Electrical Ground-Caused Leaks
How electrical grounding errors causes leaks in water or refrigerant piping
ELECTRICAL GROUND ERROR-CAUSED LEAKS - CONTENTS: what are the effects of low pH, acidic or corrosive water on building piping, leaks, dissolved copper, health hazards, and the plumbing system in general? How do we detect corrosive or aggressive water and what should be done about it.
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about aggressive water, corrosive water, the LSI or Langlier index, other causes of leaks in building supply or drain piping
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How electrical grounding mistakes can cause leaks in water or refrigerant piping.
This article explains how improper, missing, or improperly-connected electrical grounding can cause leaks in metal water supply pipes, drain pipes, and even in refrigerant piping used in air conditioning and heat pump systems.
This article series describes effects of low pH, acidic or corrosive water on building piping, leaks, dissolved copper, health hazards, and the plumbing system in general. We describe how to detect corrosive or aggressive water and what should be done about it.
But did you know that improper electrical grounding can cause leaks? No kidding.
Watch out: when diagnosing metal water pipe leaks, metal drain leaks, and leaks in refirgerant piping, remember to check for improper, loose, or missing electrical system connections that can significantly increase the risk of corrosion of the copper piping in the building.
As you know, at most buildings the water piping system is grounded for safety, and sometimes a metal well pipe extending outside underground is used as a grounding electrode as well.
Electricians recommend two driven grounding electrodes at modern properties (you can leave the old connection to a metal well pipe in place).
But interestingly, a mistake in the electrical panel, for example one that sends current improperly down the ground path, can speed up corrosion of building metal water pipes or other components.
I [DF] had a client in Pleasant Valley NY who twice replaced a very costly, supposedly corrosion proof nickel-plated co-axial ground-water-source heat pump temperature exchange coil.
The purpose of the coil was to cool high temperature refrigerant gas back to a liquid state by cooling it using water pumped from a nearby well and for efficiency recycled through a holding tank for re-use before it was returned back to the ground from which it had originated.
When the heat pump stopped working I found that all of the refrigerant had leaked out of the system.
But I couldn't find a leak in the refrigerant piping system. The only component I could not test directly with my halogen leak detector was the water-to-air heat exchanger coil itself. In an exciting discovery, I opened a drain to release water from the water-to-air heat pump system's water reservoir tank.
When I held my leak detector near the water stream, the detector went crazy, responding to a very high level of refrigerant gas that had become dissolved into the water.
We realized that the heat exchanger coil that was supposed to just cool the refrigerant gas was instead leaking that gas right into the cooling water supply.
Someone smarter than we were figured out where to look.
The technician determined out that the heat exchanger coil was corroding and perforating because of improper electrical grounding within the heat pump.
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De Waard, C., and D. E. Milliams. "Carbonic acid corrosion of steel." Corrosion 31, no. 5 (1975): 177-181.
Isaac, R. A., L. Gil, A. N. Cooperman, K. Hulme, B. Eddy, M. Ruiz, K. Jacobson, C. Larson, and O. C. Pancorbo. "Corrosion in drinking water distribution systems: a major contributor of copper and lead to wastewaters and effluents." Environmental science & technology 31, no. 11 (1997): 3198-3203.
Jones, Anne. "Stress corrosion cracking." In in ASM Handbook, Metals Handbook. 1998.
Kermani, M. B., and A. Morshed. "Carbon dioxide corrosion in oil and gas production—a compendium." Corrosion 59, no. 8 (2003): 659-683.
Kiene, L., W. Lu, and Y. Levi. "Relative importance of the phenomena responsible for chlorine decay in drinking water distribution systems." Water Science and Technology 38, no. 6 (1998): 219-227.
Kritzer, Peter. "Corrosion in high-temperature and supercritical water and aqueous solutions: a review." The Journal of Supercritical Fluids 29, no. 1 (2004): 1-29.
Little, Brenda J., Florian B. Mansfeld, Peggy J. Arps, and James C. Earthman. Microbiologically influenced corrosion. Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, 2007.
Oram, Brian, "Drinking Water Issues Corrosive Water (Lead, Copper, Aluminum, Zinc, and More)" (web page), Water Research Center, Water Research Center
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15 Hillcrest Drive, Dallas, PA 18612, USA, retrieved 2017/02/16, original source: http://www.water-research.net/index.php/drinking-water-issues-corrosive-water-lead-copper-aluminum-zinc-and-more
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 Clean Water Systems & Stores, Inc. 2806-A Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, California 95062, Telephone: 1-888-600-5426 or international: 1-831-462-8500 . web search 4/23/12, original source: - cleanwaterstore.com/copper-pipe-corrosion.html
 "pH in Drinking-water Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality", in Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Health criteria and other supporting information, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1996. Web search 4/23/12, original source: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/en/ph.pdf
 "Langelier Saturation Index (LSI), Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative.
 "Drinking Water Contaminants, List of Contaminants & their MCLs", U.S. EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, web search 4/23/12, original source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#List
 "Basic Information about Copper in Drinking Water", U.S. EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency, web search 4/23/12, original source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/copper.cfm
 "Fin Tube / Bare Elements", Slant/Fin Boilers & Baseboards, Slant/Fin Corporation, 100 Forest Drive, Greenvale, NY 11548, Phone: (516) 484-2600, Fax: (516) 484-5921, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web search 4/23/12, original source: http://www.slantfin.com/index.php/products/baseboard-residential/fin-tube--bare-elements
 Roger Hankey is principal of Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN. Mr. Hankey is a past chairman of the ASHI Standards Committee. Mr. Hankey has served in other ASHI professional and leadership roles. Contact Roger Hankey at: 952 829-0044 - email@example.com. Mr. Hankey is a frequent contributor to InspectAPedia.com.
 Arlene Puentes, an ASHI member and a licensed home inspector in Kingston, NY, and has served on ASHI national committees as well as HVASHI Chapter President. Ms. Puentes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
 "Pitting Corrosion in Copper Tubes – Cause of Corrosion and Counter-Measures", Mattsson, E.; Fredriksson, A.-M., British Corrosion Journal, Volume 3, Number 5, September 1968 , pp. 246-257(12), Maney Publishing, Quoting the article abstract:
An investigation of failures of hard-drawn copper water pipes (phosphorus-deoxidised copper) in service due to pitting corrosion was conducted from November, 1962 to February, 1965. Fifteen cases were reported. All those about which information could be obtained came from hot water installations and occurred in water with a low pH (?7) and a HCO3- content of, at the most, 100 mg/l but generally below 50 mg/1. Failures not due to pitting corrosion (i.e. caused by erosion and corrosion or corrosion fatigue) occurred in waters with a higher pH and higher HCO3- content.
A laboratory investigation into the ability of the corrosion products to counteract further corrosion in different types of water was also carried out, using an electrolytic cell which, in principle, was a model of an active pit in a copper tube. This led to the following conclusions, which are in good agreement with the results obtained from the examination of service failures:
If the pH value of the water is high enough, the copper dissolved by the corrosion can be precipitated as basic copper salt. At low pH values such precipitation does not take place.
If the [HCO3?]/[SO42?] ratio in the water is high, dissolved copper can be precipitated as basic copper carbonate in the neighbourhood of the corrosion site and counteract further corrosion.
At a low [HCO3?]/[SO42?] ratio, crusts of basic copper sulphate will be precipitated at some distance from the corrosion site and may lead to a high corrosion rate.
Pitting is not likely to occur in hot water tubes of hard copper if the pH is ? 7·4 and the [HCO3?]/[SO42?] ratio ?1 (the concentrations given in mg/1). The critical values mentioned are approximate and may be adjusted in the light of future experience.
 "Health and aesthetic impacts of copper corrosion on drinking water",
Dietrich AM, Glindemann D, Pizarro F, Gidi V, Olivares M, Araya M, Camper A, Duncan S, Dwyer S, Whelton AJ, Younos T, Subramanian S, Burlingame GA, Khiari D, Edwards M., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0246, USA. email@example.com, Water Sci Technol. 2004;49(2):55-62., Abstract
Traditional research has focused on the visible effects of corrosion--failures, leaks, and financial debits--and often overlooked the more hidden health and aesthetic aspects. Clearly, corrosion of copper pipe can lead to levels of copper in the drinking water that exceed health guidelines and cause bitter or metallic tasting water. Because water will continue to be conveyed to consumers worldwide through metal pipes, the water industry has to consider both the effects of water quality on corrosion and the effects of corrosion on water quality. Integrating four key factors--chemical/biological causes, economics, health and aesthetics--is critical for managing the distribution system to produce safe water that consumers will use with confidence. As technological developments improve copper pipes to minimize scaling and corrosion, it is essential to consider the health and aesthetic effects on an equal plane with chemical/biological causes and economics to produce water that is acceptable for public consumption.
Other water supply and drain piping and water pressure articles:
PB (polybutylene with mechanical fittings) Piping leaks: especially in mobile homes and in the U.S. South, for example trailers and double-wides throughout Florida that were piped with this material - per M Cramer. See , Journal of Light Construction, August 1996 [Technical Q&A].
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