How To Look At A House
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Why is spray paint on the bus bars of an electric panel a safety defect?
Sunday, June 17, 2018
When a new house is being built, the electric panel is usually in place in the wall, but with no cover (dead front) installed yet, when the painters start spray painting of the interior. The front of the box is supposed to be covered, preferably tape-sealed, but often a piece of cardboard is just laid loose against the it and spray paint ends up inside the box. If there is not even any cardboard, then the whole panel interior gets a dusting of paint.
We usually see a situation like the one shown above, where the breakers were more-or-less covered, but the open area of the bus bars below and around them receives what is considered “paint contamination.” Sometimes the breakers were not installed, and the whole bus bar gets sprayed. The same problem can happen at neutral and ground bars.
Even a light coat of spray paint creates enough of a non-conductive barrier to make circuit breakers lose a good connection to the bus bar. When there is not a solid contact, overheating of breakers or arcing at the bus bar connections can occur.
Any attempt to reclaim that painted surfaces by scraping or using solvents is prohibited by the National Electric Code (NEC), which states that the internal components of electrical equipment “shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners, abrasives or corrosive residues” [(NEC110.12(B)]. So scraping or using a solvent to remove the paint contamination is considered another illegal contamination of the panel. The only acceptable repair is replacement of bus bars or other contaminated panel components.
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