent on clean, corrosion-free conductive contact surfaces and by the equipment’s dielectric insulation capabilities,” explains John Minick, field representative for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). “Water-damaged equipment, whether through floodwaters or other means, negates that ability and raises the risk of future equipment failure and possibly fire and shock hazards to unknown levels. Expedience and the cost of rebuilding are certainly key factors in helping people regain a sense of normalcy after disasters such as hurricanes and floods, but the possible cost concerning property loss through fire and deaths through shock hazards that may be created as a result of the misuse of water-damaged electrical equipment has to be of equal importance.”

    An electrical contractor in Metairie, La., has dramatic first-hand experience of the damage water can cause. His company’s electricians’ rewire structures in the New Orleans area were damaged by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed.

    “We see damaged outlets, circuit breaker panels, air conditioning units ruined by water,” the contractor says. “All metal items are corroded, including copper and aluminum cables. White jackets of Romex cable have turned black from the brackish waters, and long after water subsided, you can squeeze water from the cable.

    “It is absolutely critical that these components be replaced,” he emphasizes. “Connecting power to an electrical system containing them poses a serious fire hazard and other risks.”

    As work continues to rehabilitate damaged structures, crews continue to find that many components of electrical panel boards, controllers, switchboards, transformers, appliances, etc., are not visible without completely dismantling the equipment in question, the contractor says.

    “Contaminated water that oxidizes metal contact points will increase resistance,” he continues. “This resistance will generate heat directly in proportion to the amount of current that flows through the oxidized metal. The more heat that is generated, the more resistance is increased. This ‘snowballing’ effect can lay dormant until an appliance is used or until loads are increased across a contact point, thereby becoming a fire hazard some time after the electricity is turned on.”

    Flood-damaged buildings in New Orleans are extreme examples of how water destroys electrical systems, but damage can occur when water from flash floods, broken water pipes or any other source covers electrical components. Often there can be no visible sign of damage.

    NEMA and other industry organizations agree that flood-damaged components should be replaced.

    The National Electrical Code (NEC) states that equipment cannot be exposed to agents—including fumes, vapors and liquids—that can have a deteriorating effect on the equipment.

    Several sections of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) installation standards say that electrical equipment and inside wiring not intended to get wet that has been submerged in water, and especially dirty water, should be replaced.

    However, many property owners, especially those of private residences, do not understand the seriousness of connecting a damaged system to power, and may assume that once dried and clean, the structure’s system is safe.

    If called to work in water-damaged properties, you can provide a valuable service to customers by making them aware of the risks of restoring power to components that have been under water.

    One guide to utilize is NEMA’s Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged Electrical Equipment. It provides advice about the safe handling of electrical equipment that has been exposed to water. It outlines which items will require complete replacement and which a trained professional can recondition. Equipment covered includes electrical distribution equipment, motor circuits, power equipment, transformers, wire, cable and flexible cords, wiring devices, GFCIs and surge protectors, lighting fixtures and ballasts, motors, and electronic products including signaling, protection, communication systems, industrial controls and cable trays.

    According to NEMA, the brochure is incorporated into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manual, Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems.
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 1:25 AM

    Here is the link for the free download of the manual: Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment

    http://www.nema.org/stds/water-damaged.cfm
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 1:27 AM
    How is this for a similar question:

    Should you allow for replacement of smoke detectors after a fire loss with light smoke in the same room?
    RandyC
    Member
    Member
    Posts:197


    --
    11/07/2010 7:30 AM
    Great answer Leland. I'm glad I asked this question. I've been recommending replacement, but felt a little wasteful doing so. After posting the question, I researched the net and found a few of the same NEMA recommendations that you did. I went to bed thinking about it. Many years ago as an electrical contractor I refused to use aluminum wire inside buildings. The reason I did so was that the oxidation of aluminum is a dielectric. As the deposits of metal salts grow on the aluminum termination, there is a separation between the conductors. Micro arcing develops around the dielectric deposits. The arcing continues to reduce the conductor metal and the arc lengths increase. Heat develops and eventually fire will result if the device is not replaced.

    I've known this for many years, but the principle behind replacing wet wiring is the same. Pure water does not conduct electricity, but water picks up impurities which makes it conductive. A wet electrical device can allow current to travel to parts of the device and building around it that was not intended to be energized. This can cause injury or death! When the water dries, it will leave behind the impurities that were absorbed as the water traveled its course. Some of these deposits will be dielectrics like that of aluminum salts. It only makes sense that the micro arcing would result, same as with the aluminum terminations.

    Before I went to bed, but after I had asked the question, I found definitive opinion on wiring submerged, but there was some wavering on smaller amounts of dripping water. In non-insurance situations, I have not worried much about a little water on or in a light fixture or device after it was dry. That is really an inconsistent position for someone who prides themselves on recognizing the dangers of small sizes of aluminum building wire terminations many years ago. My resolve is now firmed up. For those adjusters that previously refused to recognize the damage water inflicts on fixtures and devices, perhaps this thread will give them pause to reconsider.

    RandyC
    Member
    Member
    Posts:197


    --
    11/07/2010 7:57 AM

    From large commercial computer installations I've worked on in the past I remember the fire alarm people carrying around a can to check the smoke detectors.  I've spent so much time in buildings in fire alert that when the real thing happens I'll probably tune it out.  Anyway, the National Fire Protection Assocation's Alarm Code states that "detectors shall be tested in place to ensure smoke entry into the sensing chamber and an alarm response."

    Smoke in a Can lets you meet this requirement without contaminating the detector, without affecting its sensitivity, and without increasing the risk of false alarms. Patented formula evaporates completely.  I think this stuff costs about $6 a can.

    http://www.safemart.com/Fire-Safety...SM-200.htm

    http://www.safemart.com/Fire-Safety...SM-200.htm">

     

    RandyC
    Member
    Member
    Posts:197


    --
    11/07/2010 8:15 AM
    On point, the NEMA handbook you suggested should be required reading for adjusters. It comes with a list of which equipment exposed to water can be restored and which needs to be replaced. It mentions the loss of lubricant as one result of water exposure. Just last week, I had a claim where water entered the exhaust fan through the roof duct. The water blew into the vent opening and traveled down the duct to the fan below. It dripped to the tile floor causing no damage to the interior, but the fan bearings now squeal like a squeezed pig. If this had been a BOP I would not have found a storm damaged entry point for the water, but it was an all risk policy so the fan was covered.

    This fan could just have easily demonstrated no damage or bearing failure at the moment of inspection, but could have failed days or weeks after the inspection. The water dripping from the fan to the floor should be evidence enough that damage was done.
    Ray Hall
    Senior Member
    Senior Member
    Posts:2443


    --
    11/07/2010 10:30 AM
    Well Randy & Leland do not apply for a flood adjusters license. I have been working flood losses for years , along with several thousand others and don,t think I have ever seen all the wire replaced in a building that was under water. Alum or copper. We always replace the switch, plugs etc. For years we did not replace the condensing unit, just cleaned it out. This resulted in so many reopens years later, that its ALMOST universal to replace the condenser and not get a kick back..... but, never the whole electrical wire system UNLESS it had direct damage. Remember now on flood... flood is very big on clorine and a water hose  cleaning by the homeowner to muck out the house; just ask all the water suckers how many muck out jobs they chase on a large flood.....none.

    It,s always comforting to hear Leland's legal opines on his CYA tips OW,BSID.
    RandyC
    Member
    Member
    Posts:197


    --
    11/07/2010 12:50 PM
    In the 1970's I did electrical work for over a hundred different builders. In those days, most roofs were wood with spaced decking. It was common for us to dodge shingles as the roofers worked above us. On occasion, we would wire the homes a day or two before the roofers got there. Of course, it would rain before the roofers dried in some of those houses. No one said a word; all the builders did this then.

    In the eighties, I remember a news story from a suburb east of Dallas. A homeowner had seen a tv show featuring his builder. In the program, he could see several houses with wiring hanging but no shingles on the roof. He complained to the city. The city agreed with the homeowner that the wiring should not have been installed prior to the roofing. The builder had to go back and re-wire a lot of those homes on the speculation that they "might" have been rained on.

    I thought that was crazy at the time. As an electrician I've made terminations with copper wire that was black in color. Sometimes I would use emery cloth on the wire, sometimes I would just terminate them as they were, depending on the hurry we were in. For the most part copper oxidation is a conductor, unlike aluminum. Really badly corroded copper in an acid environment might be eaten up bad enough to cause a problem but copper usually requires a loose connection or physical stress to cause failure. I just never saw much of a problem with copper regardless of the color of the metal.

    I've attended a couple of the Chinese drywall presentations and they have me reconsidering my opinion on copper and oxidation. Those poor people have had severe problems with their electrical systems.

    I'm flood certified, but I have yet to work a flood. Of course, I'll follow their guidelines. The reason for this thread is to explore the fine lines. I thought the city of New Orleans inspected those flooded electrical systems before they were allowed to be to be used. I know some of my IBEW friends were doing those inspections. Some of those houses were eight foot deep in standing salt water for extended periods. Did NFIP not approve of cutting back the romex to points where the salt water had not reached the wiring?

    We do all agree that wet current consuming devices should be replaced, right?
    Ray Hall
    Senior Member
    Senior Member
    Posts:2443


    --
    11/07/2010 4:19 PM
    I think we all agree on appliances or machinary.

    Flood coverage is paid for by US. The premium have never been enough to cover just the insured flooded property. The folks that do not have flood insurance also get paid by FEMA. All flood disputes are settled or filed in Federal court and I don,t think I have ever heard of one being tried.
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 5:10 PM
    Ray, I never said to replace all the wiring in a house that was flooded.But since you brought it up it is usually a good idea if the wiring got wet.

    I thought everybody knew that you replace any Romex that got submerged. I think most every flood adjuster knows that Romex often has a paper lining that gets wet and water travels up inside the sheathing and doesn't easily come out. If it is a one story house that gets flooded you would probably need to replace all of the romex, unless maybe the home run from an attic light that goes to a breaker box above the water line.

    Big Red in Katrina told me to pay for replacing all Romex that got wet. I thought that was pretty standard. Certainly most electricians think so. And the electrical codes do too!

    But what do I know? I could be a blithering idiot. I guess I'm lucky I already have a flood certification. I hope they don't take it away for being incompetent!





    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 5:16 PM
    What Happens When Electrical Wiring Gets Wet Inside the House?
    By Thomas Andrews, eHow Contributor
    updated: November 13, 2009
    I want to do this! What's This?

    Water and Electricity Don't Mix
    1. The electric wiring in most of today's homes is designed to serve in dry interior environments. While the plastic sheathing around the hot and neutral wires in typical romex wiring does act to prevent penetration by moisture, electrical systems simply are not intended to get wet.

    In the most common romex wire used in residential situations, a copper ground is sheathed in paper and wrapped with the hot and neutral wires inside a plastic sheathing. When wiring is subjected to water through any breach in the sheathing or through connections such as outlet boxes, switches, junctions or fixtures, it is possible for moisture to soak its way up the paper sheathing in a "wicking" action, and to create dangerous rust or deterioration.
    Opinions Vary
    2. Still, ask two electricians for opinions on what to do when wiring gets wet for a brief period through an in-and-out type flooding or pipe burst. You're liable to get two answers, each with credible reasoning. One school of thought is that all impacted wiring should be replaced any time it gets wet. Another is that romex wiring is usually safe to use if the outlets and switches are replaced and the ends of the wire cut back to a dry point. Depending on the circumstances, each is often considered a safe way of dealing with the problem; however, the type of water and the length of time it remained are two factors. With salt water, for instance, electricians usually demand replacement of all wiring.

    Given the cost of replacing wiring and the hesitation of insurance companies to pay for total replacement without documented cause, one sensible approach is to follow guidelines such as those outlined by the Sonoma County, Calif., permitting department, which are typical of many local jurisdictions nationwide. In its guidelines for handling wet wiring systems, the county regulations call for replacement of electrical components that get wet, with the exception of cable or wire that has passed a high voltage test such as a megohmeter test, proving that the insulation has not been penetrated.

    Other local codes are more strict and require replacement of any wire that has gotten wet. Experts such as Kenneth Hellevang, extension engineer for North Dakota State University Extension Service, agree with that practice. In an article on dealing with wet electrical systems, Hellevang writes, "Electrical wiring needs to be replaced unless it is listed for use in wet locations."
    Qualified Experts Always Required
    3. On the other hand, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) adjusting practices for flood adjusters often accept leaving flooded romex wiring in place as long as outlets, switches and other junctions or components are replaced. However, adjusters will usually follow the suggestions of licensed electricians hired for a particular claim, and replacement of wiring is often needed in cases of salt water and extended immersion.



    Read more: What Happens When Electrical Wiring Gets Wet Inside the House? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how-does_564138...z14daD5HyW
    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 5:50 PM
    We weren't originally discussing a flood claim in my opinion (water dripping into a fixture) but since I'm told my thinking violates FEMA/NFIP guidelines I decided to look iit up.

    HERE IS WHAT FEMA SAYS: (http://www.fema.gov/pdf/fima/pbuffd...ter_2.pdf)

    Some flood damaged buildings may contain wires using fibrous insulation. If these wires are inundated by floodwaters, they must be replaced because the fibers tend to deteriorate when exposed to water. If the insulation deteriorates,short-circuiting becomes a possibility and electrocution or fire may result. When replacing the wire, refer to the information in this chapter to assist in the selection of wire that can withstand inundation by flood. Even when water-resistant wire is used, ample time should be provided after inundation
    with floodwaters to allow the wires to dry fully before they are reenergized.


    This FEMA bulletin also incorporates (repeats) the NEMA document I mentioned in a previous post.:

    Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged
    Electrical Equipment ©, by the National
    Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

    Items Requiring Complete Replacement

    Any wire or cable that is listed for dry locations only, such as type NM-B cable, should be replaced if it has been submerged in water.Any cable that contains fillers, such as polypropylene, paper, etc., should be replaced if the ends of the product have been submerged in water.

    In fairness to Ray, I suppose it is possible that an outlet could get wet but the Romex attached to it stays dry.

    For example if you had an outlet in the ceiling and the water went up exactly 8 feet and just barely kissed the outlet. Hard to imagine, but I guess it is possible.

    Another issue is the idea of cutting back the wet Romex. I suppose that's possible, but its hard to imagine the insulation only getting wet for a few inches. And if you cut back 10" then the Romex would probably be too short to come out of the box. Code requires something like 6" or 8" of wiring to come out of the box on a rough inspection. If it gets cut back it would no longer be code compliant.

    Also, as a practical matter, would an insurance company really overrule an electrician that says something is not safe?

    Leland
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:742


    --
    11/07/2010 5:59 PM
    For anyone not familiar with the terminology NM Cable means non-metallic, in other words that normal house wiring that has typically a three or four copper wires: a red one (hot) white (neutral) and green or bare metal (ground) all wrapped inside a white or yellow sheath.

    When anyone says "Romex" that is actually just one brand of NM cable.

    Non metallic of course refers to the idea that it is not wires inside of metal conduit.

    The yellow usually is 12 gauge and has thicker copper and costs a bit more.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From a electrician's chat room:

    No, although it seems that there is an unofficial color code for romex jackets in use nowadays. 14/2 is generally white and 12/2 is generally yellow. this just makes it less likely for an installer to grab the wrong spool of wire when working fast.

    In my house, however, I have at least one run of 14/2 with a blue jacket (which I think is now generally used for 10/2?) and one run of 12/2 with a black jacket. Since there's no OFFICIAL color code the mfgr. can make it any color they want.

    ...I was at home depot the other day and noticed rolls of 14/2 that had blue jacketing. i asked the fellow what it was for and he says a code is being proposed that blue wire be used for circuts on arc fault breakers like for bedroom outlets so it is easy to distinguish for the inspector.
    Goldust
    Member
    Member
    Posts:306


    --
    11/07/2010 6:20 PM
    You can tell by looking at them closely. Sometimes I will use a moisture meter like the water service guys use.if there is any question at all r&r.
    what would you do if it was your home?
    JERRY TAYLOR
    Goldust
    Member
    Member
    Posts:306


    --
    11/07/2010 6:52 PM
    You can tell by looking at them closely. Sometimes I will use a moisture meter like the water service guys use.if there is any question at all r&r.
    what would you do if it was your home?
    JERRY TAYLOR
    RandyC
    Member
    Member
    Posts:197


    --
    11/07/2010 7:49 PM
    I think this is a useful discussion if we don't lose our perspective. I guess I was looking for a rule of thumb, but the more I think about it, the more I realize there may not be a black and white rule of thumb. Touched by water seems a bit severe. Use it till it goes up in a puff, seems a bit loose, but it has it's place.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a claim where a kitchen skylight was broken out and water entered the kitchen. The insured reported a built in oven got wet, sparked and tripped a breaker. When I inspected, the breaker was working and both the bottom and top oven elements heated. The clock worked. There was no evidence of physical damage. I told him we would need a tech report stating it was damaged by water.

    Two days later, different claim, a 30 year old cook top had two burners shorted. Water entered through the vent-a-hood duct. The "fibrous" wiring between the controls and the burners were melted together. The heating elements were burned and there were two arc burn holes in the stainless steel cook top. Again I told them we might be required to get a tech report, but I would recommend it be covered with the pictures I had. I depreciated it heavily but it passed review without any problem.

    Clean water goes through copper pipe for years without any problem to the copper. We drink the water! I ran across one flooded community authority advising the flood victims to not use electric devices until they had been taken apart, dried, and looked at by an expert. That sounds a lot like Ray's use it till it puffs rule, Ray being the expert.

    When rain water from a roof leaks into a fixture, I usually replace the fixture but not the wiring. When the electrician replaces the fixture, if he thinks the wire is damaged he can make a case for that then. Changing the wire is a headache. Most electricians will not make work for themselves unless it is really necessary. Though each of us may find ourselves on one side of the line or the other, I think we have found the line here. Though each of us may lean one way or the other as to how we would handle a given situation, I'll bet each of us handles on a case by case basis, and probably not that different one from the other.

    One thing I'm sure of...we are all making more than a reasonable effort to do the right thing.
    You are not authorized to post a reply.


    These Forums are dedicated to discussion of Claims Adjusting.

    For the benefit of the community and to protect the integrity of the ecosystem, please observe the following posting guidelines: 
    • No Advertising. 
    • No vendor trolling / poaching. If someone posts about a vendor issue, allow the vendor or others to respond. Any post that looks like trolling / poaching will be removed.
    • No Flaming or Trolling.
    • No Profanity, Racism, or Prejudice.
    • Terms of Use Apply

      Site Moderators have the final word on approving / removing a thread or post or comment.