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Help! My Plumbing is Leaking and I Don't know why!

Updated on September 21, 2016

Corroded pipe

This is a pipe that is showing signs of electrolysis erosion.
This is a pipe that is showing signs of electrolysis erosion. | Source

It began as a simple do-it-yourself job.

You changed the shower head, updated the bathroom sink, and installed a new shiny toilet. Your are proud of yourself with sparkling pipes and amazing water flow. With-in a few months, you noticed that the water pressure is faltering. Everything seems to look ok, except for the build up around the joints of the pipe. No big deal you think...till water begins to show up in places it doesn't belong. Here you are standing ankle deep in muck and spraying water; pipe wrench in hand, and no clue what caused the leak.

If you have purchased an older home or a home that have different types of piping, chances are the root of your problem is a ground wire to your metal pipes. This was a common practice--to ground the electrical to the plumbing-- in the event that if lightening struck you house, it wouldn't fry your electrical circuits. What most people do not realize is this causes electrolysis, which deteriorates your plumbing.

The effect of electrolysis on pipes

A common ground wire attached to a pipe.

It is common in older homes to find an electrical ground connected to the plumbing.
It is common in older homes to find an electrical ground connected to the plumbing. | Source

What is electrolysis?

Electrolysis is the passage of a direct electrical current through an ionic substance. This can be either a liquid or dissolved in a suitable solvent. An example of this is when a battery corrodes. The electrodes are moving between two different metals.

How does this effect plumbing in a house?

When the ground wire is attached to a pipe, electricity travels through the plumbing on its way to being grounded. If the system is made up of two different metals-copper and galvanized pipe- the electricity will jump from one pipe to another which causes random and inconsistent arching, scaling, spitting, and spotting; while it contacts the pipe. (You will see a build up in the joins of your pipes.) Static electric grounding will have the same effect. As hot and cold air moves through the ducts, static electricity builds up. Pipes that touch or run through these ducts may serve as a ground to the static electricity. If left alone and unchecked, this will eat through pipe walls.

Sever cases of electrolysis may cause serious problems with your plumbing.

Dieletric Union

There is the option of using dielectric unions on your pipes to stop corrosion. A dielectric union is a plastic or ceramic connector that is used to connect two pieces of metal pipe together. This will stop the flow of electricity from one pipe to another.

What are ways to prevent electrolysis whether it is static or a ground wire?

Static electrical grounding can be prevented by using electrical tape where your pipes come in close contact with your air ducts. This gives you pipes an insulation to prevent a direct connection with static electricity and grounding through the plumbing.

To prevent ground wire electrolysis is to be sure to not ground the electrical wiring to your plumbing. Instead be sure to use a grounding rod where the wires connect directly to a copper rod that is anchored to the ground outside. These are usually placed near the electrical box that is located outside your home.

The next time you find yourself with a leak, track it back to see if the cause is from electrolysis.

© 2011 tlpoague


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