Electrical components that are designed to be outdoors have to meet specific guidelines to receive a UL listing for use where they can get wet—-to be “rain tight.” They don’t have to necessarily be “water-proof,” although there are some installations where this might be the case—-like in swimming pools where lighting is actually underwater.
As a Seattle home inspector finding these kinds of electrical issues is common.
Take the electrical meter that is on the exterior of your home. These boxes need to be “rain-tight.” In other words, they should shed any amount of rain water that hits them—-including wind driven rain—-and not be adversely affected by the water. They are not considered “water-proof” and would in fact fill up with water if the water were to flood around your home to that height—-but then you would have worse issues that a little water in your meter housing! Now the issue is not so much that the flow of electricity is going to be affected by the water, as much as how the water will lead to rust and corrosion of connections which then leads to arcing conditions. As we all know arcing is typically bad juju with electricity—-unless we are doing some sort of welding.
Most electrical components will work just as well under water as they do out of water—-but over time they will not—–so it is VERY important to keep the two separate. Even in an electric water heater there is no direct contact between the electrical wires and the water—-the wires are inside of tubes that are heated by the wires which in turn heat the water.
At an inspection a while back I felt like I might be at a United Laboratories Testing Facility in North Carolina instead of a home inspection in Seattle Washington.
I am not sure, but I think that the demands placed on this enclosure, by the unfortunate placement of the downspout, exceed the UL listing for “water tightness”—-and perhaps it should be a “water-proof” enclosure instead.
It also does not appear to be the best thing for the window sill and siding either.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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