How to deal with flooded electrical

Published: May 26, 2021

Danger High Water sign in front of flooded road, electrical Photo by KSwinicki/Shutterstock

Like Noah filling the ark, cottagers scramble to save what they can before the floodwater hits. But not everything can be saved, and even if you only have minor water damage from some spring runoff or winter roof damage, use extreme caution with your electrical when you come back to the property or enter an area with water damage.

Any part of the electrical system that has been in water carries the risk of shock and fire, even if it has dried out. If the main service panel was submerged, the electrical utility has to disconnect power to the building. If only a bunkie or an enclosed porch was flooded, you can isolate it and turn off the power in the main panel. Either way, bring in a licensed electrical contractor to assess the damage and determine what needs to be done to make it safe.

An electrician will replace every electronic component that got wet: breakers, fuses, disconnect switches, GFCIs, AFCIs, electronic switches, and surge protector devices. But even simpler items such as switches, receptacles, baseboard heaters, and light fixtures should be replaced. Appliances—boilers, furnaces, pumps, water heaters, and kitchen appliances—need to be replaced or repaired.

Because floodwater often contains sewage, silt, and chemicals, an electrician will probably replace your wiring too. Regular household wiring isn’t rated to be submerged in water. Water from something like a leaky roof, say, is cleaner and probably hasn’t compromised the wire; that wire can often be salvaged.

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