Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

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Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:48 am

I was connecting a house to my house barefoot and it felt electrified. I got a multimeter and here was 16 volts between my faucet and the other probe stuck into the ground. What could that be from? We have city water.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by Libertarian_Geek » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:26 am

silencertalk wrote:I was connecting a house to my house barefoot and it felt electrified. I got a multimeter and here was 16 volts between my faucet and the other probe stuck into the ground. What could that be from? We have city water.
Somewhere in your house, there's probably a neutral tied to your plumbing (or a hot line near it in a way to induce a current). I bet your water supply line isn't metal going to the meter.

Just a guess.
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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:38 am

The well pump stopped working.

There is still 220 going to the pump.

When I shut that 220 off, then the hose connector on the house (not connected to this well pump area) is no longer showing 16v. This is an irrigation/pool well only - and so does not supply water to the house.

I think the line going to the well pump is severed, and leaking 220 into the ground, and that is energizing part of the house to 16v.

This well pump line has fried like five times now - each time the well guy says it was lighting. I saw the line in the past, and it was all melted in the middle, so that could be it. I am not sure why lighting would keep on striking my backyard when it is surround by such tall trees.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:06 pm


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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by bakerjw » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:44 pm

I assume that the well pump is down in a metal casing something like this
Image.
That affords some protection in the event of a lightning strike but lightning can do some funky things. Just the EMF alone can induce some strong currents.

Is there a junction box on the top of the well? If so, I'd kill power to the well and check resistance from the wires going to the pump to the ground as well as the ones coming from the house to the ground to see which one might be exposing the voltage that you are seeing. Lightning might hit the ground and find it's way into the well power feed. It sounds a little daunting to do a test like this, but I've worked with electricity/electronics as a troubleshooter for 20+ years so I'm a tad more comfortable around these types of things.

An arrestor can never hurt though.
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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by MJF1911 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:41 am

How deep is your well? The longer the run, the greater chance of failure in the line. Also if there is a lot of sediment in the water that causes the pump to work harder and therefore greater load on the line.
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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by ericlw » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:32 pm

if your pump is going out it will cause a larger current draw and melt the line and then take out the pump.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:18 pm

ericlw wrote:if your pump is going out it will cause a larger current draw and melt the line and then take out the pump.
Wouldn't that trip the circuit braker?

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by doubloon » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:08 pm

What kind of paranoid wuss uses circuit breakers?

Hard wire that stuff all the way back to the pole!
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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by curbside » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:00 am

silencertalk wrote:
ericlw wrote:if your pump is going out it will cause a larger current draw and melt the line and then take out the pump.
Wouldn't that trip the circuit braker?

Provided its the correct breaker the excess current will trip the breaker,(some breakers will NOT trip ,defective, some old cutler hammers you could weld with) and if theres a direct short and the circuit is grounded properly it will take the fault current back to source and trip the breaker, it could be as stated before and leaking through the earth,(damaged line) You likely have some exposed conductor leaking into the earth far enough away not to fully energize the equipment (thus tripping the breaker) but enough to show some voltage on it. Try replacing the line, that should fix the issue. So long as everything is properly grounded/bonded the only cause I can think of at the moment would be a damaged line, but not shorted.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by curbside » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:08 am

bakerjw wrote:I assume that the well pump is down in a metal casing something like this
Image.
That affords some protection in the event of a lightning strike but lightning can do some funky things. Just the EMF alone can induce some strong currents.

Is there a junction box on the top of the well? If so, I'd kill power to the well and check resistance from the wires going to the pump to the ground as well as the ones coming from the house to the ground to see which one might be exposing the voltage that you are seeing. Lightning might hit the ground and find it's way into the well power feed. It sounds a little daunting to do a test like this, but I've worked with electricity/electronics as a troubleshooter for 20+ years so I'm a tad more comfortable around these types of things.

An arrestor can never hurt though.

Great idea, also obviously determine if there is power at the j-box, its likey damaged in the line feeding from the house. This resistance test can work that side as well.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by este » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:32 pm

Not to be a dick... But OP, you probably have the means to call a professional in and examine why your pump keeps failing. I'm not buying the lightening hit and killed the pump 5 times.

You can definitely melt and break wire without tripping a circuit breaker. Fires are easily possible too before the breaker trips. For the most part, I'll just assume you have either a pump, a breaker, or a gauge and type of wire (aluminum or copper) that is not matched up somewhere. A melt in the middle of your wire would be interesting because they usually fail at the ends during over-current (at the terminals, esp when the terminals are a different metal than the wire).

How long a run to the pump? Under ground? Aluminum or Copper wire? Gauge? Breaker size? Pump rating? There just isn't enough info to solve anything. I guess what I would start with is, go to the pump and disconnect the leads to it, turn the breaker on, check for voltage at hose. No voltage, ok, it's your pump. Voltage, ok, maybe a short, partial exposed wire, backfeeding neutral, who knows? But you can eliminate pump or wire quickly.

Something else to keep in mind, is that barefoot or not, the human body typically has a resistance so that you won't get anything lower than ~52V to pass through skin. Thicker skin like feet maybe a little more, wet feet a lot less. This has nothing to do with your problem, but definitely don't put any meaning into that 16V number explicitly. Like don't start trying to factor the resistance value for your hose or house or whatever ;)

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:20 pm

I am not assigning any meaning to 16v. I just said what I know - I could feel electricity, and my multi meter indicated 16v. Evidently I can feel 16v even if others can't.

The wire is copper, 12 gauge. The path from the switch to the top of the well is about 15 feet. Then it goes down. The well guy claimed that the break in the line happened where the water table started, so he claimed it was lightning which went into the line and exited at the water table. I have always been skeptical of that, as I have gone my entire life and never saw lightning damage, and now it happens to me every year on the same item?

The path is steel lined.

The circuit breaker is 220 25 amps.

That is 5500 watts - which sure seems like a lot. So perhaps the pump gets dirt in it, stops turning, draws more power, and instead of the circuit breaker tripping, the motor and/or line melts?

Sounds like I need to do a few things:

Change circuit breaker to rating of pump.

Install lightning arrestor.

Check pump for evidence of being filled with obstructions.

But if the pump keeps on getting obstructions, how can that be solved?

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by curbside » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:26 pm

silencertalk wrote:I am not assigning any meaning to 16v. I just said what I know - I could feel electricity, and my multi meter indicated 16v. Evidently I can feel 16v even if others can't.

The wire is copper, 12 gauge. The path from the switch to the top of the well is about 15 feet. Then it goes down. The well guy claimed that the break in the line happened where the water table started, so he claimed it was lightning which went into the line and exited at the water table. I have always been skeptical of that, as I have gone my entire life and never saw lightning damage, and now it happens to me every year on the same item?

The path is steel lined.

The circuit breaker is 220 25 amps.

That is 5500 watts - which sure seems like a lot. So perhaps the pump gets dirt in it, stops turning, draws more power, and instead of the circuit breaker tripping, the motor and/or line melts?

Sounds like I need to do a few things:

Change circuit breaker to rating of pump.

Install lightning arrestor.

Check pump for evidence of being filled with obstructions.

But if the pump keeps on getting obstructions, how can that be solved?


Rate the breaker 125% of the name plate of the pump, and make it a 220 GFCI breaker, any improper current flow will trip the breaker. Equipment rated GFCI breakers will trip no higher than 30 ma, personal protection gfci's will trip usually 4-6 ma. You can get a 240 rated (208/220 also) in both protection categories. This wil not only protect you but the pump as well. #12 awg is ok for 25A on motor taps but I would install #10.This would meet the 125% and 30A breaker. The pump could be damaged from under voltage from a damaged line. This would not necessarily trip the breaker. Several variables could be at play. you will likely need to replace/repair damaged line from house to pump, could be the wire going down the well, It will be easy to single out, break the splice at the j-box and test it.

Proper set up below..

5500 x 1.25 =6675/240(your likely voltage)=28.6A,
#10 cu awg
30A 2-pole GFCI breaker

Hope this helps

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:14 pm

12 gauge should be plenty for a motor that will probably end up being 2-3 amps and less than a 100 foot run.

If the motor is, say 2.5 amps, why a 30 amp breaker? Why not a 10 amp?

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by curbside » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:36 am

silencertalk wrote:12 gauge should be plenty for a motor that will probably end up being 2-3 amps and less than a 100 foot run.

If the motor is, say 2.5 amps, why a 30 amp breaker? Why not a 10 amp?

Im just going by the wattage you stated 5500, I see now that was not actual, just a comment, if the motor has a stated amperage 20A for example go with that, if it just has the watts, then divide the watts by the voltage and that gives you the amperage, and if you want you can multiply by 1.25 to account for inrush current. Your problem is likely the line being damaged leaking current, once its fixed install a GFCI and it will never damage the pump, soon as the circuit is outside the parameters it will open the circuit before any damage or injury is caused. As far as circuit rating just go with the name plate on the pump. Theres also an efficiency rating for different class mtors but thats getting overboard for a pump that small.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:59 am

Called the well guy. He said he has a chart right in front of him, and 12 gauge is rated for up to 480 feet for a 3/4 HP pump.

He said that the 3/4 HP pump is on the chart as a 20 amp breaker. The pump is 8 amps, but it has startup current that is more than 2x the running current.

He said if the impeller got jammed, and the breaker didn't trip, then the wire or motor would fry where the wire terminates, not in the middle. That makes sense.

Also I don't see a wire frying in the middle before a 25 amp breaker would trip.

So if we go back to the lightning theory, the arrestor will only protect it if the strike is on the protected side. The steel casing of the well is still a much better path to ground, and when that hits the water table, I am not sure an arrested at the surface is going to protect it.

Maybe I need to replace the top 4 feet of the steel casing with PVC?

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by JohnnyC » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:01 am

You need to get a licensed electrician and a real well guy to come out. 16v to ground isn't inconsequential despite the low voltage. At work we fault find at less than 1v.

Also our lightning arresters were super expensive and we still pull people during t-storms because they don't always hit the arrester.

Get licensed people out, you don't want to deal with this stuff yourself, if only for liability reasons. Hell, I call a licensed electrician to do any serious work on the house even though I'm more than capable of doing it.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:24 am

Ok, I will have the well guy pull it, but leave it. Then I will have others look at it.

There is also a time delay motor fuse that I see people recommend, and I will put 8 amp fuses on it near the motor but above ground.

What are some options for outdoor fuse holders for time-delay motor fuses?

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by este » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:14 pm

silencertalk wrote:Ok, I will have the well guy pull it, but leave it. Then I will have others look at it.

There is also a time delay motor fuse that I see people recommend, and I will put 8 amp fuses on it near the motor but above ground.

What are some options for outdoor fuse holders for time-delay motor fuses?
Follow pretty much everything that JohnnyC and curbside wrote.

I don't know if you're going to find a 200% time delay fuse (8amp that can take the 16amp start-up load). But, this is not exactly my wheel house.
He said if the impeller got jammed, and the breaker didn't trip, then the wire or motor would fry where the wire terminates, not in the middle. That makes sense.
Exactly what I said :) Um, on that, yea, it's plenty easy to get motors to burn up without tripping breakers.

But still... You should be able to test right now if you have a wire problem or a motor problem by disconnecting the motor. If you still have voltage with the breaker on you have a partial short or open loop or whatever in the wire. No voltage with pump disconnected, pump problem.

I'd wait on the arrester. I don't believe for a second you have a lightening problem. I put more stock into the idea the pump is bogging down and while it isn't enough to trip the breaker it's enough to ruin the pump. Seen that happen on motors before. Saw one loose a bearing, and spin to the point that it caught fire (too much friction on the shaft but motor remained just shy of popping the breaker).

If your pump is getting obstructions it could be crap or it could be iron or whatever. Yea, maybe PVC. See what your guy says.

The problem I see is that if you get into GFCI breakers and time-delay fuses, without really discovering the issue, you're going to have a new hobby of checking breakers and replacing fuses. That sounds like a terrible hobby.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by chrismartin » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:27 pm

I burned up 3 pool pumps (1.5HP, 220v, 7.7 running amps, 15.4 startup amps, 20 amp circuit)
No impeller obstruction
No lightning
Never tripped the breaker
Not a grounded/shorted/messed up line as it's all above ground and only 5-6 feet of wire.
Pump is outside, not in a housing
There is a lightning arrestor on the outside subpanel that drives the pumps and other equipment.
I can't remember if the breakers are GFCI.

However, at least one failure was probably caused by a very full filter, which would have caused the pump to run "hot" for a long time (we were out of town when we had a HUGE pine tree pollen issue that all got filtered through the pool pump and filter, clogging up the filter and increasing the pressure)

I think the others were a bad run of these motors. On the last replacement, the manufacturer changed the OEM motor source.

All were covered under the manufacturer warrantee for the pump motor and the last replacement has been running solid for 2 years or so now.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:47 pm

I wish I could find the photo from last year. I thought I posted it.

The wire was blasted out and all melted - like it exploded from about 10 feet under ground but not near the pump. The well guy claimed that was the top of the water table.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by YourCoWorker » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:07 pm

The loadcenter (breaker box) in a residence is required to have a bonding jumper, usually 6 gauge, from the ground lug to a copper cold water line. The meter box on the outside of a residence is grounded to a copper-clad ground rod driven into the ground next to it. If your meter ground is broken or loose, then your house has no ground. The eddy currents will then seek ground through the cold water line and...you touched it.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by curbside » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:30 pm

Thanks Este, Almost all pumps under 5 hp have built in thermal protection "heaters" Anything over that depending on class has separate heaters(located elsewhere) If the impeller locked up the motor should blow these heaters, they are specially for locked (overheated) motors. That motor should have cut-out before being damaged,, the circuit would still be energized at the pump (line side of heaters) You're a smart guy you can narrow it down, but it doesn't hurt to have a pro check it out. Just for your comfort this isnt shade tree advice, I am a Class 2 Non-Restricted Licensed electrician (Master) and have been working as a congressionally mandated life health electrical safety inspector for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan since 08. Hope you get it resolved soon, if I was unfortunate enough to live that far north :D, I would swing by myself. Just to be clear ground rods dont clear fault current bond jumpers as stated before do, all faults need a path back to source, not an electrode (ground rod) Take the resistance of an electrode, minimum req. being 25 ohms, divide the voltage by the resistance and you have the amount of current the electrode system can dissipate.

Exp. 25/240=12A, not enough to trip a 20A breaker (or in your case 25a breaker) Electrodes are for reference and DISTANT lightning protection, it gives the equipment the same potential as the earth around it, simply... it doesnt stick out like a sore thumb. Ground rods dont protect, bond jumpers do.
Last edited by curbside on Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Electrical people - why is my hose electrified?

Post by silencertalk » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:36 pm

After it is pulled out, I will call the electric co and ask them to check the ground of my house. I will also show the pump wire to the guy in case he has free advice.

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