Scary stuff this morning.

By
Home Inspector with Clayton Inspection Service, Inc.

There was some really weird things going on in the house I was inspecting this morning. Lights were flickering. The bathroom light became brighter when I turned on the wall heater, the hall lights dimmed. When the heat pump kicked on, all the lights went bright for a second.

Inside the panel there were a few melted wires, but probably from a water heater fuse blowing.

I started to trace the ground wire and went into the crawlspace where it was connected to a water line. I could see the clamp was loose and as I went to get close to shoot a photo, I bumped the ground and a big arc shot out at the connection.

I just about messed my pants.

Here's the photos...

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Rainer
52,042
Jim Dvorovy
Cutler Real Estate - Canton, OH
REALTOR - Canton Ohio Real Estate

That situation is scary Jack! That water ground is not supposed to be a current carrying conductor, only a safety ground. Situations like that have led to catastrophes for plumbers that inadvertently open a copper pipe that unbeknown to them was carrying electrical an current. A recipe for disaster!

Mar 19, 2009 10:56 AM #1
Rainmaker
233,787
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

For those who don't know... what was the cause of the problem?

Mar 19, 2009 02:35 PM #2
Rainer
29,209
Jack Feldmann
Clayton Inspection Service, Inc. - Knoxville, TN

Well, first of all I can't be sure, since I wasn't there to trouble shoot or do the repair. My guess is there is a problem with a neutral wire somewhere, either in the panel, the meter base, or maybe in some mucked up wiring someone did. It might even be a problem with the transformer feeding the house.

An electrician will need to come out and see what they find, but may have to get the utility company involved too.

The house is vacant. When I stopped by the listing agent's office to return the key, I told them there was a serious electrical problem that needed attention NOW. Who knows if they will act on it. It's a 60+ year old house with the original 100 amp fuse panel feed by the old style cloth wire weather-head. It needs a lot of electrical work anyway.

Mar 19, 2009 02:50 PM #3
Rainmaker
76,167
Frank Torre
Torre Inspection Service, LLC 888-202-8869 - Hicksville, NY

Hi: Jack great finded on the grounding wire on that house. I am gald you are OK. I always test the grounding wire with my clamp-on multimeter for current and continuity. At one home some genus did this here take a look. They taped the pipe and then placed the grounding clamp on top of the tape!

Mar 19, 2009 03:17 PM #4
Ambassador
1,336,401
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

It might actually be a good thing it is NOT properly connected if there is actually that much current going to ground.  Hopefully someone figures out what is causing it before they just go ahead and connect it----might drive the earthworms crazy:)

Mar 19, 2009 04:49 PM #5
Rainer
65,672
Dan Callahan
Callahan's Home Inspections - Casper, WY

Vacant house, needs extensive electrical upgrade, buyers market in a bad economy. My guess is at best the owners get one of their friends who is an "electrician" to come over and does the old "just fix it so I can get rid of it" stage. I will keep my fingers crossed for the new buyers that no serious fires start.

Mar 19, 2009 11:16 PM #6
Rainmaker
233,787
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Charles - that ground wire is completing, or helping to complete the circuit back to the transformer.   This is happening because there is a problem with the neutral wire - possibly a high resistance connection, or possibly a disconnected neutral.  Things were sparking and dimming because the ground wire was loose. If it was completely disonnected... that would be really bad.

Mar 19, 2009 11:21 PM #7
Rainmaker
112,529
Robert Dirienzo
HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC - Franklin, TN
Home Inspections - Nashville TN

Fascinating!  Makes you wonder if the entire plumbing system was active with current. 

Richard

HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC

Mar 24, 2009 01:32 AM #8
Rainer
89,934
Mike (Inspector Mike) Parks
Inspector Mike - Circleville, OH
Inspector Mike

'Sounds' like a neutral problem as stated above. This IS dangerous. This COULD KILL you.

Like holding the white wire with one hand and completing the circuit with your other hand.

Yes the current is trying to get back to the power company via the water lines.

That is why the clamp must be attached within 5' feet of entering the structure.

Mar 25, 2009 12:23 AM #9
Rainer
9,874
Mike Schulz
Affordable Home Inspections - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh NC Inspector

Nice catch Jack, did you get shocked. Maybe it was there way of killing bacteria in the water :-)

Mar 31, 2009 01:07 AM #10
Rainer
9,874
Mike Schulz
Affordable Home Inspections - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh NC Inspector

By the way could someone tell me how to get my picture like the rest of you guy's in my replies to post?

Mar 31, 2009 01:09 AM #11
Rainer
8,673
Mike Jewett
JaxHomeSpy, LLC - Jacksonville, FL

Mike- click here. http://activerain.com/mikeschulz/edit. To the right, it shows where to add a photo. (Upload Picture). You're welcome. :)

Apr 27, 2009 09:02 AM #12
Rainer
9,874
Mike Schulz
Affordable Home Inspections - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh NC Inspector

My picture is there. I emailed active rain and they said you have to have 10,000 points before your picture will show up. Sounds like a crock to me...........

Apr 27, 2009 01:20 PM #13
Rainer
61,654
Jim Watzlawick
Watz Home Inspections - Algonquin, IL
Watz Home Inspections

Lucky you didn't get shocked, probably the result of handy man wiring. Most of the time home owners know just enough about electricity to make themselves dangerous.

Feb 22, 2011 05:41 AM #14
Rainmaker
192,543
Atlanta's Home Inspector, David Lelak IHI Home Inspections
IHI Home Inspections 404-788-2581 - Canton, GA
Experience the IHI Difference

Glad you were safe and saved a nice pair of work pants in the process. Keep posting.

May 16, 2011 06:13 AM #15
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Jack Feldmann

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