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  • Why would this happen?

    Today I went to replace an electric water heater. I reached over it to shut off the water. There was a electrical arc on the floor of the closet. The power went off to the whole house. I reset the breakers and when I turned on the main it happened again. So one by one I turned on breakers until I got all but one to stay on. It wasn't the one marked for the water heater.
    There were two grounds on the water lines.
    Needless to say I stopped and told them to get an electrician but now I am curious. Could there have been power through the ground and I shorted it by pushing the water heater into the ground wires?

  • #2
    Re: Why would this happen?

    Hard to tell. If the w/h was properly grounded a short to the case of the w/h would have tripped the breaker. If, by moving the wires or the w/h, you somehow completed the circuit to ground it would trip the breaker. It wouldn't be the first time we've seen a breaker mislabeled either. sometimes an overzealous installer will tighten the romex connector on the water heater j-box too tight and pinch the insulation. A short may not manifest itself right away but movement could complete the circuit to ground and trip the breaker eventually. Could be one of the elements or the wiring to them decided it was time to fail and you just happened to be there.
    Last edited by killavolt; 02-24-2009, 10:34 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: Why would this happen?

      Was this at a farm or church? They have a tendency to screw up their mechanicals.

      I worked on a water pump on a farm. Reached over to turn off a valve and got bit good. I put my meter on it & found all the f'ing pipe in the place was lit up. 220V

      I called the electrician. The farmer had it jacklegged in some way that it was backfeeding or the cheap connector was screwed up/breaking in some way.

      J.C.

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      • #4
        Re: Why would this happen?

        EasyEman

        Was it the MAIN breaker that tripped? That is was all the power off to the whole place? If that's the case by all means an electrician is needed to figure out what gives. If it was only one breaker that tripped then something could be messed up with the wiring to the water heater or inside the water heater itself.

        Chances are that one of the grounds was for the electric breaker panel and the other for the telephone system. On the other hand people do wild things that sometimes are hard to figure out. Any legit grounding needs to be done on the lead-in pipe before the main water shutoff valve. Thus the pipe is like a super ground rod that is buried in the ground.
        Last edited by Woussko; 02-25-2009, 04:48 AM.

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        • #5
          Re: Why would this happen?

          actually three breakers the main 200 amp a double 60 amp and a 20 amp all blew. The only three things labeled were the AC unit (not blown) the water heater (not blown) and the dish washer (not blown) everything else was not labeled. Thanks for the answers I know its impossible to know if you can't troubleshoot.

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          • #6
            Re: Why would this happen?

            If you have a short in a 30A circuit you sure as heck can trip the main breaker. You also need a jumper/ground from the water company's side of the water meter across to the home owner's side of the meter to prevent interrupting the ground in case the meter needs to be removed/replaced.

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            • #7
              Re: Why would this happen?

              Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post
              Was this at a farm or church? They have a tendency to screw up their mechanicals.

              I worked on a water pump on a farm. Reached over to turn off a valve and got bit good. I put my meter on it & found all the f'ing pipe in the place was lit up. 220V

              I called the electrician. The farmer had it jacklegged in some way that it was backfeeding or the cheap connector was screwed up/breaking in some way.

              J.C.
              It is a normal house. No farmers no well meaning but unqualified church members.

              Talked to the city inspector about the T&P line on this same house. He said that on occasion if the line can't be run outside they allow a 5 gallon plastic bucket under the line... Hmm?

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              • #8
                Re: Why would this happen?

                I went back to finish the install after the electrician could not find a problem.
                I pulled the water heater out and there was the old electric furnace power line. It was laying on the floor of the closet bare end on the wires. It had arced a hole on the side of the water heater. Whoever put in the new gas unit never removed or capped the line.
                I called the electrician he said nobody asked him to check anything but the water heater.


                Last edited by EasyEman; 03-13-2009, 10:19 AM. Reason: add way too big picture

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                • #9
                  Re: Why would this happen?

                  I'm glad you found the problem. Next time that could has killed someone.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Why would this happen?

                    Heck, it could have killed someone this time. I can't tell you how many times I've come across wiring abandoned in place that turned out to be live. Sometimes, whoever did the work might turn off the breaker and someone else will come along, find the breaker switched off and wonder "Why is this breaker turned off?" So they turn it back on and maybe nothing happens right then. But it sure leaves it interesting for "Next Time".

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                    • #11
                      Re: Why would this happen?

                      Originally posted by killavolt View Post
                      Heck, it could have killed someone this time. I can't tell you how many times I've come across wiring abandoned in place that turned out to be live. Sometimes, whoever did the work might turn off the breaker and someone else will come along, find the breaker switched off and wonder "Why is this breaker turned off?" So they turn it back on and maybe nothing happens right then. But it sure leaves it interesting for "Next Time".

                      Seems like the case here. I was fortunate!!!

                      Just wish the electrician had thought to call me, since there was nothing wrong!

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