James Quarello, a Home Inspector from Wallingford Ct, and fellow Active Rain Blogger recently posted this great information on the potential damage moisture can have on electrical panels...
That's what Neil Young said back in the late 70s. I think Neil showed some great insight (doesn't he always). Rust, corrosion, oxidation, they all mean about the same thing, the insidious decay of metal.
Rust is caused by the usual culprit, water and moisture. If a component is designed to be in contact with moisture, it will be designed to resist water. However when the component is not meant for a damp or wet location, no such safe guards will be incorporated.
Electric service panels by and large are never meant to be in a wet or damp location. Sure some are found outside and there are many fixtures and such that are outdoors. The electrical equipment that is outdoors is usually designed for that application.
As home inspectors know, sometimes the inside of the house can and does get pretty damp or even wet. This of course means things can and do get rusty (Hey, hey, my, my), including electric service panels.
Fairly often the rust is hidden under the service panel cover, which no reasonable homeowner is going to remove. Rusted connections like these are actually dangerous. The wires themselves do not rust, but oxidize (rust by another name).
Rust and oxidation degrade and inhibit the connections at the breakers or terminals. Poor connections cause overheating, which could eventually cause arcing (sparking).
Pyrotechnics are great for a stage show, but not in your basement.
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