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Old 01-11-2012, 09:03 PM   #16
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Voltage in the Shower


Anything operating on a timer , thermostat or intermittantly in recent days? Any possibility the heater, furnace, washer , dryer, sump pump were operating when you felt this current?

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Old 01-11-2012, 09:18 PM   #17
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Voltage in the Shower


Well water or city water?
Are you int he country or more in town.
How close are the neighbers?

I have seen a bad heater element in other houses cause problems.

It is rare, but has happened.
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Old 01-11-2012, 09:31 PM   #18
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Voltage in the Shower


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Anything operating on a timer , thermostat or intermittantly in recent days? Any possibility the heater, furnace, washer , dryer, sump pump were operating when you felt this current?
Yes. The only thing that would have been on at all times the problem was evident would be the heater. How would this possibly impact things? There was a clear relationship between the dimmer switch and the problem. This would suggest that something else in combination with the switch would cause it?
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Old 01-11-2012, 09:33 PM   #19
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Voltage in the Shower


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Well water or city water?
Are you int he country or more in town.
How close are the neighbers?

I have seen a bad heater element in other houses cause problems.

It is rare, but has happened.
City water in a town with neighbors extremely close. Interesting idea. It's consistent with the electrician's theory that something external to our house is causing an issue with the neutral. Thanks for the thought.
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Old 01-12-2012, 02:51 AM   #20
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Voltage in the Shower


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He then took his voltmeter into the bathroom and measured 28-30V on the shower door...
Well, not exactly. Voltage is a difference of potential between two points. He measured 28-30V between the shower door and some other reference point. What was the other point? Just the faucets? Was it the same reference point for all measurements? Exactly what other measurements were made? This may be very important for troubleshooting.
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Old 01-12-2012, 04:33 AM   #21
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Voltage in the Shower


If you think that the dimmer is playing a part in this situation,
heres something to consider !
Dimmers chop up the waveform,
thus creating hash,
if any wires are nearby to a metal pipe,
this pipe could be picking up some of this hash,
So the dimmer could be inducing voltages into the pipes.

Get rid of the dimmer !
Does it happen if you remove the dimmer,
and use a standard switch instead ?
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:04 AM   #22
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Voltage in the Shower


This illustrates the importance of bonding the water system. Incidentally, if all parts of the water system and also any other metal equipment such as grab bars shower doors are bonded to each other then you can't get a shock while taking a shower unless you touched something outside the shower area.

Because many plumbing systems nowadays have plastic parts, it is common for the various metal parts to be isolated (not bonded). The water in the pipe is not that great a conductor but can conduct enough electricity to electrocute a person. You would have to proactively bond each group of metal parts in the plumbing system (hot and cold and drain) using jumper wires of a gauge at least as heavy as any nearby electrical wires (typically 12 gauge). Plus a #6 copper wire connection to the panel neutral bus bar (#4 if the service is over 100 amps and within 5' of the cold water pipe entrance if that pipe leaving the house is metal). The jumper wires can follow a different route all the way to the #6 or #4 wire (grounding electrode conductor) in the basement if that is easier than following the plumbing to the next metal portion.

A properly bonded plumbing system will also take away the hash from a dimmer.
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:13 AM   #23
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Voltage in the Shower


if you grabbed the faucet and felt the tingle then it had to be passing thru you and going out your feet with the water being the grounding point going down the drain
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Old 01-12-2012, 09:18 AM   #24
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Voltage in the Shower


Have you noticed your lights flickering or suddenly getting dim or getting brighter? Have you noticed your lights getting dimmer when the fridge or other appliance comes on? If you have and even if you havent noticed it you could have a loose ground lead. Did the electrician check to see if the lugs were tight where the service ties into your panel? It could be loose in the meter base or at any connection between your house and the transformer supplying your house. After 30 yrs as a firefighter I have seen several times where a lose ground leg on the service entrance cable will cause a mild shock or "tingle" at the kitchen sink or shower/ tub. A lose ground will cause a resistance in the circuit and electricity will always seek the easiest path to ground. That path can be through the wiring, as it should, through the ground strap grounding your panel or even through the water system which is used as a ground source for the electrical system. If everything is tight on your side of the meter you will have to have the power company come out and check it on their side. Good luck !
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Old 01-12-2012, 10:05 AM   #25
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Voltage in the Shower


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Well, not exactly. Voltage is a difference of potential between two points. He measured 28-30V between the shower door and some other reference point. What was the other point? Just the faucets? Was it the same reference point for all measurements? Exactly what other measurements were made? This may be very important for troubleshooting.
Good point and my fault for describing it incorrectly. He plugged an extension cord into the GFI and ran it to the shower. Plugging the voltmeter into the hot lead in the cord and touching the other end to various areas of the tub shower showed a reading of 120V - I believes this indicates it is well grounded. Plugging the voltmeter into the neutral lead of the extension cord and touching the other end to various areas of the tub shower yielded a reading of 28V, hence the diagnosis that it was an issue with the neutral. As the dimmer switch was adjusted, the reading correspondingly went up and down.
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Old 01-12-2012, 10:10 AM   #26
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Thanks. I will suggest that. Indontnbelieve wiring and the water pipes are near one another, however.
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Old 01-13-2012, 02:17 AM   #27
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Voltage in the Shower


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Good point and my fault for describing it incorrectly. He plugged an extension cord into the GFI and ran it to the shower. Plugging the voltmeter into the hot lead in the cord and touching the other end to various areas of the tub shower showed a reading of 120V - I believes this indicates it is well grounded. Plugging the voltmeter into the neutral lead of the extension cord and touching the other end to various areas of the tub shower yielded a reading of 28V, hence the diagnosis that it was an issue with the neutral. As the dimmer switch was adjusted, the reading correspondingly went up and down.
This is rather interesting. The usefulness of those test results depends on the impedance of the meter used. If it was a low-impedance meter, then these are very meaningful results and something is very seriously wrong (probably related to a loose neutral connection somewhere, if I had to guess). If it was just a standard digital voltmeter, though, then those readings may not actually convey any useful information. Those kinds of crazy voltage readings on seemingly isolated metal objects are very common with high-impedance digital meters.
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:01 AM   #28
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Voltage in the Shower


It could be a voltage on the sewer pipe!

Perhaps the shower door is electrically contacting the tub if it is metal? And the tub is contacting something else like a metal drain pipe system?

Does the tub have a motor/whirlpool?

Then if metal drain pipe, follow that around to where else it goes in the house. Anything else electrical in contact with the same metal drain pipe system?

Washing machine, garbage disposal, sump pump, air conditioning condensation drain, anything else electrical in contact with the metal drain pipe... One of those things could be leaking electricity to the metal drain pipe.

Note: If something like a dishwasher has a plastic drain hose going to the drain pipe, then that would not be a possible source of leaking electricity.

Then if there is a section plastic drain pipe, anything beyond that would not conduct.

Also in the crawlspace, a metal wire can be holding up air conditioning metal duct work, then also be touching a metal drain pipe. Then that is an electrical connection from the air conditioning system to a metal drain pipe! And there can be a problem with the air conditioning system!

So there could be a path from air conditioning system, to metal drain pipe, to metal bath tub, then metal shower door! (And air conditioning is actual problem.)

Anyway post number 22 above by AllanJ is what is needed to keep these problems from happening. Bond all metal pipes to ground. And if there is metal pipe, then a section of plastic, then metal pipe again, then electrically connect the two metal sections with a jumper wire (bond).

Also bond cold water pipes to hot water pipes at the water heater. There can be "dielectric" fittings which isolate those at the water heater.
http://www.waterheatinginfo.com/othe...o-i-need-them/

And in your case where there is a problem, might be a good idea to bond everything metal to everything else and ground. Water pipes hot and cold, natural gas pipes*, metal drain/sewer pipes, air conditioning ducts, the bathtub if metal, etc.

*Gas pipes can have "electric cathodic protection systems" which can place a voltage on the pipeline...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathodic_protection

Also a neighbor could have a sump pump or whatever placing a voltage on the sewer pipes if all metal. Or even a nearby sewage treatment plant or pump motor. For that you could install a short section of plastic sewer pipe to electrically isolate your sewer from the city system.

Then your main electric system and the grounds from all the pipes, etc. should go to 2 ground rods placed 6 ft. apart.

Another thing you can do, to track down electricity leaking to ground in your house, is to install GFCI outlets for any appliance which connects to metal pipe or duct systems. Like garbage disposal, sump pump, spa pump, bathtub whirlpool, washing machine, etc. Then if electricity leaks to ground, the GFCI will trip!
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Old 01-13-2012, 11:49 AM   #29
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Voltage in the Shower


All - thanks for the incredibly helpful suggestions. With the help of some methodical troubleshooting, the return of the issue after a brief disappearance, and involvement from a senior guy at the local utility (PG&E) we found and resolved the problem. The relevant facts were as follows:

1) everything in the house was well bonded / grounded
2) there appeared to be a direct relationship between the switch leg and the shower area showing a reading of 28V
3) this relationship was difficult to reconcile since the electrical (romex) and the water lines came into the bathroom from different points and do not appear to intersect
4) the switch in the bathroom is wired properly
5) after a lot of testing, it was clear that the issue was isolated to that bathroom only (e.g., we tested the taps in a 2nd bathroom, kitchen, etc. and got no reading).

The solution:
The electrician traced wires into the bathroom up into an unfinished attic. These wires were adjacent to a cast iron waste line going out the roof. The romex dropped down from the attic to the switch and then the switch legs ran up into the attic and into the fixtures. The romex and switch leg wires were bundled. The electrician found a rogue nail that had nicked the relevant switch leg. This nail was touching a metal band as well. The metal band was touching the cast iron waste line, which came into the shower tub on the same side of the room as the light switch (explaining why we couldn't reconcile the water pipes and wiring being on the same side of the bathroom). This lit up the nearby pipes and shower when the switch was activated.

We still cannot point to why the problem intermittently disappeared (loose nail?) or why it popped up out of the blue. My belief is that there was always some very low voltage in the pipes because of the open neutral, but not enough to feel anything. Somehow in recent days it jumped up, making the problem more noticeable.

Thanks again for the help. I'm happy to say I showered in peace this morning!
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:01 PM   #30
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Thanks for coming back and posting your resolution, it sure is nice to find out the culprit.

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