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Old 08-11-2012, 04:18 PM   #1
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Ground Wire in Attic Charring Wood


I was in my attic today doing some work when I noticed a bare twisted copper wire that ran along a ceiling joist. All along it was charred wood and charred fiberglass insulation. Luckily the fire it caused did not sustain itself and I was able to find the problem. I then traced the wire and figured it originated in my breaker box (although I could not determine exactly where in the box). It then ran across my attic alongside a ceiling joist and down into a wall ending up connecting to my water meter.
Several months ago, the electric company was restoring power to my area and ended up sending a power surge into my house taking out an oscillating fan, a toaster and a GFI outlet. Last winter, I also had to have my electric meter pole replaced by an electrician after a tree branch took it out during an ice storm.
I was wondering if one of these events could have caused the ground wire to heat up or something else entirely is going on? I am suppose to have a company blow in insulation soon and I need to figure this problem out. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 08-11-2012, 05:13 PM   #2
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Ground Wire in Attic Charring Wood


The description you include sounds very strange for a ground wire. Ground wires are normally part of a cable, I have never seen them bare, except if they are part of a lightning protection system. Possibly that is what you have. Certainly a ground wire is only supposed to carry current under fault conditions, the fact that you have charring means that wire carried current, which means there was a fault. You may want to start by checking if the ground has voltage on it, or current flowing through it. This you need to check with a meter. And you may want to check to see if the ground wire starts on the roof, suggesting it may be part of a lightning arrest system. I have never seen a lightning arrest system run through an attic, but there is a first for everything.

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Old 08-11-2012, 05:29 PM   #3
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As you may have guessed, I know very little about electrical issues. I am assuming that it is some type of ground wire only because it is attached to my water meter. As far as current goes, I don't think there is any since I actually grabbed the wire with my bare hand. I know- not the smartest thing to do. Also, I don't think it is part of a lightning strike arrest system since the other end of the wire goes into an outside wall just above my breaker box. Is there any way that the electrician could have accidentally put current to that wire when he was replacing the electric meter and pipe?
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Old 08-11-2012, 05:41 PM   #4
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Ground Wire in Attic Charring Wood


Based on your description that would be the GEC to your main water service. if the power company neutral is lost, that wire could carry neutral current to your neighbors neutral connection, or your neighbors neutral could be feeding through the water system, into your main panel, back to the POCO Transformer.

Call the Power Company(POCO), or an electrician to determine if the neutral is an issue.
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Old 08-11-2012, 05:48 PM   #5
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Ground Wire in Attic Charring Wood


More than likely, the power co. transformer has more than one house on it. If so, and one of the services (maybe yours) had an open neutral, then the ground wire became the path back to the transformer via the water pipes and the other houses cold water bonds.

It's entirely possible that this condition still exists. In any of the houses (including yours), do any of the lights brighten or dim a lot when something like the washer or dryer starts? If so, that house very likely has an open neutral. It needs to be fixed pretty soon, or the charred wood could easily catch on fire.

Rob

Rats....Techy beat me to it.
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Old 08-11-2012, 06:39 PM   #6
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So should I contact the power company or call an electrician? And would this explain why I had my toaster, etc. got zotted out when the power company was doing work in my area? If the power company is responsible for this happening I'd rather have them correct the problem than paying someone to do it.
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Old 08-11-2012, 07:01 PM   #7
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Ground Wire in Attic Charring Wood


You may have experienced an actual lightning strike some time ago. Probably not directly at your house because that would have caused a lot more charring and damage, but close enough to send significant current down the service neutral/ground and onto this wire (brounding electrode conductor) and into the water pipe and into the ground and cause slight charring along the way.

You would want to see that the connection to the water pipe and the connection inside the panel are good and clean. Undo the connection, sand off any tarnish, and and redo it to clean it up somewhat.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-11-2012 at 07:05 PM.
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Old 08-11-2012, 08:37 PM   #8
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There is one thing I forgot to mention... When the power outage occurred, the utility workers told me that they had blown a transformer. Could that have caused the problem or am I totally off base with this theory?
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Old 08-11-2012, 08:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Phillips View Post
So should I contact the power company or call an electrician? And would this explain why I had my toaster, etc. got zotted out when the power company was doing work in my area? If the power company is responsible for this happening I'd rather have them correct the problem than paying someone to do it.
A typical power co. will tell you to have an electrician check your side of the system first, then they'll look at theirs.

If I were the electrician, the first thing I'd do is check current in the ground wire. An amp or two is normal, anything over 5 or so would be suspect.

Next, I'd check current on the neutral wire in the panel, with load on one leg but none on the other, and compare it with current in the hot leg with the load on it. If they're close to each other, then the neutral is ok. More than a few amps difference points to a bad neutral somewhere upstream form the panel.

If there are other services on the same transformer, they might need to be checked in the same way.
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Old 08-11-2012, 09:00 PM   #10
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I'd like to thank all that have replied. I'm really not electric savvy enough to understand all that you have said and I will be hiring an electrician. I do appreciate your input and have a little better grasp on the situation. Have a good weekend.

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