Wow........what a shock from my stove

catherinetJuly 12, 2007

Hi all,

I have a 16 year old piece of junk GE electric stove. I really need a new one and this is the final straw.

Shortly after I got it 16 years ago, I was getting shocked while stirring something in a pot, and resting my head on the front of the hood. The serviceman said it was because the screw that holds the bracket that holds the wire housing that the element goes into was loose.

Well tonight, while stirring the spaghetti sauce with a metal spoon and touching something else on the stove, I got one heckava jolt. It sort of knocked me back. Bummer. But I'm alive to talk about it.

I turned off the circuit breaker to tighten the screws, and they are already tight. I guess its something else. Or maybe there's gunk between the screw and the stove and its not making enough contact??

Am I safe using the other 2 burners that weren't on? I'll use wooden utensils too.

Time to go-a-stove-hunting. Thanks for your help.

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This should have been properly diagnosed back when it first happened. The fact that you could be shocked that severely suggests a further problem with the supply's ground. You have an extremely hazardous situation there.

Go to your home's electrical panel NOW and shut off the circuit breaker to the stove. DO NOT TRY TO USE THE STOVE AGAIN until you can have it repaired or replaced. Cook on a Coleman stove or hot plate if need be, but leave that stove breaker off.

Write again to let us know you've taken care of things and you're still OK.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Thanks davidr,
Do you mean that it wasn't enough for the repairman to say it was a loose screw, 14 years ago....that he should have done more? Yikes.
I have shut off the circuit breaker and DH and I are going Saturday to look for a new stove. Would you say we shouldn't use the oven either? It was a pretty scary shock. Thanks for your concern David.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 8:09PM
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No oven, no elements, no timer, no lights.... NOTHING! Don't touch the damn stove! You have a grounding problem as well as a short cc't in the stove. A current carrying wire somewhere in the stove is in contact with the stove chassis. Normally, that current that is leaking into the stove chassis would find ground and be harmless. Because the chassis isn't properly grounded, the chassis is "hot" electrically. As soon as you provide a path to ground, your body will conduct the electricity to ground and you get the shock.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 9:47PM
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Thanks bigbird. Nobody will use any part of the stove, and the circuit breaker is off. I'm just glad no one got hurt.
Its really weird how our bodies react to something like that, before our consciousness even knows what's going on!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 10:18PM
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One thing more. Replacing the stove is the right thing to do, but the circuit for that stove should also be checked out thoroughly by somebody who knows what he's doing. Specifically, you need to determine why the ground connection didn't protect you from the stove failure.

Please, even when you have a new stove in there - have an electrician inspect and correct the wiring for the stove BEFORE turning on that breaker.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 11:33PM
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And if it's a three wire feed, I'd go the extra step and upgrade the circuit to a four wire feed.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 7:36AM
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Thanks guys.......I'll have that checked out too. I was wondering about that. Wouldn't be much fun to get shocked on my new stove too!
Back to a question I had earlier.........David, you mentioned that the problem should have been fixed at the beginning. I found it curious that I would get shocked (14 years ago), from a loose screw. All of those screws on all 4 elements would always get was I to think that it was normal to get shocked?
I absolutely hated this GE stove from the start. It had so many defects. Before 3 years I even had to have the oven liner replaced because it had rusted. When I wrote a letter to GE, they wrote me an obnoxious letter back.
Now I need a new stove, and everyone is saying to buy GE.......its the best, and I'm having a hard time letting one of those back into my house. But I guess they could have cleaned up their act....but I still hate doing it.
Oh to have good old-fashioned quality back.......

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 10:10AM
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Who's telling you to buy GE? GE Monogram ranges are excellent - they're made by DCS. The Profile ranges are ok but there are plenty of other brands to choose from. Check out the appliance forum.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 11:12AM
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Cath.....You're not listening

The problem is in your house have a ground/grounding issue.........

Back 13 years ago if GE told you to have the house wiring inspected they would be correct! The rusty liner was probably caused by electrolysis from the "leaky" electric.....

The range will probably still work correctly AFTER you have the House/wiring/grounding issue resolved..........

You usually find these defects in an old house where somebody has been "Creative" in their wiring skills......

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 12:06PM
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What do you mean I'm not listening? I've had everything checked that ever needed checked. I can't help it if the most reputable appliance repair company in the county told me after the first shock that it was a loose screw on the oven. I can't help it if they replaced my oven liner without any comments about the houses electrical system. We've had no other problems that we have ignored. I'm not sure why you're saying I'm not listening.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 2:00PM
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"...most reputable appliance repair company in the county..."

What is the name?
They are painfully (almost lethally) incompetent.

A correctly grounded appliance CANNOT deliver a shock.
Loose screw or not.

If the ground had been correctly installed and operating the metal of the appliance would be at ZERO volts.
Any connection of a hot conductor to the metal would have tripped the circuit breaker. Darn near instantly.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 5:20PM
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Hi brickeyee,
I understand now about the grounding and the screw. Thanks for clarifying that for me. The guy who owns the business is really obsessive-compulsive about things. It really surprises me that he overlooked checking the grounding.
I think alot of you people are so used to working around this stuff and understanding it, that its hard for you to think that some people just aren't familiar with it (like me). I guess I just have to trust people who come out and do work for me. Sometimes, though, they don't deserve the trust.
Like awhile back, a guy was here working on my geothermal heating system. When he plugged something in, it tripped the circuit breaker, and then I discovered that it had caused the circuit breaker to break. It was a 15 amp, and he said it was fine to put in a 20 amp....which he did for me.
While he was still working in the basement, I got on this forum and asked for some advice, and people said to absolutely not use a 20 on a 15amp. I made him change it.
If I hadn't been able to ask you people about it, and just trusted him, bad things might have happened.
Anyhow......thanks for helping me understand things.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 7:19PM
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While I agree it is possible that the house wiring is to blame, or an improperly installed cord, it is also possible it is the range. I had a service call several months ago about the same problem. What I found were several things which all worked together to cause the shocks. First off, there was an element with a hole in the outer shell. This is where the leakage was coming from. The second thing I found was a broken grounding strap that was supposed to ground the range top to the bottom. The top was not electrically connected to the bottom due to this broken strap, plus a buildup of gunk, plus the enamel coating on the range. Once I replaced the element, the shocks went away. I also re bonded the top to the bottom. So the thing to do here is to check the circuit and the range. And if you buy a new range, is is essential to make sure the frame is bonded to the circuit by way of the cord. There are two ways to do this depending on if you have a 3 wire circuit or a 4 wire circuit.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:55PM
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Catherine, don't take it personally. Lots of folks here are pretty forthright. But they are all concerned about keeping you ALIVE! (You're fortunate that the electricity took a non-fatal path through your body.)

With all the words flying around it's easy to lose track of the fundamentals. So, let's cut (back ;-) to the chase - there are two things going on.

1. Your range has a serious defect. Whether it's a loose screw or a fractured element I don't know - but a live connection has somehow been made to the metal frame of the range. This is extremely hazardous.

2. When this defect appeared, your house wiring should have protected you from the shock by tripping the circuit breaker. It didn't, which may mean that your house wiring has a problem, too.

You need to have the range repaired or replaced, and you need to have a good professional electrician inspect, and if necessary, repair or replace the wiring that serves it.

If you are going to get a new range, reverse the order of those items - first get the wiring fixed, THEN get the new range. Definitely get a new cord on the range.

That's all. Don't sweat the other stuff. Don't worry about what happened 14 years ago; it's water over the dam. Just fix the wiring and fix the range, and cook in peace.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 3:06AM
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Thanks Joe and David,
Trust me, I'm not going to use that stove. We're looking for a new one today, and we won't plug it in until we have someone out to be sure our house wiring is working properly. I'm having nightmares about what could have happened.....considing I have irregular heartbeats and if I had been shocked during one of them....well.....lets not think about that....
One thing we're checking this morning (with the circuit off) is that my husband fixed something on the stove awhile back. (I think the buzzer wouldn't shut off). He's NOT a fix-it person. He may not have reconnected the grounding wire properly. (Maybe he did it on purpose???? ;)) It will be nice to know, but we are still getting a new stove and still having the wiring to the 220 outlet checked.
I had an inspector from REMC out awhile back to look my circuit breaker panel to tell me if it looked good. He said it did.
Its really scary to have to trust other people to have the same compulsiveness with electricity as I have in other areas. I've run into strange things a number of times when I've had "professional" electricians come out to work on things.
I really do appreciate everyone's help and concern here!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 10:49AM
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P.S. DH took the back panel off and here's a pic of the back. Maybe I just don't know enough, but are those heat marks normal? The ones on the left are from the light in the oven and the middle one goes to the broiler element.
We couldn't make heads or tails of what was or wasn't a grounding wire. Are they always green? If so, there's one there on the right.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 12:16PM
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Those heat marks are, IMO, not bad. They are probably caused by smoke from the oven getting past the insulation during 14 years of use.
Yes, the green wire on the right is a ground wire. There should be a tooth washer behind it, to cut through the paint and ensure a good ground.

By the way, appliance repairmen are not certified electricians. I was in the computer repair business for 18+ years (NOT PC's, much larger systems) and while I know more about electrical wiring than most people and even most technicians, I am not an electician either. But brickeye is very, very good.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 5:01PM
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I know little about the latest GE ranges. The name has been licensed to several different manufacturers. The TVs are made by Thomson of France and mine from them was really poor. I have two GE kitchen ranges that are more than 50 years old and are superb, but definitely old technology. I find myself blaming the appliance technician most of all. I could create a shock hazard within any range that would not actuate the supply overcurrent device. No need to explain how.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 5:41PM
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Thanks cpovey and bus driver.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 10:54AM
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catherinet mentioned the upgrade to a 4 wire feed. What is that 4th for? Does that require rewiring all the way to the service, or is it just a different plug-in where the stove plugs in at? Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 8:05AM
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4 wire feed is 2 hots, neutral, and ground. The 4 th wire is a separate grounding wire. Yes, it requires a new feed all the way back to the main panel. The plug-in for the stove is also different.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:02AM
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Thanks bigbird,
Which one of those wires is new, compared to the old plug? In what way is it better to have?
Is it a time-consuming job? Isn't it hard to get the wire through the wall, back to the service box?
Sure would like to have a stove back soon. One company here said they couldn't come for 2-3 weeks at the earliest.
I'm waiting on another company to call back. Hopefully they can do it sooner.
I think I get to choose which plug I want on the stove, when they deliver the stove, right? Thanks for your help bigbird.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:58AM
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1) The separate ground wire is new.
2) Now you have a distinct and separate grounding wire to prevent shock should the stove chassis become electrified by a short circuit.
3) It could be a difficult job to rewire the stove. Depends on a lot of things, such as distance to main panel, type of wall construction, is a basement wire run practical, etc etc. Only an electrician or very experienced DIY'er can give you an estimate based on a visual inspection. The most expensive part of this job will be pulling the new cable from the panel to the stove.
4) The stove should come with a typical 40A 120v/240V four prong plug designed for a stove receptacle. You won't have any choice in that matter.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 2:05PM
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Hi bigbird,
I think if the house was built with the 3 prong outlet, we're not absolutely required to change it, are we? I'm pretty sure the salesman said they wait until they deliver it to know which cord to install on the stove.
I was thinking we would change it to a 4 prong, but we're planning on totally remodeling the kitchen within 5 years, so now I'm thinking we'll just have the electrician make sure that the present 3-prong outlet is functioning properly and have a 3 prong cord put on the new stove.
Isn't there some type of grandfather clause about the 3 prong outlets already there?
Of course we want to be as safe as possible, but I also don't want to spend alot of money right now if its not totally necessary, since a remodel is in the near future. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 2:16PM
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I get the impression that you already know the answers to every one of your questions. Good luck with the new stove and the old wiring.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 3:53PM
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Hi again,
Actually, I don't know all the answers. I'm just trying to make the best guess I can with the various info I'm getting. I don't know if there is a real safety issue if we go with the old 3 prong. I will spend the money on the 4 prong if its a real safety issue. It must not be too awful, or they would require the change, right? At first, I thought they just had to change the plug in. I didn't realize it was such an extensive job.
I'm really not trying to be a smart ass. I hope it hasn't come across that way. I'm just trying to do the right thing here with the info I pick up along the way. Thanks bigbird.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 4:34PM
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Just a follow up:
The electrician came out this morning and tested the line from the stove outlet (3 prong) to the service and said it was in great shape. He said that there were actually 4 wires in the line (included a ground). So I guess that means if we did wanted to switch to a 4 prong cord to the stove, we wouldn't need to change all the wiring to the service panel. But we'll stay with the 3 prong for now.
(I realize I'm a lay person relaying this info, and it might sound really stupid).
He thought the shock I received from the stove was probably from a short in the stove, and not enough to trip the breaker.
Can't wait to get the new stove and start cookin' again.
Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 9:15AM
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If you have the ground wire in the cable to the stove, it's good sense, greater safety, and not much money to have a 4-pin receptacle installed, and use a 4-pin plug and cable on the new stove. I recommend that you do so.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 9:14PM
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Thanks David.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 9:51PM
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3 wire 220 circuts were approved during WW II because the copper saved was needed for the war. Since all the able bodied men were off to war, the only risk was loosing a few women and that was of little consequence.

after the war, the rules just never got changed back until recently. Many (most?) 220 apliances during several decades after the war did not have any 110 volt devices, so the forth wire was not needed. Almost all current 220 volt appliances have some 110 volt devices , so the forth wire is very definitely needed (IMHO). I have converted all of mine to 4 wire.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 11:02PM
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So you have an existing 4-wire feed and only using a 3-prong receptacle.......That means:

......The install Is-NOT/Never-Was grandfathered to use the 3 prong receptacle and plug.......You should have the electrician change it to 4-prong

......What wire is the THIRD prong attached to at the receptacle.....The Ground or the Neutral ?........The old "Grandfathered" clause only allowed the 3-wire feed if it was fed from the MAIN panel AND the connection was to the GROUNDED Conductor AKA Neutral........

.......If the stove's breaker is in a SUBpanel......IT WILL NEVER WORK CORRECTLY USING ONLY THREE WIRES.......

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 10:11AM
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Now I'm really confused.
We've been using this set-up for 25 years. I'll have to call the electrician back to verify, but I'm assuming the 3rd wire that the outlet is connected to is the one that it would be connected to, were it only 3 wires. He made it sound like it had the potential to be changed into a 4 wire outlet, without having to change any of the wiring.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:12PM
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Oh.....maybe you're saying that since it had 4 wires in there, it was never meant to be a 3 prong set-up? Why would this have occurred, 35 years ago? Maybe the guy doing it initially only had a 3 prong outlet on his truck and decided to use it anyhow??

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:32PM
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Yes the RECEPTACLE should be changed to a 4-wire.......

"Why would this have occurred, 35 years ago?"......

.....'cause somebody didn't know and had a 3-wire stove and matched the receptacle to the stove.........And Yes this CAN contribute to shocking verify: post a photo of the inside of the OLD SHOCKING stove AT THE CORD.....the screw terminals

Is the circuit breaker for the stove in the Main panel or a subpanel......

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 4:15PM
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Here you go.....
The circuit breaker is in the main panel.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 7:58PM
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Hard to tell but it looks like there is no bonding jumper, I can't really see behind the wire though.

If you go to a 4 wire receptacle and cord you had better make sure the grounding wire is properly terminated where it originates, else you have gained nothing. You would also need to remove any bonding jumper with a properly installed 4 wire setup.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 10:01PM
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Thanks Joe.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 8:33PM
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