1. ATTENTION returning members. If you are coming here from the old forum for the first time, you will need to reset you password. However, we had an email problem getting password reset links set out to a lot of the email addresses. That problem is temporarily rectified but IF you still have an issue, email me direct at info@thebuildingcodeforum.com and I will give you a temporary password.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Welcome to the new and improved Building Code Forum. We appreciate you being here and hope that you are getting the information that you need concerning all codes of the building trades. This is a free forum to the public due to the generosity of the Sawhorses, Corporate Supporters and Supporters who have upgraded their accounts. If you would like to have improved access to the forum please upgrade to Sawhorse by clicking here: Upgrades
    Dismiss Notice

Electrical Wire Arcs to Copper Pipe After Repair Work

Discussion in 'Residential Building Codes' started by fj80, Dec 3, 2018.

  1. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    I bought a house one year ago and hired an HVAC contractor to relocate the heat pump which was touching the side of the house, not level, and didn't have proper air flow. He moved it about 8 feet or so (because I also wanted it more out of sight as well as fixing the other issues.) About a week ago the heat pump stopped working. I notice the breaker was tripped so I leave it alone and call the same HVAC contractor. He comes today and says there's a hole in the copper refrigerant line which was caused by a high voltage electrical wire next to it arcing over to the copper pipe. (So all the refrigerant leaked out and that's why heat pump stopped working.)

    I don't know a lot about electrical issues, so I'll describe the situation as best I can (I can't seem to upload photos here like I used to be able to): There is a single hole through my foundation wall with pipes and wires running from the air handler in the crawlspace to the heat pump outside. That hole is maybe 2" diameter or so, and has two electrical wires and two copper pipes going through it. One electrical wire is large, the other small. One copper pipe is larger and one small. All are crammed in together and touching or almost touching. The high voltage line appears to come out of the hole in the foundation and runs up to a disconnect box that is mounted a couple feet up the wall, then comes out of the box and back down to the pipes and other wire and is bundled with them all the way to the heat pump, wrapped all together with zip ties. There was a bunch of black putty-like stuff filled in around everything at the hole in the wall to patch all the gaps, which the contractor removed today to see what's going on. Both wires have about 1 inch long melted gaps in the jacket, right at the hole in the foundation wall, and right next to the pea size hole in the copper pipe. So this is apparently where the arcing occurred.

    The HVAC contractor, who did the repair work last year, says he's not responsible because he never touched the high voltage wire when he extended the lines to the new heat pump location. I'm thinking he may be responsible, so have the following questions:

    1) Does the electrical code allow the wires and pipes to be this close together?

    2) Is the wire required to be inside conduit when outside the house?

    3) Even if the contractor didn't do any work to the areas of wire and pipe that have the problem, but only extended them from that point forward, was he still responsible for making them code complaint as part of his service to the system?
     
  2. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898
    So the high voltage line was not extended or moved?


    Seems at minimum he would have checked the condition of the electrical wiring.

    How old is the house?

    How old is the ac unit?
     
  3. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898
    Not into ac piping

    But do they braze,solder, sweat, weld it to extend it??

    If so did it heat the electrical insulation??
     
  4. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898
    Not an electrician or hvac



    Does the electrical code allow the wires and pipes to be this close together?

    I would say yes normal


    2) Is the wire required to be inside conduit when outside the house?

    Normally I see it in conduit

    Plus weather protection


    3) Even if the contractor didn't do any work to the areas of wire and pipe that have the problem, but only extended them from that point forward, was he still responsible for making them code complaint as part of his service to the system?


    Maybe if a permit was pulled
     
  5. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2011
    Messages:
    7,689
    Likes Received:
    674
    The wires are not carrying high voltage. At most it is 240 volts. I am not familiar with wiring practices in Virginia but here in California there wouldn’t be exposed wire......it would be in a raceway. Your description of 1” of missing insulation where the wire was smothered in some “black stuff” leads me to believe that the black stuff degraded the insulation.
     
  6. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Messages:
    5,853
    Likes Received:
    283
    First, there is no reason why you can't post photos. Just click add file and upload it.

    Second, if the existing installation had the house wire/cable coming through the same hole from the initial installation, that is not the fault of the HVAC contractor, that was a bad installation right from the beginning.

    Third, depending on the location outside the house, it is normal to see SE cable or sometimes UF wire cables on the exterior not in pipe if it is not subject to physical damage (that part is very subjective to the inspector).

    Fourth, was a permit required when you decide to move you HVAC? Was the installation inspected?

    Fifth, where did the HVAC contractor braze the new lines to extend the unit? I bet it was no where near that hole in the foundation.

    Sixth, Looks like you need to pay for the repairs and no on is responsible because these things happen and the initial setup was not a good one.

    Seventh, I guess you need to have the electrical corrected too so this does not happen again. Might want to have wires in conduit and the HVAC needs a hole big enough that they can properly maintain the required insulation.
     
    Ty J. likes this.
  7. steveray

    steveray Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2009
    Messages:
    5,898
    Likes Received:
    698
    Heat from "bundling" melt the insulation? Or if there is some movement it could have worn through over the years.....
     
  8. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    He says he didn't extend or move the "high voltage line". He referred to it as "high voltage". I don't know what qualifies as that, but either way he says he didn't touch it. But I can see several gouges in the jacket and I would think he should have replaced that when he did his work. But maybe he's not responsible for that...?

    The house was built in 1989. Heat pump is 12 years old.
     
  9. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    He must have soldered/welded the pipe to extend it, but I can't tell where he did that. There are weld spots within an inch or two of the hole in the pipe, but I can't say that wasn't the original work from many years ago.
     
  10. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898

    Well my thinking is if the unit was moved eight feet

    Seems like the electical would have to be extended?
     
    my250r11 and jar546 like this.
  11. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898
    “””Fifth, where did the HVAC contractor braze the new lines to extend the unit? I bet it was no where near that hole in the foundation.

    Sixth, Looks like you need to pay for the repairs and no on is responsible because these things happen and the initial setup was not a good one. “”””


    That is a valid and lucent thought,,, overruled,,

    One hypothesis is

    He brazed, heated the existing cooper touching the electrical wire,,
    Which degraded the insulation

    Right conditions come along and arc happens.

    Like when a plumber solders existing pipe in wall and burns has down,,
    Because the heat travels up the cooper to wood or paper in the wall and fire happens




    My ruling go fifty fifty on repair or replace a 12 year old unit.
     
    #11 cda, Dec 4, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
  12. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    My thoughts exactly. But he says he didn't touch the "high voltage" wire, although both wires have portions of the jackets missing. The larger wire with missing jacket runs from hole in wall up to disconnect box, so that's probably the one he's referring to as not touching. Then it comes out of the disconnect box and runs all the way to the heat pump. The smaller wire comes out of the hole in the wall and runs directly to the heat pump, so he must have extended those portions of both wires. But again, I don't know if he's responsible for upgrading a non-code-compliant issue if he didn't do the original work. Maybe not, as jar546 says.
     
  13. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    Where is the "add file" button? I don't see one anywhere. Just options to paste url image links...
     
  14. mtlogcabin

    mtlogcabin Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2009
    Messages:
    6,863
    Likes Received:
    599
    The larger copper pipe should have been insulated because it is the cold line when the unit is running. The small copper pipe can get so hot (110 to 120 degrees) you cannot squeeze it when the heat pump is running. My guess is over time the heat from this pipe in close contact with the electrical wires caused the insulation on the wire to deteriorate.
     
    cda likes this.
  15. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,618
    Likes Received:
    225
    "Must" see your photos for inclusion in my "what not to do/how not to do" presentations.
     
    fj80 likes this.
  16. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    Sorry for being clueless on the photo issue, but where is the button to upload photos?
     
  17. Ty J.

    Ty J. Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2017
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    88
    upload_2018-12-4_7-28-55.png

    The yellow highlighted button above or copy and paste into your text
     
  18. fj80

    fj80 Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    31
    When I click on the image button it gives a pop-up asking for "image url" and won't let me upload or copy anything into that box. When I try to copy and paste it gives me an error message: "Uploads are not available."
     
  19. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Messages:
    5,853
    Likes Received:
    283
    See photo below. Upload file, it's right there on the bottom right.
    Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 11.57.00 AM.png
     
  20. cda

    cda Sawhorse

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Messages:
    15,019
    Likes Received:
    898

    The smaller wire runs to thermostat to turn the unit on and off,,,, no or very low voltage
     

Share This Page