I was staying with a friend recently and after cooking dinner I was washing up. I had water running in the sink, and one hand in the water rinsing a glass. With my other hand I reached to grab a copper skillet from the electric stove top, to wash it, and I felt a mild tingle across my hands.

Knowing just a little about ac wiring, I was immediately worried and glad my heart was still beating.

My friend wasn't too worried and in fact duplicated my actions just to feel it himself.

I've noticed a couple outlets and pieces of equipment grounded to pipes in the basement. To remedy the situation he bought a couple brackets and a chunky wire and grounded the plumbing to a copper grounding rod in the ground outside the house.

What caused my electrical sensation? Is the house safe now or a potential death trap at every water fixture?

  • The stove was plugged in but off.
    – nexus_2006
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 1:20
  • Where in the planet is this? Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 2:10
  • 2
    How close are you to this friend? How do you feel about giving the eulogy? Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 2:13
  • Its funny I have never known of a person dying from this. Not many years ago almost every stove was wired this way.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 15:45
  • @EdBeal do you mean this is not modern stove wiring but represents behavior normal as designed, or is it a malfunction regardless of the stoves age?
    – nexus_2006
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


The house is not a potential death trap at every water fixture. The house is a potential death trap at the stove.

Improving the grounding of the pipes is worse than useless. The only thing to do to keep your friend alive is to immediately stop using the stove and unplug it until it can be made safe to use, or replaced altogether.

A qualified electrician or appliance repairman may be able to repair it or properly ground it, but the labor cost may exceed that of a new stove.

  • It really shouldn't cost that much to run a wire from the stove chassis to the earth line in the power cord! Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 13:27
  • But is the dangerous voltage appearing at the stove chassis or at the burner cladding? Does the power cord or the outlet even have an earth (fault ground) line? If so, is it really at the same potential as the metal plumbing? Has a dangerous voltage appeared between the neutral line and the nearest reference ground? - It's a case of $18.00 to run a wire + $382.00 for knowing where to run it to keep the user alive. Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 17:35

Older stoves pre 96 or 99 there was only a neutral not a true equipment ground if another piece of equipment was using the neutral as a return path you could feel a Tingle due to the difference in potential. When I was a kid if you plugged the metal toaster in backwards you could get the same or more from a 2 wire system with bare feet. Now the NEC requires a equipment ground for improved safety but older systems are not required to be upgraded even with some remodels.

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