Can You Be Shocked By a Water Faucet?

A metal water faucet can conduct electricity and cause electric shock.

Home Electricity

Metal pipes and faucets conduct electricity.Metal pipes and faucets conduct electricity.
Like the human body, metal pipes are excellent electrical conductors. They are also the conduits for tap water, which is filled with impurities that conduct electricity. Electric shock, which occurs when electrical currents pass through the body, can cause damage to the skin and internal organs and result in serious injury or death. Electric shock from water faucets is preventable. Many organizations provide warnings and instructions for safe behavior around electricity.

A ground fault occurs when faulty wiring or appliances cause an unintended path between a current source and a grounded surface. The ground fault results from the leakage of electrical current. If you come into contact with the leak, your body could become the path for the current. For instance, a bare appliance wire that touches the metal case in the appliance can charge the case with electricity. If you have one hand on a water faucet or another grounded metal object while touching the appliance with your other hand, electric shock will occur.

Lightning

Lightning can travel through indoor plumbing and wiring and cause electric shock. A lightning strike to a protected house is dispersed throughout the building and into the ground, where it disperses. The danger occurs when a strike takes place as you touch an item that is connected to a conducting path, such as the plumbing or electrical wiring. Electrical shock from faucets is rare. However, this type of shock occurs several times each year, according to meteorologist Ron Holle in a 2007 interview with The New York Times.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

The ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, prevents electric shock in the home. You might receive a light shock if a ground fault occurs, but the GFCI cuts off the electrical current in seconds, before more harm can occur. The GFCI also monitors electrical current leakage. The GFCI is usually installed in rooms where water and electricity might come in contact, such as kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms and some outdoor areas. The GFCI that is most often installed in wall-mounted receptacles has “Test” and “Reset” buttons. Portable and circuit breaker GFCIs are also available for home use. Most local governments require GFCI receptacles in kitchens and bathrooms.

Safety and Prevention

Electrical appliances and equipment should always be grounded to prevent electric shock. The third prong of the three-prong plug provides grounding. Prevent electric shock by keeping appliances away from tubs and sinks so that you do not touch them while in water or touching water. Handling appliances when your hands are wet or when there is water on counters can cause electric shock, including when touching a water faucet. Avoid washing dishes, bathing, showering, doing laundry or using landline telephones during electrical storms.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.