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lampskin

02:23PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
Bvelectrical
A few months ago, I was cleaning my bathroom with some bleach and water, when I touched the faucet on the bathroom sink to rinse my hands.

I got quite a jolt. Naturally, I called an electrician. I asked him to come in and fix the problem. He looked around my house and poked a bit behind my breaker panel.

Eventually, he came to the conclusion that bonding my pipes would fix the problem, so he ran a copper wire in my furnace room between my hot pipe and water main where it entered the house.

He sent me another bill in the mail, which I never paid, but that's a whole other issue.

Now, about 3 weeks later, I took a shower and afterwards walked around a bit in my bare feet.

I brushed my teeth, touching the same tap on the bathroom sink. Zap! Another jolt. This time I was aware of my body position in the bathroom at the time of the shock. I noticed I had my bare wet feet on a brass threshold plate that was screwed into the floor under the doorway between the bathroom and the hall. Took out my multimeter, and ran a lead between the plate and the tap. 120 VAC.

Since then, I unscrewed the plate, in the hopes of lowering conductivity.

Seemed to be fine. Today, however, I was washing my hands after work, and noticed that the water was making my hands tingle. My stockinged feet were on the place where the plate was. There is some cheap nylon carpet under the plate. I can't believe I got a shock right through the carpet and my socks!!!

For now, I'm staying very clear of that place where the plate was.

Any suggestions? My plan is to try and rip up the bathroom linoleum and try and find where the exposed wire is. I'm kinda scared too that a guest might hurt themself too.

Help?

lampskin

02:36PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
Here...I'll post some pics so you can see what I mean.
6439-pictures

lampskin

02:37PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
My bathroom(it's really small)
6440-more_pics

lampskin

02:38PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
Here's where the metal plate was...
6441-more_pics

Tom O

03:26PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/17/02
477 lifetime posts
Don't delay, call another electrician and hopefully, this time you'll get one that takes your safety seriously.

If I were troubleshooting this, I would use a non-contact voltage tester to determine the area that is energized. I would then isolate which circuit is causing the problem. Then, using the non-contact voltage tester and/or a circuit tracer ( sometimes called a fox & hound) try to determine where the signal is strongest as that would probably be the point where the voltage is coming from.

BTW, you don't happen to have an electrically heated floor do you?

Tom

Billhart

04:06PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 04/25/05
1915 lifetime posts
Yes, this is a dangerous problem.

It might be a wire that was fished in and was cut with a nail or screw.

But it might be other causes.

It was common practice in houses without grounded receptacles to run ground wires to the nearest cold water pipe. Might have even been code at the time. And my noticing the pink fixtures I suspect that yours is that old.

But this is no longer allowed. For several reasons. One is people working on the plumbing where getting shocked when disconnecting a pipe. Also often the metallic pipes have been replaced with plastic and the electrical path has been broken.

If you have something plugged into a grounded receptacle that is connected to the receptacle and it is "leaky" then the water pipes in the bathroom might be hot.

There are other possibilities including problems with the grounding at the panel and with power company connections.

Most likely you need a good electrican with diagnostic skills and familar with working on older homes.

One think that can help identify the problem is to CAREFULLY make some test.

Get an extension cord and plug it into a grounded receptacle nearest the panel. Then run it to the bathroom.

Make measurements between the ground hole in the extension cord end and the water pipe. Also from the ground to the threashold.

That will tell you which is hot (assuming that you have a good grounded receptacle as the reference).

Then after you find which it is flip off circuits one by one and see which one affects this.

Lets know what happens.


lampskin

04:25PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
No, no electrically heated floor.

Oil fired boiler heating, with radiators throughout.

The circuit tracer...how does it work? Does it just induce some sort of current in the wire, and then pick it up on an AM radio?

I just googled it and that's what I found.

So you're saying once I have the flooring off, I could pinpoint the exposed wire with the tracer, because the signal near there would be the strongest?

What is a non-contact voltage tester? I'm assuming that you don't need to hook it up to the circuit in series or parallel. So you can just bring it into the vicinity of a current carrying conductor, and it will sense a live wire?

Cool toys.

Thanks for the ideas. Maybe it's time to buy some more toys.


lampskin

04:34PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
Thanks for the ideas.

Hmmmm...yeah, I think it is the threshold and not the pipes, but I'll run the extension cord and see.

Good thing I bought a cheap multimeter.

My guess is the same as your first thought. Probably someone screwed into a live wire.

I have a 100+ yr old house, and I'm sure many "improvements" have been done to it.

What do you mean about plugging something into a grounded receptacle, and the receptacle being leaky?

The electrician that came over, as worthless as he may have been, did check the grounding at the panel, and he said it looked ok.

Billhart

04:53PM | 10/19/06
Member Since: 04/25/05
1915 lifetime posts
Not that the receptacle is leaky. But that something plugged into one is "leaky".

For example a surge protector has varistors from the hot to ground, hot to neutral, and neutral to ground. They "switch on" when high voltage surges hit. But can allow very small amounts of current to flow when the voltages are normal.

A non-contact tester is about the size of a penlight. They cost about $10-15 and avaialble at HD and Lowes. They light and beep when they get within a few inches of a hot wire.

But they should not be used for things like determining which is the hot wire and which is neutral.

They are best used to see that something is hot and then when you turn the breaker off that it is no longer hot.

Until you get familar with it you can mislead about when it does and does not beep.

Basic tone tracers cost about $80-90 at the same places. They don't use an AM radio, but rather a tone pickup. Ones in that range can't be used on live circuits or if there is any load on the circuit (such as a light that is one).

With problems like this don't focus too much on any one thing that you suspect. It sounds like that is what the first person did.

Don't assume anything.

Here is was an interesting problem.

http://www.bobvila.com/BBS/Suspected_open_ground-Electrical-1-T6337.html


lampskin

12:39PM | 11/04/06
Member Since: 09/24/06
50 lifetime posts
I didn't get around to fixing this problem yet.

The problem up here is that all the electricians and contractors who are any good are working at the local nuclear power plant. It's out here in the country, so there are not that many to begin with.

It takes at least 2 weeks for any of these guys to give me a call back.

In the meantime, I ripped out my all metal bathroom faucet and taps, and replaced them with plastic taps and a new faucet.

I also took the opportunity to upgrade some plumbing.

The plastic taps don't conduct electricity as well, so I haven't been zapped.

I also ripped up the floor plate and carpet, and found some water damage...hmmmm.


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