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Thread: My garage is electrically charged w/120v!!

  1. #1

    Default My garage is electrically charged w/120v!!

    I've been in my house for about 3 years, but only recently did I accidentally touch the side metal rails/tracks of my garage door while bare-footed. A shock was sent all the way up to my shoulder.

    An electrician friend of mine came over to discover that the tracks, garage door and any other metal was charged with 120v of electricity. There was NO current when I unplugged my garage door opener from the ceiling outlet. But, the current returned when plugged back in, even when plugged into an outlet in the home away from the garage using an extension cord. The grounds (cold water grounds?) in my house checked out fine.

    I was told by the garage door opener manufacturer that maybe the motor was damaged, causing this problem, but the electrical current is still there after replacing the motor.

    While researching this online, I came across a news story of a boy who was electrocuted to death touching his garage door after getting out of a pool. The story mentioned something about underground lines?

    What do I do? Who do I call? Is the home builder responsible? If it's underground, how do I determine that? How is it corrected? Who is financially responsible for this repair?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helpmeplease
    There was NO current when I unplugged my garage door opener from the ceiling outlet. But, the current returned when plugged back in, even when plugged into an outlet in the home away from the garage using an extension cord.
    By using two different receptacles and the problem returning it would seem that the problem is in the garage door opener.
    Quote Originally Posted by helpmeplease
    Who is financially responsible for this repair?
    This is answered in your opening statement;
    Quote Originally Posted by helpmeplease
    I've been in my house for about 3 years,

  3. #3

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    I will guess that the cord is a 3 prong. I would get your friend back out to replace the cord (just cook him dinner he should do it for free). If itís still there itís the door opener. I would toss it and install a new one. With the amount of vibrations it makes a lot can happen.

    You might get him to toss a GFI on it for a few seconds to see how log it takes to pop it. He should have a few with extension cords. This is one reason I think every thing in a garage should be GFI. To me it could be a wet location.

  4. #4
    General Contractor, Farmer HandyAndy's Avatar
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    more than likely there is some thing not correct in the grounding circuit of the door opener or the receptacle it is plugged into,
    as well as the opener it self having a short to ground,

    the opener is shorted to ground, or the case in this instance regardless it be via the chain or the rail or what ever the case is hot and the frame of the opener and door is hot,

    the purpose of the ground prong is if it does short to the case the case is to be grounded via the ground prong and thus make a good path back to ground to over load the breaker, (not leaving the case electrified)
    (the ground wire on the cord of the opener should be attached to the case of the opener),

    You apparently have the short to the case, but no path back to ground that is low enough resistance to trip the breaker, and when you touch it your providing an additional path to ground and electricity is flowing through you,

    I would suggest you have your electrician check the grounding on that circuit as well.

  5. #5

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    In lieu of the foregoing, I suppose it wouldn't be a bad idea to bond the tracks/rails. NEC 250.104(B) suggests bonding all piping metal air ducts for additional safety, so it couldn't hurt to bond the tracks/rails too. Had that been done, the breaker would've opened (assuming no other malfuctions) and that significant potential hazard would've been avoided.

    I could also see this happening if the hots and neutrals were reveresed in the premise wiring - all too common on DIY installs.

    I would check the outlet with an inexpensive GFCI outlet tester, just to make sure the outlet is properly wired.

    Is this a detached garage? Is there a separate sub-panel in the garage?

  6. #6

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    Thanks for all the quick and helpful replies!

    To answer 'Joe in Queens', this was originally a detached garage rougly 10' from the back of the house, which is a cookie-cutter floor plan in this development built in 1997. But, the original owner (previous to us) shortened the garage by several feet and enclosed the area between the garage and house to make a new room for additional square footage. There is not a separate sub-panel.

    Obviously, rewiring took place, as new lighting was installed, but I was told that all electrical work was performed by a certified electrician.

    I am having an electrician stop by tomorrow to look at things in more detail, incorporating the suggestions that all of you conveyed. I have also contacted the builder to see if they have information on any underground wiring.

    Please keep your thoughts coming. I'll let you know what I discover tomorrow, in case you're interested in the outcome.

    Thanks Again!

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default outlet

    use a tester to check the outlet. Your hot and neutral terminals may be reversed to the opener's shell, which could be at neutral potential when properly wired, is energized when it is plugged in.

  8. #8
    Like an engineer alternety's Avatar
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    Neutrals on circuits should never be connected to ground or any connection within a device except the direct power connections.

    The only place ground and neutral come together is the main breaker panel on the service entrance.

    Allowing neutral and ground to tie together in a circuit will trip things such as GFI and AFIs controlling the circuit.

    Reversing black and white on devices or outlets on otherwise properly wired devices will not cause those devices to be come hot. There are other issues of safety and you should not do that.

    Not having a ground on a device will not cause that device to become hot unless there is a short inside the device. If there is a short to the frame, case etc., having no ground will make the device hot.

    If you disconnect the garage door opener and it stops; the garage door opener is broken.
    Last edited by alternety; 06-30-2007 at 07:10 PM.

  9. #9
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Wherever there is a source of electricity, such as the connection to the garage door opener, the metal that has any significant risk of becoming energized is supposed to be grounded. If the motor and frame of the door opener are properly grounded, it is impossible to maintain voltage on the frame.

    There are at least two defects in the system. The hot conductor is not insulated from the frame and the frame is not grounded.

    They are a lot of "double insulated" devices that have no ground but I have never seen a garage door opener that was "double insulated".

  10. #10

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    Well, the garage door opener is now working without an electrical charge going through it.

    I'm not an electrician, so I'll try to convey what was said to me. Apparently, the ground in the garage was 'open' and was being used as the neutral (this probably makes sense to you more than it does to me). My buddy found a grounded outlet and fed off of that to fix the door opener.

    A subsequent issue occurred, though, that can't be looked at until Thursday. A 3-way light switch on the inside of the house (for canned lights )that was working fine before the garage was grounded, now trips the breaker when turned on. This switch is on the inside wall on the opposite side of the wall that has the garage door opener switch. The other 3-way switch across the room that operates the same canned lights works fine without tripping the breaker.

  11. #11
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helpmeplease
    Well, the garage door opener is now working without an electrical charge going through it.

    I'm not an electrician, so I'll try to convey what was said to me. Apparently, the ground in the garage was 'open' and was being used as the neutral (this probably makes sense to you more than it does to me). My buddy found a grounded outlet and fed off of that to fix the door opener.

    A subsequent issue occurred, though, that can't be looked at until Thursday. A 3-way light switch on the inside of the house (for canned lights )that was working fine before the garage was grounded, now trips the breaker when turned on. This switch is on the inside wall on the opposite side of the wall that has the garage door opener switch. The other 3-way switch across the room that operates the same canned lights works fine without tripping the breaker.
    It is possible that the problems are related.

    The use of the ground as a neutral on the garage door opener suggests that a neutral was not available. It may not have been available because someone used the neutral (white wire) in a cable to supply or control the 3-way switch circuit.

    When a "neutral" was connected to the garage door opener, it may have been a white wire that was somehow tied to the 3-way switch circuit.

    Someone should figure out what is going on before there is a real problem.

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