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Old 02-02-2010, 07:46 AM   #1
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Electricity in water supply


I recently reconnected the water supply for our basement bath. I replumbed the master bath using PEX manifold and did a transition from Pex to copper for the basement bath as well. The other day when I turned on the water i felt the tingling. So, I used the meter to verify that's the case. The meter says I got electicity when I touch hot wire in the vanity light above the box and one of the copper pipes in the wall. The copper looks to be running very close to where the electrical box is. So, I don't know if the box itself is touching the wire via ground or the romex behind the wall is damaged somehow. Luckily, when I turn the switch for the vanity light off, the problem goes away so at least I can safely wash my hands!

Questions:

1. Do you think the problem was always there and has been hidden by the fact that the old copper supply was grounded and now that we switched to PEX, it's no longer the case?

2. Would having bare ground/box touch the copper pipe result in the tingles or is there a bigger problem? ground/neutral reversed, etc? I can obvilously take down the drywall and see what the romex looks like. That bath will get remodeled soon anyway and the existing walls have two layes of wallpaper, so it will be easier to replace the drywall I think.

Thanks
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:56 AM   #2
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Take a low wattage light fixture and connect one wire to the ground screw in the middle of a receptacle cover and connect the other wire to the copper piping. Also from the wide prong slot (neutral) of a receptacle to the shower head. (Get some lengths of single conductor #14 or #16 wire if needed.)

If the light comes on, you have some kind of fault (unwanted connection) in the electrical system causing the pipes to be energized.

Otherwise it might be "phantom" or induced voltage where the pipes and wires traveled alongside in the wall. Here, grounding the pipe by running a #14 bare wire from it along the route of the PEX that you replaced older piping with, and down to your electrical panel, will fix that problem.

You should re-ground any and all metal pipes that were ungrounded when parts of the plumbing were replaced by Pex or other plastic parts.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 02-02-2010 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 02-02-2010, 08:03 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Take a low wattage light fixture and connect one wire to the ground screw in the middle of a receptacle cover and connect the other wire to the shower head. (Get some lengths of single conductor #14 or #16 wire if needed.)

If the light comes on, you have some kind of fault (unwanted connection) in the electrical system causing the pipes to be energized.

Otherwise it might be "phantom" or induced voltage where the pipes and wires traveled alongside in the wall. Here, grounding the pipe by running a #14 bare wire along the route of the PEX that you replaced will fix that problem.
Not sure why a bulb would be any better than the electical tester I used?



As far as the wire alongside pex, does that wire get grounded to an existing circuit?
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Old 02-02-2010, 08:18 AM   #4
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Basically the "water pipe system" should be bonded to ground...

So what this means is if your entire water pipe system, cold, hot, etc. is all metal and electrically connected, then one bond to ground will ground the whole pipe system...

However if you remove some metal piping and replace it with plastic pipe, then you should install a bonding jumper between the existing metal ends of the pipe system.

So:

OK: Bond to Ground-----all metal pipe----------

OK with jumper: Bond to Ground---
metal pipe---plastic----metal pipe----
_______^------jumper------^

Then somewhere in the circuit for the light there is something "leaking" electricity to the water pipe. Is there a fan? Note that the insulation on wiring behind old light fixtures can "crumble" due to the heat from the bulbs in the fixture. This might be the problem. Or could be a nail in a wire.

I would suggest calling an electrician if you don't know how to find this problem.

As to myself, I would rip out the walls to find the problem if necessary. I don't like electrified water faucets!

FYI - There are "dielectric unions" on water heaters and this breaks the electrical connection from hot to cold. I place a jumper from the hot to cold pipes if they are metal at the water heater.

And a good main ground is two ground rods placed 6 ft. apart. And then the water pipe system would be bonded to this. Always turn off main power when working on any ground wires (and in your case water pipes!).

Last edited by Billy_Bob; 02-02-2010 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 02-02-2010, 08:36 AM   #5
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What does this jumper look like? Bare #12 or #14 wire running between the metal pipe sections?

Do I still need a jumper if I find out what the problem is? I plan to rip out the drywall above the vanity and see what the romex looks like, regardless of if the jumper would "fix" the issue
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Old 02-02-2010, 08:39 AM   #6
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If you have a section of plastic pipe between two copper sections, then you should definitely install a jumper between the two sections.

I would think the jumper would need to be as big or bigger than the wires in the circuit near the currently unbonded pipes. Big enough to carry as much as the breaker will allow before it trips.
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