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How Water Can Damage Your Electronics


Most everyone understands that water and electricity are a lethal combination. But not everyone knows electronic equipment that's experienced water damage can also pose a hazard when it's turned on or used without completely drying out. Here's how water can damage your home's electrical system, appliances, and devices and what you should do in case of a water leak or flood.

How Water Affects Metal 

One of the most serious issues following a hurricane, severe storm, or flood is water intrusion and damage, especially to your appliances and electronics. That's because most of them were never designed to withstand exposure to water. Water damages metals by speeding up their oxidation process, which normally occurs much more slowly in air. If the water contains impurities such as salts, that oxidation can happen even more quickly.

There are three types of water damage.

  • Clean water damage comes from sources like rainwater or broken water lines. Not harmful if you encounter it, it's the least corrosive of the three types.
  • Gray water is wastewater but is not a biohazard, though it could be contaminated and potentially harmful. It comes from your sinks, tubs, washers, dishwashers, and sump pumps.
  • Black water is contaminated and poses a health risk from harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Floodwater, prolonged standing water, and sewage backup are all examples of black water.

As electrical conductors inside wet appliances and electronics start to corrode, they lose their ability to carry electrical currents. As conductors build up more corrosion they can eventually become hot enough to ignite surrounding material and cause a fire.

How to Spot Water Damage 

Some electronic equipment such as newer model computers and mobile phones are capable of keeping water out and away from electrical components. Depending on the device, here's how to recognize water damage in other equipment:

  • A white or green chalky substance appears on the circuit board due to corroded connections.
  • Water spots between the layers of glass on devices with LED or LCD screens indicate direct contact with water but can also be caused by high humidity.
  • Mold could appear on the inside surfaces of appliances especially if the interior is not allowed to properly dry out after a tropical storm or hurricane.

If you're unsure how high the water level rose during a storm or flood, look for a water line on the appliance. It can help determine if internal components were affected.

How to Safely Handle Water Damaged Electronics and Appliances

Here's the bottom line: if an appliance or piece of electrical equipment has been wet or underwater, it presents a significant risk. While you can try and have it professionally cleaned and dried, most experts suggest replacing it with new equipment. You'll want to check to see if your insurance policy covers any of the replacement costs. And please consider recycling those devices instead of sending them to a landfill!

If your Jacksonville area home has recently suffered severe water damage it's also a good idea to schedule a safety inspection with a qualified electrician to make sure there's no hidden damage to your home's electrical system. Contact David Gray Electrical Services online or call us at (904) 605-8190 to learn more.