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I have been trying to get this issue fixed for the better part of a year now. I have had three electricians take a stab at this, and none of them were able to figure anything out.

The primary shower in my home gave me a noticeable tingle when I went to turn off the shower. After doing my own investigation and taking measurements, I ended up with the following information:

  • There is anywhere from 1 - 3 volts from the shower faucet to the drain
  • To check the bonding, I measured from a nearby outlet to the pipes. From neutral (this outlet's polarity might be reversed, the wires are too old to determine color) to the faucet, there is ~60V, from neutral to the drain, there is ~24V. From hot to either is the same voltage four between the faucet and drain.

Other notable points:

  • This issue does disappear almost completely when the main is shut off (sometimes it shows ~.1V on my cheap DMM...)
  • It appears to be more than one circuit that creates this voltage.
    • This voltage increases as the water leaves the drain pipes (starts around 1v, drops to 0 when there is standing water, and when the plug is pulled and no standing water is left, it jumps back to 1, and gradually increases as the water drains away).
  • Happens on the shower and sink in that bathroom, but nowhere else in the house.
  • This particular bathroom has all copper piping.
  • Shortly before we noticed this issue, I had some plumbing work done that broke the continuity of the copper piping. I have since bonded across the PVC and the voltage remains...
  • It is also worth mentioning that the house has three prong outlets throughout, but none of them appear to actually be grounded... I have yet to find a bootleg ground, but that is possible.
  • Another path I was hoping to take soon is to fix the reversed polarity on the outlet our gas range is plugged into... Not sure if this would have anything to do with my water issue though.

Any help with this issue would be greatly appreciated! We have been unable to use this bathroom for the better part of a year.

Thank you!

Edit: I just opened the panel behind the shower hoping to bond the drain pipe to the supply pipes, but was surprised to see that the drain for the shower is actually PVC. Seeing how this is the case, would bonding the remaining metal drain pipes potentially fix this issue still? I know eventually it’s something that must be done, but I’m trying to get the shower usable before fixing any other issues in the house.

  • 1-3 volts is not an issue, you would not feel that. Whatever is going on must be intermittent and you are not catching it with the meter. Is the drain plumbing grounded? – agentp Nov 20 '17 at 22:49
  • I don't believe the drain is grounded.. How would one go about grounding a drain pipe? I believe the only pipe I have access to is a 3 inch pipe in the basement that comes from the bathroom. – Clint Warner Nov 20 '17 at 22:56
  • I would Deffinately be bonding all the plumbing both supply and drain to a good grounding location. Since you bonded across the PVC it should be good but tie them together to eliminate any potential difference. – Ed Beal Nov 20 '17 at 23:08
  • Is your water heater electric or gas? If gas, does it require electricity as well? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 20 '17 at 23:18
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    For a ground clamp for large pipe, use a large SS hose clamp. Buff the pipe good to get down to base metal. Fold back and forth a 1-1/2" bundle of #10 solid copper. Stick this between the clamp and the pipe. Tighten the clamp. Run the other end to a proven excellent ground point. Bond all the plumbing piping systems together; especially the bath room in question. – Paul Logan Nov 21 '17 at 5:08
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+100

Your key statement here is in your bullet point #7.

It is also worth mentioning that the house has three prong outlets throughout, but none of them appear to actually be grounded... I have yet to find a bootleg ground, but that is possible

This is telling use you have a dwelling that was built before 1965 and it was originally installed as an ungrounded system. It also means that you have or had cold water ground. You new plumbing has probably interrupted.

You need to go through your plumbing and make sure all of your piping is rebonded back to the original ground. Also you need to correct your three pronged problem by installing GFCI's to your receptacles as outlined in NEC Article Sec. 210-7(d)(3).

http://www.ecmweb.com/content/replacing-2-wire-ungrounded-receptacles

@Clint Warner Comment and Edit

I picked up your comment and edit when I checked the Stack Exchange in my email and appears you are asking two questions.

First from everything I have read in this question. It appears to me that your dwelling is not grounded.

From neutral (this outlet's polarity might be reversed, the wires are too old to determine color) to the faucet, there is ~60V, from neutral to the drain, there is ~24V.

So first I would suggest you establish a new grounding system. enter image description here

Just ignore the lighting protection part and ground to as many points available to you in your dwelling as you can (cold water, driven rod, etc). I would even run a bonding jumper from the shower faucet to the first point of ground in the panel. Also I would find all of the locations where the original copper plumbing was replaced with plex and bond between the copper on either side. I can't be sure, but that might fix it. If not you will need to get a local business that has someone who is very experienced with grounding problems and has the proper test equipment.

Your second problem about having too small of a box is easy to answer but not so easy in application. You really need to replace the box. I would recommend a standard plastic box at least 2 1/2" deep. I don't have a particular video on it, but I will bet there are several youtube videos that can so you how to replace it. And it still may require some cutting and patching.

Hope this helps and good luck

  • How would I verify that all of the piping is bonded? Would this just be a continuity test across multiple points? What equipment would I need to do this? My voltmeter leads aren’t quite long enough to cut it... lol. I was considering upgrading all the circuit breakers in my house to GFCI. Some of the boxes are too small to accommodate a GFCI outlet. – Clint Warner Nov 23 '17 at 3:25
  • Why don't you also recommend driving a ground rod? A city water pipe is better anyway? – Mazura Nov 24 '17 at 15:47
  • I appreciate your time giving me this answer! I was hoping for something a little bit easier than "rewire your entire house", but it's looking like this may need to be done anyway. Upon further inspection, there are a LOT of things wrong with the electrical in this house, so I am probably just going to have to bite the bullet. I've awarded you the bounty, thanks again! – Clint Warner Nov 30 '17 at 16:33
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Given your answer that there is no jet tub , instant water heater in that bathroom and you stated this

"I had some plumbing work done that broke the continuity of the copper piping." You did not notice until after that work was done, so it worked previously.

I suspect the repair of the plumbing involved nailing/running in of screws for supports and one of those screws / nails is touching both your plumbing and an electrical line. Not hard to do in an older house as there is no protection bracket to prevent that from happening or at least give warning.

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