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cotrackguy 04-05-2009 07:11 PM

Charged Plumming -- Dangerous?
Hey All,

I just moved into a new place with three different roommates (all women) who have been working on getting the house re-modeled for the past little bit.

One of the rooms they worked on is the upstairs bathroom, which I share with one of the girls. She had told me that she had once felt a small shock when turning on the water to the shower, but I took it to mean that she had been shocked with a buildup of static electricity, so I let it go.

However, today when I went to take a shower, I felt a definite sustained electronic charge flow into my hand when I went to turn on the water to the shower, and again when I went to turn on the water in the sink.

I recently read an article online (found at about an Army Green Beret that had been electrocuted while taking a shower in Iraq, which brings me to question whether or not this shower and bathroom is actually safe to use.

So that, really, is my questions-- should I demand a repair to the bathroom and shower elsewhere until the situation is fixed, or is this not a serious safety concern? Also, what's the best course of action to fix this problem?



Bob Mariani 04-05-2009 07:21 PM

Call an electrician. A grounding conductor to the main service needs to be run to the plumbing lines. This needs to be checked out. Sometimes the main valve is replaced and this connection was not put back together. Yes... it is a major concern.

cotrackguy 04-05-2009 07:26 PM

I'd gladly call an electrician... but alas, this isn't my house, though I am renting here. The girl who owns the house only wants her dad working on the place. Is this something that an amateur could successfully attempt to fix?

Bob Mariani 04-05-2009 07:49 PM

yes.. post back with what he sees. From the main panel there must be a wire, usually a #6 or #4 bare wire grounding the copper plumbing lines. If you have a main valve this must have a copper wire the same size to jump out this valve. This means the wire is connected to both ends so if this is replaced, you still do not loose this connection. if these items are okay you will need to do more investigation. But this is likely to be the problem.

cotrackguy 04-05-2009 08:12 PM

I will definitely let you know how it goes. Incidentally, I just spoke with the homeowner, who said that she had an inspector check things out a couple of months ago and said that the problem was with "the hot and cold water intake." I'm not really sure what that would mean, but it still seriously concerns me.

Scuba_Dave 04-05-2009 08:22 PM

I'd get it fixed ASAP
As Bob said, this is not a minor issue

cotrackguy 04-05-2009 08:40 PM

Thanks guys, I appreciate it. I'm passing the research along to the homeowner; if she refuses to get a fix for it ASAP, I'm getting out of here.

In the mean time, unless anyone says anything to the contrary, I'm taking my showers elsewhere.

Does anyone know if this problem is usually confined to one room, or effects the whole house?

micromind 04-05-2009 09:24 PM

If the cold water bond (what others have described as the likely problem) is missing, it'll affect the whole house.

If the water heater is electric, I'd look at it as well.


hychesee 04-05-2009 10:29 PM

I would be hard pressed to take a shower in that room and then only with galoshes and rubber gloves on, who knows with your 3 room mates that may be fun.

You stated someone did work in that room, what was it they did? normally a situation like that only arises when a section of metallic cold water pipe was replaced with a plastic pipe and the installer didn't know to put a bonding jumper between the two now isolated pieces. This could of been done in the basement as well as the bathroom - leave no stone unturned.

If all piping to the tub was plastic (PVC) then you would have no problem, I would hazard to guess that either the drain or faucet now has a floating ground - no pun intended. Reaching out of the tub and grabbing something metal connected to the building frame or electrical system could kill you.

You asked if it was one room or the whole house, well it could be both or just the bath, are you willing to stand bare footed in front of the kitchen sink in a pool of water that has a wire tied into the fuse box? shoes and even socks are insulators and won't put you in the same perils as the shower. also note that bare feet on concrete would be very close to being in your shower.

Was anything else done to the house? not to scare you but in certain situations if someone reversed the polarity on a replaced outlet touching both your stove and refrigerator on bare metal at the same time could result in pain or death. There are probably thousands of households in the USA with that potential but luckily the enamel paint on the appliances are keeping those people alive - for now.

cotrackguy 04-05-2009 10:39 PM

There has been a lot of work done to this house, but I have no idea what exactly has been done. Apparently only her dad has worked on the place.

After showing her this thread and some of the research I've done, she's agreed to take this seriously and get things squared away ASAP. Thanks everyone!

And by the way... I'll pass the goulashes and rubber gloves suggestion on to the roommates... :D

Bob Mariani 04-06-2009 04:23 AM

As an electrician we always work with a helper for safety so someone is there if we get shocked. So tell her until it is fixed that you need one of them in the shower with you for safety.

cotrackguy 04-06-2009 05:04 AM

Well, if it's all in the name of safety...

hychesee 04-06-2009 06:11 AM

And as an industrial electrician I was required to take PPE and arc flash training along the Red Cross CPR certifications, just remember don't wait if it looks like trouble just place both your hands on their chest and pump while putting your mouth on their lips and blow.

I use to joke when having to swap a 480 volt breaker while hot because we couldn't shut the panel down and get on the two way radio and say ok who remembers their CPR training, for some odd reason nobody ever wanted to spot a 250 pound white guy with bacon breath.

Silk 04-06-2009 09:05 AM


Originally Posted by cotrackguy (Post 255540)
I'd gladly call an electrician... but alas, this isn't my house, though I am renting here. The girl who owns the house only wants her dad working on the place. Is this something that an amateur could successfully attempt to fix?

Depending upon where you live (State) her Daddy can't work on the electrical. If it's a rental it is commercial property and homeowners can only do electrical work on there own residence. Her dad is most likely some shmuck who doesn't have a clue and neither does your landlord. Call the state board of electricity or your local electrical inspector and find out what the rules are in your area. Make sure you call the state board. If daddy wants to work on and kill his own daughter, have at it, but he should not be allowed to just kill random strangers. Turn the SOB in!

AllanJ 04-06-2009 02:50 PM

As an amateur you can ground it yourself. Take a long length of wire (I suggest 16 gauge or thicker) and tie one end to the faucet assembly (the shower arm is better if you know a metal pipe connects the two). Run the cable through rooms and hallways and stairs (preferably stapled neatly along baseboards and up and around doorways) down to the basement and connect it to the ground bus bar in the breaker panel. Have the power off when you do this project.

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