Rust has a way of getting everywhere, especially if you live close to the coast or in areas that experience extremely humid weather. Electrical panels are no exception, especially if they are not properly sealed. 

So what do you do when your electrical panel is rusted? Is it dangerous? We’ll answer these and other questions in this short read.

Why is rust bad in an electrical panel?

Rust in electrical panel

Rust in an electrical panel is bad for multiple reasons. For one, if the outer housing of the panel box catches rust, it can compromise the housing itself. As rust spreads, it leads to corrosion, which eats through the metal housing.

Once the housing itself has been compromised, it allows moisture to enter the panels. Over a period of time, this could damage multiple parts of the electrical panel, including damaging the circuit breakers and corroding the bus bars. Over time, rust can completely destroy the panel box itself.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the dangers of rust and corrosion in an electrical panel.

  1. Circuit breakers are designed to trip and turn off the supply of electricity when the flow of current becomes too high. Corrosion can cause these breakers to freeze and as a result, not trip when they need to. This, in turn, causes the wires to overheat and could even cause an electrical fire.
  1. Aluminum bus bars can corrode due to rusting over a period of time, turning into a crystalline white powder. This overexposes the bus bars, once again leading to overheating of wires and the possibility of an electrical fire.
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Dealing with rusted panels

If your panels are just showing signs of rust and have not corroded yet, you can handle the situation easily. All you need to do is scrape off the rust, prime the panel and repaint it.

While repainting the panel, make sure you use paints made for use on metals. Also, be extra careful not to get paint onto the wiring, grounding the breakers and bus bars. This could lead to overheating, 

Dealing with badly rusted panels

rust in panel

When panels get badly rusted, the rust eats through the metal and corrodes it completely. In these cases, you ought to consider replacing the entire electrical panel or at least the parts that are beyond repair.

However, you may lack the expertise to recognize if the damage to your electrical panel is a red flag or a yellow flag. It may be prudent to call upon a professional electrician or an electrical contractor to come for a home inspection.

Prevention is always better than cure

Installing electrical panel

While it is true that most homeowners can handle most of the repairs needed for rusted electrical service panels themselves, severe corrosion needs to be examined and repaired by trained home inspectors. 

However, adhering to a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule will ensure that your electrical system remains in great health for longer and that you can deal with problems like rust before it gets out of hand.

Read more: Questions about blast cleaning

DIY home maintenance: How to handle rust in electric panel was last modified: April 25th, 2022 by Narayan Shrouthy
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