Electrical shock in shower, new pipes--need help

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  #1  
Old 03-10-13, 11:24 PM
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Electrical shock in shower, new pipes--need help

I am in need of some advice about my plumbing issues, live in an old farmhouse 100 + years old. To make a long story shorter here is a list of events--well quit working replaced pressure switch pump came on. Blew a hole in the galvanized water line outside house-- ran new PVC line from well house to inside house and connected back to galvanized line which eventually becomes copper line.
Next day water pump in well went bad-pulled pump and replaced everything is in working order now. Went into shower and with water running touched metal line while adjusting the temp and got a electrical shock. Did I lose my ground when I replaced the metal pipe outside of house to PVC pipe? If so where would the best place to put a new ground connection? Where the PVC pipe attaches back to the metal pipe or somewhere else in the house. Thanks for your help.
 
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Old 03-11-13, 01:58 AM
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Welcome to the forums !

Sounds like you have several issues going on there.

You definitely lost ground to your water system.
I'm not quite sure how you got the shock in the shower..... touching the water and a metal line ?

It doesn't make a difference.

You have an extremely hazardous condition there and I would call a licensed electrician immediately.
Unless you know exactly what you are doing.....don't mess around.
It sounds like your electric service may be also be to blame in this problem.
 
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Old 03-11-13, 07:35 PM
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I agree, an electrician is probably a good call to make ASAP.

But to give you a general idea of how grounding and bonding work...

Your electrical service requires a Ground. In the 'olden' days, it was often the metal water pipe that went underground for at least 10'. Nowadays, the ground requirement is two 8' copper grounding rods sunk outside the house. (there are other options as well that likely don't matter in your case of an old house). The ground is intended to dissipate high voltage transients, usually associated with lightning and thunderstorms. This is quite important, but likely not the primary issue for what you're experiencing.

Also, electrical systems require bonding. Bonding ensures that any metallic pathway (plumbing, electrical, telephone, cable TV, aluminum siding, gas piping, etc) are all at the same potential. The NEC requires each service to be connected to the main panel ground with an appropriate sized wire. This bond ensures that if you touch two metal surfaces in your home, you won't get shocked.

It sounds like you lost your bond between the electrical system and plumbing pipes maybe by the addition of some plastic pipe somewhere in the house.

Note that this is a simplified explanation... there are a lot of details that I and the others here can help with if desired.
 
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Old 03-11-13, 09:19 PM
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Actually, the cold water inlet is still the first preferred connection for establishing the Grounding Electrode Conductor, which is the technical name of the earth ground that is bonded to the utility neutral to provide protection against high voltage transients. That said, most jurisdictions will accept driven ground rods as an alternative, and almost all will accept, or even require the ground rods as an additional piece.

The most common requirement is for two 8' rods at least 6' apart connected by one conductor. However, since the real requirement is for a low-resistance path tho ground, the solution varies by jurisdiction, usually based on differing soil conditions.

Call a licensed master electrician. If you don't know who to trust, ask your neighbors.
 
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Old 03-11-13, 10:32 PM
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Gentlemen,
Thanks for the information. I looked this evening and since the metal pipe was replaced with PVC outside the house there is no ground on any of my metal water pipes inside the house. Also, I neglected to say that the shower stall was added to a laundry room years ago but the base of the shower where one stands is a poured concrete slab sitting on the ground and not a traditional fiberglass shower stall. I don't know if this would make any difference but changing the pipe must have as I have lived here 20 years and this is the first time getting shocked in the shower has ever happened.
I will install the ground to the water pipes and get the electrician to check out everything. I will have to use ground rods to do the ground as the inlet for the water and the breaker box are on diagonal corners of the house. Again, thanks for the information.
 

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Old 03-11-13, 11:04 PM
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I will install the ground to the water pipes and get the electrician to check out everything. I will have to use ground rods to do the ground as the inlet for the water and the breaker box are on diagonal corners of the house. Again, thanks for the information.
From what you posted here, it sounds like a better plan to hire a licensed master electrician to do the work, for two reasons. One is that the location of your distribution panel may or may not be relevant, Another is that the cold water inlet must be bonded to the GEC, regardless of how far away it is. Not doing the work in the manner in which it needs to be done is just a waste of time and money. Doing it properly involves considering a set of factors and, frankly, it's a bit complicated.

I don't know where you are in TN, but I didn't check over, and sign off on, work done by homeowners when I lived and workrd there. For one thing, that's the county's job - no professional license covers it. For another, it would be worth my license if I did do it and missed something.
 
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Old 03-14-13, 04:24 PM
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You've uncovered a old problem

I found this thread interesting. I was reading over a thread on DIY gas and tripped across the "getting a shock in the shower". Granted, changing the well pipe from steel to PVC did break the ground path that was being used. I agree with the bonding and grounding between the water and the electrical service. What comes to mind is why is there a voltage present in the ground wire? Ground wires in an electrical system are there for safety and the well pipe was doing that function instead of a ground rod. Something is touching where it is not supposed to be touching. That voltage that was draining through the well pipe is being billed to you! An earth ground is not an" on going current " carrying conductor...its for faults, so you don't get a shock. Its there to prevent a hazard, not correct one, if that makes sense? By just installing a new ground rod (s) and ground wire, it "may' stop you from getting a shock in the shower, but the electrical fault in the house still exists and needs to be corrected. Somewhere, there is a black wire touching, be it a wet outside receptical, a receptical or switch box with old cracked wiring, or an appliance. As far as narrowing it down, I would put a voltmeter between the inside well pipe and a good known ground ( like the outside well pipe ) That should give you a voltage reading of what is trying to ground out. By shutting off one circuit at a time, each time checking the voltmeter, you can isolate your problem down to one circuit and go from there, unplugging appliances on that circuit, shutting off light switches, inspecting boxes etc. Hope that helps.
 
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Old 03-14-13, 04:33 PM
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Welcome to the forums, Reed!

In a house as old as the OP's, there may be any number of current leakage paths and other things that could be tightened up with a complete overhaul. If installing and bonding a proper low-resistance path to ground solves the immediate problem and doesn't result in having any circuit breakers stop holding, then the OP and family can safely stay cleaned up while any additional improvements are undertaken.
 
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