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Author Topic: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o  (Read 15292 times)

John Roberts {JR}

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Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« on: November 29, 2016, 07:26:19 pm »

After an afternoon of making sawdust with my new chainsaw, I decided to take a quick shower.

As I was standing in the tub adjusting the water temp I thought if felt a shock... My first thought was to dismiss it as one of those random nerve firings that sometimes resemble an electric shock, but as i reflected on my situation, wet bare feet standing in a metal tub about to immerse myself in the shower, I thought it might be a good idea to dig out my NCVT.

The NCVT is pretty sensitive but it went off like a christmas tree,,,  :o Danger Will Robinson... 8) 

Since I had just wired a GFCI outlet into my laundry room I wondered how I could have possibly caused this.  ::)

The primary smoking gun I found was 115VAC on my hot water copper pipe coming from the water heater.  Now that's a "hot" water pipe.  ;D

I unplugged the dishwasher and washing machine, the only two other appliances that have contact with the hot water and electricity. The situation did not change, so It looks like time for a new hot water heater.

I know I should power down the water heater but unclear if it even has a separate breaker. Looks like the same kind of old fabric covered heavy wire going up to the attic so perhaps on a big 230V cartridge fuse with all the in wall electric heaters.. Two double cartridge fuses at the top of my panel so perhaps one for the heaters, and the other for all the branch circuits. The water heater had a pigtail(?) connection, just two wires poking out the side of it, wired to the heavy feed wire dropped down from the ceiling and wrapped with some black electrical tape.  :o I'll bet its just bused to all the in wall heaters power feed.  No problem since I don't use them any more I can turn the whole heater power off...

Tomorrow I'll climb up in the attic and try to trace that out.

Didn't get my hot or cold shower.  :( But didn't get zapped either.  8)

JR
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2016, 07:46:31 pm »

The NCVT is pretty sensitive but it went off like a christmas tree,,,  :o Danger Will Robinson... 8) 

I've been taken to task by a bunch of electricians on various forums about advocating the use of a NCVT as a basic test for energized chassis (and bodies of water), but they're still a great first test. If an NCVT beeps at you, then there's a very high chance that whatever you're pointing it at has a significant AC bias on it. So it's still a great quickie back-line hot-chassis test for when the band shows up with some "vintage" guitar amp they picked up on Craigslist.

As far as your hot water heater, it sounds like the chassis has lost its EGC ground connection, or maybe never had one. If you get a pinhole leak in one of the heating elements (pretty common) it can dump maybe 1 or 2 amperes of fault current into the water. I know because I actually rigged up a test to try it out.
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Mike Sokol
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2016, 09:42:56 pm »

Yup, I'm sure it never was grounded to the service panel. The heavy cloth covered wire drop to it looks like it has 3 conductors inside but only two are connected to the heater.

Tomorrow I am going to look at tankless hot water heaters... My house is wired for in-wall electric heat that I no longer use, so there could be enough electrical service available for a tankless heater.

JR
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2016, 10:18:23 pm »

Tomorrow I am going to look at tankless hot water heaters... My house is wired for in-wall electric heat that I no longer use, so there could be enough electrical service available for a tankless heater.

We installed a heat-pump / hybrid hot water heater for my son last year. But the time we got through all the POCO rebates and energy credits it cost him around $100. http://www.geappliances.com/ge/heat-pump-hot-water-heater.htm
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2016, 10:58:49 pm »

We installed a heat-pump / hybrid hot water heater for my son last year. But the time we got through all the POCO rebates and energy credits it cost him around $100. http://www.geappliances.com/ge/heat-pump-hot-water-heater.htm

Where do I hook up the natural gas (methane)?

Also, why buy a hot water heater?  It would seem to be redundant (why heat hot water).

Jus' wonderin'

/nudge, wink
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2016, 03:17:40 am »

We installed a heat-pump / hybrid hot water heater for my son last year. But the time we got through all the POCO rebates and energy credits it cost him around $100. http://www.geappliances.com/ge/heat-pump-hot-water-heater.htm

I ran into those quite a bit in my travels and the flow rate always caused me to end up taking a longer shower.  Do the newer ones provide sufficient flow that you feel like you got a good shower?

Of course I would bathe with a pressure washer if that was a viable option. 

In my younger days would take the flow restrictors out of the hotel shower heads.  I was so obsessive about this I noticed that if the hotel was over 20 stories and you got on a middle floor you were at just about the peak pressure zone.  Since I was usually working an overnight everyone else would be done showering and I could truly enjoy myself.

That was a bit of a digression.  John - be careful, that is disconcerting to say the least. 
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Scott AKA "Skyking" Holtzman

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Mike Sokol

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2016, 07:37:55 am »

I ran into those quite a bit in my travels and the flow rate always caused me to end up taking a longer shower.  Do the newer ones provide sufficient flow that you feel like you got a good shower?

Of course I would bathe with a pressure washer if that was a viable option. 

In my younger days would take the flow restrictors out of the hotel shower heads.  I was so obsessive about this I noticed that if the hotel was over 20 stories and you got on a middle floor you were at just about the peak pressure zone.  Since I was usually working an overnight everyone else would be done showering and I could truly enjoy myself.

That was a bit of a digression.  John - be careful, that is disconcerting to say the least.

The link I sent is not a tankless hot water heater. It's just the opposite since there's a 50 gallon tank. In addition to a standard high-wattage heater element, it also has a heat pump on the top. So it only draws about 5 amperes or so to heat the water instead 20 amps like a conventional hot water heater. It also dehumidifies the room while it heats the water. This reduces electrical costs considerably, just like a heat pump on your house is much cheaper to run than electric baseboard heating. 
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Don Gspann

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2016, 10:07:20 am »

The link I sent is not a tankless hot water heater. It's just the opposite since there's a 50 gallon tank. In addition to a standard high-wattage heater element, it also has a heat pump on the top. So it only draws about 5 amperes or so to heat the water instead 20 amps like a conventional hot water heater. It also dehumidifies the room while it heats the water. This reduces electrical costs considerably, just like a heat pump on your house is much cheaper to run than electric baseboard heating.

I've had tankless hot water for several years. Started with a Bosch, which failed prematurely, had a Rinnai installed, has been working great. Flow is not a problem with the proper size. Two showers at once and not having to worry about getting stuck with it going cold on you is awesome. Can run dishwasher and shower at the same time or washing machine. Basically, two large draws at once. Downside is it does take a bit longer for it to get up to speed at the far end of the house on a cold day.
I got used to it. Also, ran it off of a UPS during hurricane Sandy until I was able to get generator power.

EDIT:  Just to add, my tankless water heater runs off of gas, so may not be an option.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2016, 02:20:07 pm by Don Gspann »
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2016, 12:53:23 pm »

Yup, I'm sure it never was grounded to the service panel. The heavy cloth covered wire drop to it looks like it has 3 conductors inside but only two are connected to the heater.

Tomorrow I am going to look at tankless hot water heaters... My house is wired for in-wall electric heat that I no longer use, so there could be enough electrical service available for a tankless heater.

JR

An electric hot water heater (even a tankless one ;) ) needs to have an EGC.  Also, the code calls for any metal water piping to be bonded to the service ground.  So it sounds like you have at least 2 non compliant conditions.  in this particular case, non-compliance became hazardous-but I know JR knows that.

If you have a 60 amp fused service, a tankless heater might not be an option.  It takes but a bit of current to heat up water "on-the-fly" to supply a shower.  Last one I did took 3 separate 40 amp circuits-so even a 100 amp service wouldn't be enough.
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Steve Swaffer

Josh Millward

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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2016, 02:24:53 pm »

I have an on demand electric hot water heater and I love it!

I've been running it for a number of years and it is the best thing ever. We love the never ending hot water. Take as many showers in a row as you want, it just isn't a problem. You simply do not have to manage your usage and worry about running out of hot water.

It replaced a propane tank unit so I had to run all new electrical for it. I think I put in something like 3x 240V 50A circuits for it. Fortunately it was located very close to the breaker panel so it really wasn't much of a problem.

If I were building a new house, I would put separate smaller units nearer the point of use, like one in the kitchen and one near the master bath and one near the guest bath. That way you don't have to wait for the hot water to traverse the house. You just have hot water, almost instantly. You can have as much hot water as you want, too. However, I don't think the tiny individual point of use units are that good. You know, the ones that go under the sink. They typically don't have the capacity to keep up with the temperature and flow that is needed.
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Josh Millward
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Re: Hickory man shocked (but not electrocuted). :o
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2016, 02:24:53 pm »


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