Is my house/box not well grounded?

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Old 08-30-07, 03:56 PM
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Is my house/box not well grounded?

Hi!

The other day I had a city worker working on replacing the water service to my house. At one point when he was in my basement pulling the pipes at/around the foundation he said he noticed that the lights were dimming. He said "you should check that you're grounded properly, last time I saw something like this I was almost electricuted". I said - "what? what does my plumbing have to do with my electricity?". Then he got annoyed that I didn't understand and walked away... I have 100Amp service and a very old house (over 110 years old) with a rubble foundation (I think...).

I'm a bit nervous now. Are there any tips or signs that indicate your electric box is not properly grounded? Should I be able to see how it is grounded and visually confirm this? How dangerous is this? What could happen if my grounding is off?

I will call in an electrician to check but first want to hear from you. I don't have an electrician that I trust and want to prevent getting ripped off (a little knowledge sure does help).

Thanks so much, Dana
 
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Old 08-30-07, 04:44 PM
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Dimming lights when a pipe is disconnected could indicate a problem with the neutral. If there is a neutral problem ground could be acting as a return path. You might want to call the power company and ask them to check the neutral. If it's on their side they should fix it. Even if it isn't they may find the problem and tell you what needs to be fixed.
 
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Old 08-30-07, 05:24 PM
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Your service has grounding electrodes which connect a pathway from your panel to the earth ground outside your house. An example of a grounding electrode would be a ground rod, which is a 6' or 8' rod that pounds straight into the ground. Another electrode that is permitted for use is water pipe. The plumber may have disconnected this electrode when he removed the pipe. Your panel's neutral bonds with the ground at the main panel and takes the same pathway to the earth ground. The difference between the ground and the neutral is that the neutral is what your electrical circuits use. The ground is like a backup, so if and voltage shorts out on any metal parts of a tool or piece of equiptment, it has a pathway back to the earth ground. This way you become less likely to become that pathway. Make sense? So if the water pipe was a grounding electrode and it got disconnected, the neutral could've been affected. This could've caused some light flickering. You have to have a ground though, because no ground = no neutral and no neutral = no power. It also means that you probably don't have a problem with the lights. It would probably be a good idea to have an electrician check it out though. Definitely don't have a general handyman or someone that justs claims they know electricity do it. Make sure you get a professional. Professionals cost less in the long run because they know what they're doing and get the job done right the first time.
 
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Old 08-30-07, 05:37 PM
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The neutral and the ground are connected together at the main panel. They are NOT the same thing. The neutral takes the return current back to the power company. The ground circuit in your house provides a place for fault current to flow so the breaker will trip if you get a short. The ground rod provides a path for lightning protection.
If you neutral is broken then the neutral current will attempt to find another path. With a metal water system that path could(most likely will) be through your water pipe to the neighbours house and out his neutral wire.

Diligent plumbers know they should connect a jumper across a water line before they cut it just for this reason.
 
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Old 08-30-07, 05:42 PM
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brewcityc is a little confused.

Proper operation does NOT require ground. A properly wired system will work just fine without a ground.

Under normal operation, the neutral current flows along the neutral wire to the power company transformer and there is no current on the ground wires.

The ground wires in your home exist so that there is a second path back to the neutral. At one place in your house (usually the main panel) the ground wires are connected to the neutral. if, for example, your washing machine develops a problem and the hot wire accidentally contacts the metal shell of the washer, current will flow through the ground wire back to the main panel where it will flow on the neutral back to the power company transformer. Since this path completes the circuit, too much current will flow and the circuit breaker will trip. This tripped breaker protects you from the shock you might receive if you touched the metal washer while it was energized.

The connection of the ground system in your house to the earth is for a different reason. This connection is for excess current that might enter the system from outside, such as from a lightning strike. This connection also provides a reference point so that the 120 volts of power is not floating.

The connection of the ground to your water pipes is for one of two reasons. If your pipes meet certain requirements, they are considered your primary means of an earth ground. The connection also serves to ground the water pipes and the fixtures so that your water pipes (like the shell of the washer) do not become energized.

Your problem might be a bad neutral connection to the power company. Some of the neutral current might be flowing out of your house on the water pipes and into your neighbors' houses, and then back to the power company along their neutral connections. This is not good.

Your situation warrants a call to the power company. Do not delay. You can call them now. They will check their connections. They may even check yours. If the problem is yours, they may even fix it for you. Start with them.
 
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Old 09-03-07, 11:49 AM
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Thank you all so much! I'm not sure that I understand - but I have places to start now !!! THANKS!

I'm getting creeped out now because ever since they replaced my water service and made this comment I've noticed a lot of power fluxes (slight dimming of lights/power). Has this always been the case and I'm only noticing this now because of the comment OR is something new (bad) happening? They were hackhammering into my basement floor - maybe something in my panel is loose now? Who knows... I will start with the power company and then get an electrician.

AGAIN, THANKS SO MUCH!
 
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Old 09-03-07, 02:52 PM
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You should have called the power company when first suggested here. Worst case scenario if it is a faulty neutral is a barbecued house or electronic and electric appliances. This is the sort of thing you call about even at night or on holidays.
 
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Old 09-04-07, 07:00 AM
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THANKS! The power company is supposed to come today.

PS - I just noticed that my printer no longer works... (no power)... Hope it wasn't BBQed... BUT...Better it than me!
 
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Old 09-04-07, 04:20 PM
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Hi!

The power company came today and replaced these black cylinder shaped things that are near where the power comes to the house. They said the old ones were burnt/melted.

SO, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! My problem has been solved super quickly and I didn't have to spend a penny! YOU GUYS ARE FANTASTIC!!!!

PS - I'm very curious - what are the black things that were burnt? Were they related to the neutral? I wasn't here when they were here - so I couldn't ask...
 
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Old 09-04-07, 04:52 PM
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Those black cylinder things were probably the connectors used to splice the
power companies lines to your service feeders , and yes there is one on the neutral.
 
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Old 09-04-07, 05:36 PM
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Yes. Those are the butt splices that connect the power company wires to your wires. They push their wire in one end and your wire in the other end and crimp them tight onto the cables.
I have seen them melted before from poor connections.
 
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Old 09-04-07, 05:42 PM
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My home is very near the Atlantic ocean and the salt spray in the air (especially in the fall and winter months) wreaks havoc with the butt splice crimps. The connection can be excellent when first done but the salt will get in there and corrode things up, no matter how well its done the first time.
 
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Old 09-06-07, 06:52 AM
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Thanks so much!

One day I might almost understand my house (ya... right!).
 
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