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What is this black "wire" type thing clamped between my cold and hot water pipe? What is its purpose? enter image description here

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It is a ground cable. It completes the ground between the hot and cold water pipes.

The ground path through the water heater might not be complete. This cable will make sure there is a ground path between hot and cold water pipes.

  • @KoKo: with metal pipes it doesn't matter where the ground is, as long as it's connected all the pipes are grounded. – dandavis Sep 18 '17 at 20:13
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    With copper plumbing, the plumbing unions on the top of the water heater are usually dielectric to avoid galvanic action where the copper and steel pipes are joined. These fittings would electrically insulate the joint so the building codes usually require a bonding jumper across the hot and cold pipes near the water heater. – ArchonOSX Sep 20 '17 at 16:22

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