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Electrified Drain?

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  • Electrified Drain?

    You ever run into a drain with a charge on it?

    Just curious.

    I ran into one yesterday. Put the cable in, started turning, immediately saw sparks slapping from the cable to the drain. Shut things off. Borrowed a meter from them. One prong on the cable, one on the ground at the outlet. Showed voltage. Hard to read meter for me. Old school needle one. Set at 300 A/C it shot up half way.

    I pulled out and told them to call an electrician then call me back. Never heard from them though.

  • #2
    Re: Electrified Drain?

    Sounds like a ground fault.
    • leak detection
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    Greensboro NC, Winston-Salem NC, High Point NC, Thomasville NC, Kernersville NC


    • #3
      Re: Electrified Drain?

      Did you notice where the spark was being generated from?

      The last one that did that to me was where the K-60 touched the cable while it was in the drain... It is an issue where the Ground is being treated as a neutral or where the Neutral is bonded back to ground in some situations (mainly in Air conditioning retrofits). I find it pretty regularly in older homes that have had partial remodels /updates.

      In simpler terms some electrical Hack decided to use a ground as a neutral where the ground was bonded to a cast iron sewer pipe, now your sewer machine becomes part of the circuit when you plug it in... To solve the issue unplug the machine and spin the cable by hand to avoid the sparks:-)

      I have been studying for my electrical license:-P
      Last edited by OkieBill; 11-02-2012, 10:46 PM.


      • #4
        Re: Electrified Drain?

        Had it happen once a year ago. As soon as the C cutter touched the closet flange there were sparks and the breaker tripped. Plugged into the living room outlet and all was good.


        • #5
          Re: Electrified Drain?

          They need an electrician, NOW ! They could lose a child in a tub ! We can all second Guess.
          I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .


          • #6
            Re: Electrified Drain?

            I don’t think it the sewer that is electrified, it’s the circuit you are on or its your machine.
            Sent From The StoolBus


            Appleton WI, 54915


            • #7
              Re: Electrified Drain?

              my guess is it is the circurt that your working from as well is not wired properly, and my guess is the hot and nuteral is reversed and possibly even the ground is boot leged into the hot nuteral,

              The RV Doctor: Friends of Gary - Mike pictures at link, the video link works in the post here, well worth the watch.
              Failures in Outlet Testing
              By Mike Sokol

              I’ve done it…. You’ve done it… We’ve all done it…. plugged a simple 3-light tester into a home or campsite outlet and declared it safe. After all, these $5 testers are everywhere. And you can see from the diagram on top that if you get two amber lights and no red light, the outlet must be wired correctly. That’s WRONG!! Possibly DEAD WRONG!!! And here’s why.

              A few months ago I was experimenting with electrical grounds and contemplating just how 3-light testers work. So I downloaded a schematic and took one apart. As I drew the diagram I noticed something very odd about its operation. While the 3-light tester would be able to identify many circuit problems such as a missing Ground or swapped Hot and Neutral wires, there didn’t seem to be any way for it to identify a situation where the Ground and Neutral were both at 120 volts and the Hot wire was at ground. How does this error occur? Let’s say you have ungrounded power outlets in your home, office, or campsite that never had a safety ground wire originally. This was common in pre 1970’s wiring so it’s often found in old buildings. You want “grounded” outlets, so you pay an electrician to replace the old “ungrounded” outlets with new “grounded” outlets.

              So far so good, but what to do with that green ground screw when there’s no ground wire in the cable. Well, many electricians would perform something called a Bootleg (or False) Ground. They ran a jumper wire from the Neutral to the Ground screw, and tested it with a 3-light tester. If the tester showed two amber lights and no red light, the outlet was deemed safe. While against the National Electrical Code, this quick fix has been done millions of times in America. See diagram below.

              While apparently safe, there’s one BIG danger with Bootleg Grounds. If the two power wires coming into the outlet box are accidentally reversed (Black and White wires swapped), then the outlet’s Ground and Neutral contacts are sitting at 120 volts while the Hot contact is at ground. This creates what I call an RPBG (Reverse Polarity Bootleg Ground) outlet. You might think that such crazy wiring won't work at all. But it does operate normally, so normally in fact, that you might never know the outlet was a serious shock hazard. However, your appliance or vehicle now has a potentially lethal Hot-Skin Condition. See this web page for a review.

              So let's make this perfectly clear. There is no currently manufactured 3-light outlet testers that will identify an RPBG outlet. Even a $300 Ground Loop Impedance Tester such as an Amprobe INSP-3 or Ideal SureTest will NOT find an RPBG. They'll all report that the outlet polarity is OK, when the entire outlet's polarity is reversed. Even using a voltmeter between H-N, H-G and N-G will NOT find an RPBG outlet.

              How to test for RPBG outlets? Well a Fluke VoltAlert (or other non-contact AC tester) can be used in conjunction with a 3-light outlet tester to identify a rogue RPBG outlet. It's as simple as poking the non-contact tester at the outlet contacts and making sure it doesn't light up on the ground or neutral contacts.

              (To see a demonstration video of what Mike is talking about, check out his video here! This should be required viewing by every RVer! Gary) Reverse Polarity Bootleg Ground Testing - YouTube

              What to do if you find an RPBG outlet? DO NOT plug anything into it until you have the outlet tested and repaired by a qualified electrician. Tape over the front of the outlet with electrical tape (I prefer white tape) and mark it as "Hot Ground" so that nobody uses it until it's repaired. If you happen to plug your refrigerator, toaster oven, or RV shore power cord into an RPBG outlet, it will now have a hot-skin condition, which as you should know from my and articles is when the entire RV or appliance body is electrified. If you touch anything with a hot-skin condition and an earthed object at the same time (even your bare feet on damp earth or concrete), you’ll be shocked and possibly killed. Find an electrician immediately and explain the situation to him. If he just plugs in a 3-light tester and tells you it's safe, make him watch my NoShockZone RPBG video. The entire electrical testing industry seems to be unaware or has forgotten this issue, so don't rely on old testing methods.

              So be safe. Test for RPBG conditions BEFORE you plug in your RV. And test your home outlets as well. You'll be surprised as to just how many RPBG outlets you'll find. Thanks Gary!

              Attached Files
              Last edited by BHD; 11-05-2012, 10:11 AM.
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              • #8
                Re: Electrified Drain?

                I had this happen while trying to clean a floor sink. It took awhile but I figured out it was water from my gloves in the switch / gfi box on my machine.