shocking bath tub fixtures - literally

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by jeremytl, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. jeremytl

    jeremytl Scientist

    Messages:
    85
    Location:
    durham, nc
    ok, when in the shower, you reach down and touch one of the fixtures, you get shocked. and i'm not talking about sliding your feet across the floor in winter and touching a doorknob shock, i mean your funny bone rattles in your arm kind of shock. if you are not touching the water and you just touch the fixture, you don't get it. you have to be touching both. I've been noticing it for weeks, if not longer but I currently have poison ivy and I took a "baking soda" bath. for the first time ever sitting in my bath tub i reached forward to turn off the water and i got it good. what could be causing this? my Dad thinks it is a faulty water heater element, sending a current across the pipes to the shower, tub.
  2. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    You need to call an electrician!
    Like right now!
    It is probably not a water heater element!
    Properly grounded the voltage would not get past the water heater ground.
  3. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    DO NOT!!!

    DO NOT!!!

    DO NOT!!!



    use the shower or tub again till an electrician has found the problem.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2008
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,047
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    shock

    Do not use any plumbing until an electrician checks it out because it is unlikely that it only affects the bathtub. You just might not have hit the right combination to feel it elsewhere. Like the old man said, "the only time the GFCI trips is when my wife is in the bathtub and I give her the hair dryer."
  5. jeremytl

    jeremytl Scientist

    Messages:
    85
    Location:
    durham, nc
    you couldn't be more correct, sirs

    My Dad happens to be an electrician in Charlotte. Yesterday evening I sent him a link to this thread and he read what we were experiencing in the bathtub. He showed up this morning with bells on and said "I know what it is". My Dad kicks a$$! Turns out, my 43 year old copper pipes had lost the proper ground over the years as the grounding rod clamp had rusted and broken open... and the electricity was trying to find a better ground through the cast iron drainpipes which are very well grounded, you might say, as they lead underground to the septic. It all made sense once he explained it to me in a way only Dad's can. We replaced the grounding rod clamp and then wired an additional ground wire from the tub drainpipe to the grounding rod. Turned power back on, cranked up water heater, let water run for 30 minutes and tested every fixture in the house with the voltmeter. Problem solved. Thanks Dad!

    I think I need a shower
  6. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    Sorry, but what your dad did was not fix the problem, he only masked it, ground rods are only for lightning, surges, and accidental contact with higher voltage lines. You need to find the real problem before someone gets killed. Check this link out for a little info.... http://ecmweb.com/grounding/electric_shocking_truth_grounding/
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2008
  7. jeremytl

    jeremytl Scientist

    Messages:
    85
    Location:
    durham, nc
    ok

    Chris, what would you do or where would you first look? Can you surmise what the real problem may be?
  8. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    It could very well be an open neutral. The neutral carries any imbalance from the 2 hots. The neutral and ground are bonded at the panel and any imbalance should go back to the transformer on the center tap via the neutral. If the neutral is open the ground becomes current carrying which is probably what you are seeing...

    Note I'm a turd herder not an electrician! How did I do Sparky?
  9. jeremytl

    jeremytl Scientist

    Messages:
    85
    Location:
    durham, nc
    ha!

    you guys are an invaluable resource - and entertainment to boot. in all seriousness - is it unsafe to shower
  10. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Not terribly so as it was yesterday or whenever, but you do need to actually find and fix the source of the problem. At the moment, the repaired ground connection is about the same as having a bucket under a dripping faucet.
  11. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689

    HELL yes. Your dad the "electrician" only masked the problem by giving the voltage an easier path to "ground".

    Ist step is to call utility company and have them check there end.
    Next step is to isolate the circuit that is cousing the issue.

    This is something that needs to be addressed now, There are many reasons and a lot of them are not easy for untrained minds to grasp.

    The voltage should NEVER be running thru the plumbing.
  12. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    I really dont want to say much on the subject except hire someone thats competent to find the problem and fix it. And I cannot tell you how much it hurts when I hear people driving ground rods to fix these types of problems, they really are just uneducated in the electrical field.
  13. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    And where is the water pipe ground...sounds like a problem with a neutral but whatever the problem a pro needs to be called in to find it before the shower / tub is used again.

    Do NOT use the tub until it is fixed.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2008
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,047
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    solution

    If your gas pedal sticks so the car will not slow down, is the solution to get better brakes or repair the problem. Giving a good path to ground solves the symptom, but does nothing to address where the electricity is coming from in the first place. I once disconnected an electric water heater. When I separated the union on the cold side I noticed an arc and told the lady that she should have an electrician check her wiring. She asked me if that is why all the lights and radio burned out and the television set was smoking. The answer was YES.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2008
  15. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    That was a classic case of an open neutral, here is a picture of what actually happens in this case. Just FYI, you should really use an amprobe before you disconnect water mains and such, it could save your life.

    This picture shows a multiwire branch circuit, but a residential service is the same idea.
    300.13(B).gif

    Around my parts everyone has a well, so when someone has an open neutral, its pretty obvious from the get go. Since the current will not travel through the ground to good. Unlike city water where the problem could go unnoticed for years.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2008
  16. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,298
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    In the Seattle area, a plumber cut a water main to a home on a repipe in the crawl space, and since it had been the ground, he then became the ground.
    It killed him.
  17. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT

    Actually the water main wasn't the ground, but the grounded conductor, aka neutral, current does not seek the ground (earth) it seeks source in which it arrived, (transformer at street) the earth plays no role in an electrical system, other than we try to protect our system from higher voltages and lighting strikes. thats the only reason why we drive ground rods, Hope that helps.
  18. brother

    brother New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Washington
    What size amprobe would be big enuff to clamp around the water main to measure the current??
  19. I had that happen to me

    I lost one of my 9 lives a long time ago this way...

    the only thing that saved me from being lit up was the
    inslulated channel locks I was useing while kneeling in a pool of water working on the main at the water meter
    in someones basement ...

    when I cut the line all the lights in the house went out....

    and it scarred the channel locks...

    I jumped backwards very quickly...
  20. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,559
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Several years ago I worked with a plumber and we did primarily restaurant renovations.

    The one thing I can remember that Jack always did when opening the metal pipes of one of these old buildings was use a jumper cable across the place he was opening. Yes the same kind of cables used to boost a car.

    It wouldn’t matter where the pipe was to be opened or if power was on to the building or not the cable was used.

    Jack was a very smart man!
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